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Chennai, Jan. 26

What do you think is a major constraint for someone buying a commercial truck? Availability of drivers, said Mr J.N. Amrolia, Director, Ashok Leyland John Deere Construction Equipment, recalling an incident when a customer had said ‘give me a driver if you want me to buy a truck'.

Shortage of skilled workers can be a stumbling block for the manufacturing sector.

It is such people-related concerns including industrial relations that industries consider among other things while deciding to invest in any location. “Fiscal incentives are not considered a long-term factor in sustaining advantage,” he said.

Perception issue

Even perception of a city can be an issue. Tamil Nadu is not a preferred destination for senior and mid-level personnel. “They see Chennai, Madurai, and Coimbatore as provincial towns lacking in cosmopolitan modern city atmosphere.” This is a ‘perception issue' that the industry and the State Government need to correct, he said.

Manufacturing as a profession of choice ranks low, he felt. Graduate engineers prefer administrative work, R&D and IT to the shop floor. Industries have to make the shop floor more attractive through opportunities for career advancement.

Industrial Relations

Industrial relations (IR) is a key area of concern. Industry is wary of areas where IR is an issue. Recent labour unrest in industrial belts of Coimbatore and Sriperumbudur are of concern though some of the workers' demands are genuine. There is an ‘inordinately' high amount of contract labour as compared to permanent workers, and there are ‘huge disparities' between the two. The absence of ‘solid shop-level personnel managers' to communicate between the management and workers is being sorely felt, especially in new industries.

These are issues that need to be addressed for Tamil Nadu to retain its leadership in manufacturing, industrialists emphasised at a seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry last week.

Whether it is Ford India, which sees the Chennai unit playing a significant role in its global plans, or BHEL, a market leader in heavy engineering, skilled human resource is hard to come by, they said.

Rising costs

Increasing costs are a concern as much as the shortage in labour force. The regulations do not allow factories to employ women on the second shift, said Mr Tom S. Chackalackal, Vice President-Manufacturing, Ford India.

The coming decade will see the automotive sector grow, but these are issues that have to be addressed for fully exploiting the opportunity, he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 27, 2011)
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