Despite the lull in the real estate sector and the subsequent reduced demand, the asbestos cement sheet industry has managed to record a healthy growth rate of 10-12% per annum.
The slowdown in construction activity has failed to dampen the spirits of SMEs that constitute the bulk of the sector as they continued to receive a steady flow of business.
Experts believe that the high growth rates clocked by the sector have been mainly possible due to the sustained demand in the rural sector, which accounts for over 50% of the market for the asbestos industry.
Succeeding despite odds
Though last year saw a spurt in campaigns against the use of asbestos products in India, SMEs in the industry continued to witness a surge in the demand for their products. Small vendors providing roofing material to the rural population remained relatively unfazed by the adverse effects of the downturn and the campaigns.
Even though the construction sector has taken a hit due to the slowdown, the demand for asbestos products has not been affected. We have continued to see good margins and increased offtake despite worsening economic conditions, said T Sohangpurwala, proprietor of Calcutta Asbestos & Belting Company, a small-sized asbestos supplying firm in Kolkata.
The asbestos industry in India is projected to see a steady demand in the next few years as well. A new report from the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA), the chief organisation aimed at promoting chrysotile asbestos cement in India, predicts good times ahead for the SMEs in the sector.
Despite campaigns seeking a ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos, the demand for asbestos cement will remain steady as very few products can compete with it in terms of price and durability when it comes toroofing houses, said A Modi, Chairman of India Asbestos Manufacturing Company, a small-sized asbestos cement manufacturing unit in Jaipur. Asbestos is one of the best roofing options in rural India as it costs less than a third of the equivalent quantity of steel sheeting.
Although the outlook of the asbestos cement sheet industry looks positive, small vendors need to exercise prudence at present. They must also ensure that their manufacturing processes are clean to guarantee the safety of their Products.