“Viraj Profiles has been exporting a major portion of its production in addition to catering to the local demands.”
Challenges to reckon with:
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has come to be regarded as one of the most deadliest situations. Affecting the people of not just one country but the world over, the COVID-19 virus has created a sense of great fear among people. Unmatched in scale and impact, it has not only exacted a huge toll on human lives but also cost the global economy millions of dollars and jobs. In the beginning of 2020, when the lockdown was imposed, people feared the challenges brought on by this pandemic. In my understanding, many industries shared the challenges they were facing and it has been tough for everyone. Among these industries, the stainless steel industry has been no exception when it comes to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as all the industries are inter-dependent on each other in this wheel of growth. Although we had our own share of challenges but we were able to ride through these challenging times due to our strong customer relationship. However, the pandemic has surely changed the way we were looking at things earlier. Now, we are in a day-to-day mode of monitoring and forecasting the demand for products from end-users. Viraj Profiles has been exporting a major portion of its production in addition to catering to the local demands.
We are closely monitoring the international scenario and how the industries are reacting at global level. Some of the major industries who consume stainless steel are construction, automotive sector, oil and gas industries, and others, such as white-goods (large home appliances) manufacturers. The engineering and construction industry may experience its own slowdown — with some construction sites locked down and then lesser availability of manpower which could also contribute to the reduced demand for stainless steel products especially in the domestic front. Of late, the companies have started picking up the post COVID-19 lockdown, and we see a gradual surge in the demand now. The recent improved performance of the automobile sector and the infrastructure projects announced by the government have been quite helpful. We are hopeful that in the next couple of months, we should be back on track.
Expectations from the Government:
India was in an expansion mode till March 2020, when the impact of COVID-19 put India to a grinding lockdown. The supply side constraints due to inter-state border closures, along with labour shortage and office shutdowns put the economic cycle to a grinding halt in the month of April, resulting in record low levels. The weak domestic as well as export demand along with large inventory build-up and supply chain bottlenecks has caused a major hurdle for the industry. The government’s focus on improving our own capabilities is expected to help revive demand and boost India’s economy.
Our PM Shri Narendra Modi has always been vocal about establishing India as one of the fastest growing economies in the world arena and the government has also been supporting the same with different initiatives. The government has already indicated that the indigenous industry will be given priority compared to imports in the post-COVID India. The recently announced projects by Government of India like the Railway projects, support extended to the construction and real estate sector, along with the augmented push for construction of roads and highways, are expected to aid the stainless steel industry in the next few quarters. We also notice an increasing anti-China sentiment across the country, especially for the made-in-China products and this would surely be helpful in achieving our full capacity utilization.
“The government’s focus on improving our own capabilities is expected to help revive demand and boost India’s economy.”
Strategies to strengthen the economy post-COVID:
We can look at the post-COVID-19 future of work through the prism of three pillars that are keys to ensuring a smooth recovery and in overcoming challenges. Firstly, it is important to drive digital transformation to create a safe work environment for our employees. However, it may sound a bit difficult for the manufacturing sector as we are mainly human resource driven sector and working remotely may not be possible for us, but with the advent of IoT (Internet of Things) and the latest technological up gradation in the manufacturing industry, the perspective is surely set to change. We also need to look at developing and honing our skills in order to fight out with the shortage of the labour situation which might come again in future. Secondly, building a resilient and healthy workforce, centered on employee wellness and workforce development will again be of prime importance.
The COVID situation has taught us that a healthy and committed workforce is the key for any business to sustain in these kinds of situations. At Viraj, we undertook a lot of initiatives to ensure that our workforce remains healthy not only at physical level rather also at mental level. Thirdly, evolving a new paradigm of work and workspaces, including a permanent transition to a hybrid work model of office and work-from-home, and a powerful digital command centre that enables a work-anywhere, live anywhere, all-digital environment. We also need to work on strengthening our logistics system so that the material manufactured inside the plants can reach the customers’ doorstep without any hiccups.