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Anbu Varathan

Director General, Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers’ Association (IMTMA)

CEO, Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC)

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MACHINE TOOLS All of us are going through a learning curve to take advantage of new modes of engagement

Apr 12, 2021

…mentions Anbu Varathan, Director General, Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers’ Association (IMTMA) & CEO, Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC), in his interview with Anvita Pillai. IMTMA, a single point of reference for India’s machine tools industry, is a national association of machine tools and allied industries. In this conversation, he discusses the reboot of the exhibition and manufacturing industry in 2021, IMTEX 2021, growth opportunities in the global market, highlights of Tumakuru Machine Tool Park and more. Excerpts…

The manufacturing and machine tools industry has suffered severely due to the pandemic in the last year. How, according to you, is the industry regaining the growth pace? Can you tell us about some of the latest developments in the industry?

The manufacturing industry has taken last year’s setbacks in its stride, reinvented & strategized its businesses and bounced back. Industries have received encouraging enquiries and orders over the last few months, auto sales have picked up, which is encouraging news for the machine tool industry. India’s manufacturing PMI, as per IHS Markit for January 2021, was at 57.7, reflecting the strongest improvement in three months. If the situation continues to improve, we may reach pre-COVID levels of growth by mid-CY 2021.

How was the overall response for IMTEX Connect? What are your plans for the forthcoming IMTEX show scheduled in June 2021? Do you think the pandemic will have some effect in terms of How was the overall response for IMTEX Connect? What are your plans for the forthcoming IMTEX show scheduled in June 2021? Do you think the pandemic will have some effect in terms of

IMTEX Connect 2021 successfully brought the machine tool industry and user industries together on the digital platform. This digital initiative enabled exhibitors to present their products and interact with visitors successfully. The exhibition drew a good response from stakeholders across the world. The event featured over 90 exhibitors and more than 7000 visitors from 45 countries.

IMTMA will organise IMTEX & Tooltech 2021 in June 2021, with BIEC being ready to host the show with all SOPs in place. The invention of the vaccine has given people the confidence to step out and conduct business transactions; more people are eager to participate in physical exhibitions. IMTEX will be one of the first major shows to be organised post-pandemic, and the success of the show will pave the way for many other events.

You recently took over as the President of UFI for 2020-21. What are the opportunities the Indian exhibition industry can expect from the global market? How can the industry grab and make full use of these opportunities presented by the global market?

India is a growing economy with many multinationals looking at it as an alternative manufacturing destination. Post-COVID, India will bounce back strongly with 11.5% GDP growth in 2021 (according to IMF), which, if achieved, is going to be a phenomenal feat. Going by these indicators, we foresee strong growth in the Indian exhibition industry. This is because the exhibition industry has played a crucial role in bringing new technologies into the country.

I am sure many new portfolios will be added to the existing shows who are looking to expand. Also, whilst there will be new shows in niche sectors, we will also see more mergers and acquisitions. The Indian exhibition industry is primed for such growth. There are a few world-class venues and a few others in the pipeline that will enhance both the exhibitor and visitor experience.

‘New normal’ has been the slogan for the last year and seems like it would be for this year, too. What would be the new normal for event organisers, exhibitors & visitors hereon?

Our entire ecosystem, be it the exhibitors, visitors or show organisers, are moving from an emergency response to the new normal, where we mix the best of what technology has to offer with increasing access to physical spaces. There are many things that exhibition industry stakeholders have learnt during this period which they want to build into what would be offered on an ongoing basis. Technologies are bringing value proposition to shows by helping visitors explore and understand more about the products before they visit exhibition venues to spend quality time at the expo. This is expected to result in a better business outcome among exhibitors. Also, the exhibition industry stakeholders will be focusing more on safety and hygiene aspects while organising shows. Technology will come as a rescue for people who cannot travel as they can explore the hybrid format of physical exhibitions and gain insights into products and service categories that they could access. All of us, whether event organisers, exhibitors or visitors, are going through a learning curve, and we are learning to transpose our events in ways to take advantage of new modes of engagement.

The MSMEs’ recovery has been crucial on the government’s agenda, and the industry has also appealed to the government to help the sector. How do you think the industry and the government can collaborate for the growth of the sector? Do you think the Union Budget presented recently will help the industry grow and expand in the coming years?

The Union Budget unveiled recently is growth-oriented and holds promise for kick-starting India’s economy in the medium- to long-term. The increase in budget outlay for railways, power, infrastructure, etc, is expected to increase the demand for construction equipment and machine tools. Some key budgetary allocations, such as provisioning of ₹15,700 crores, more than double the previous year, is a positive step for developing MSMEs. Other incentives, such as collateral-free loans for businesses, fund of funds for MSMEs and MSME grievance redressal launched last year, will also help the manufacturing industry grow long-term.

Can you share with us the progress of the Tumakuru Machine Tool Park? What are the highlights of the project?

The Government of Karnataka has recognised machine tool manufacturing as a primary growth area. To support this, the Government of Karnataka, along with the Government of India, has set-up an exclusive industrial park for the manufacturing of machine tools and related items. The machine tool park is located in the Tumakuru district, close to Begaluru and offers plug-and-play infrastructure ready to build factories at a very attractive land price. About 115 acres have been allotted to the investors. The park provides a great ecosystem and opportunity for investments in machine tools manufacturing for global machine tool companies. Indian companies can look for joint ventures and collaborative efforts with global players.

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  • Anbu V has been associated with IMTMA for over 17 years and has been the CEO of BIEC for nearly 13 years. He has been a Board Member of UFI since October 2011 and has recently been elected as the President of UFI for the year 2020-21. He has a degree in metallurgical engineering from the IISc, Bangalore, and has work experience of 27 years. Before IMTMA, Anbu was with CII heading various key areas of technology/IPR activities.

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