Dindigul, Jun 15: The world renowned lock industry in Dindigul, whose products have got the GI tag, has been badly hit during the lockdown as owners struggle for financing, getting new orders and paying salaries to staff.
About 200 skilled locksmiths from several villages in the district have been engaged for the past several decades in making locks from scrap metal with their unique skills to make the end products extremely durable. Tamil Nadu Announces 'Maximised Restricted Lockdown' in Chennai, Chengalpattu, Kanchipuram And Tiruvallur Districts Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases.
Many owners said that the industry was already beset with problems before the COVID-19 enforced lockdown as they had to face stiff competition from branded players and some companies opting for cheaper products from China.
"We never expected this kind of situation. The locks lost their purpose during this lockdown. All shops were closed and employees were the worst affected", Premkumar, a third generation entrepreneur in the district told P T I.
He said the owners did not have any incentive to run the business and employees were mostly being paid on a daily basis as and when orders were received.
"With easing of some lockdown restrictions, employees have started coming back. But instead of giving them full day's work we have adopted a new strategy of giving them little work and daily wages as we are finding it difficult to run the business," he said.
Premkumar said an employee used to turn out an average of seven to 10 locks every day and movement of goods was unhindered. However, it was much more difficult in the present scenario and therefore the workers were being asked to make just two or three locks per day, he said. Even after the locks were made, it was difficult to get them to customers due to restrictions on movement of vehicles.
"Many companies have been requesting us to send locks. But today we are finding it difficult to serve them as we are unable to move the goods", he said.
Another entrepreneur Mohan said most shops and markets were closed and he expected the situation to stabilise in about three to six months.
He said there are 10 major companies manufacturing locks, whose average sales volume annually ranges between Rs one crore to Rs two crore.
Referring to the branded players entering the segment, he said the machine made locks are better priced but do not have the same quality of those made by the players here.
He claimed that locks of reputed manufacturers could easily be broken open, but not those made here as complicated mechanisms are used. Customers' faith in their products could be gauged from a recent incident where the management of a temple insisted on locks from them after miscreants broke into the shrine, which until then was using a branded make, he said. Track the Spread of Coronavirus in India: Live Map
ANS Locks proprietor Pradeep Kumar said employees were available for jobs but they have not received any new orders from companies. "We are yet to receive payments from companies who have already ordered. We have supplied the stocks to them before the lockdown was imposed. But due to the lockdown the customers are yet to pay us. Once the payment has been made we will be able to pay the employees," he added.
He said there is more demand for manually made locks than branded ones.
"We are yet to commence sales... production of the locks has not commenced as it was earlier," he said. To a query, he said some companies cater to customers in Tamil Nadu and others in neighbouring Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. ANS Locks manufactures locks like killer locks, mango locks and temple locks, among others.
"Currently, we are making single lock, double locks and round locks. We have asked employees to turn out more round locks since it takes about five to six hours to make, compared to others. We pay them less in the prevailing scenario," he said.
He expressed the hope that the Centre's Make in India campaign would see many customers buy their products rather than opting for branded ones or those imported from China.
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