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India's mold makers look to combat imports



New Delhi -- A major capacity shortage in India's mold making sector -- by some estimates, about half of the molds used in the country's automotive industry are imported -- is leading some of the larger domestic manufacturers to expand.

In many cases, the automotive industry is driving the investments. Mumbai-based Devu Group, for example, opened a second mold making facility in Maharashtra last year to supply the auto industry, a 150 crore Indian rupee investment (15.5 million RMB).

"India is a growing market, and it still imports [a] large percentage of molds," said Chairman D.M. Sheregar, in an interview at the International Tooling Summit 2017, held Feb. 9-10 in New Delhi. "At the same time, the price poses a major challenge as China and smaller domestic companies are supplying at very competitive pricing."

Devu, which started in 1993, makes molds for various fittings and electrical conduits, with an annual production capacity of more than 400 molds.

The new plant, which opened in August, focuses on large-size molds for the auto industry domestically and exports molds to carmakers in Russia, France, Brazil and Spain, Sheregar said.

Mold making company Mastercraft Engineers Pvt. Ltd., based in the Bangalore, is also investing to try to capture more of the automotive market, but its plans are further down the road.

It said it anticipates boosting efficiencies by opening a second facility in Bangalore, during 2018, an investment of 10 crore rupees.

"The proposed plant will exclusively design and manufacture molds for the automobile industry for medium and large plastic parts like exterior and interior under the bonnet engine components, literally everything except bumper and [instrument panels]," said Managing Director R. Sree Prakash.

He said raising funds can be a challenge in the Indian industry.

"Among the major challenges is to build capacity in Indian tool rooms," Prakash said. "It is a capital- intensive industry and investment comes in [a] slow pace due to [the] high cost of funds. Capacity building or expansion is not as much rapid in the mold sector as compared to other sectors."

He said Mastercraft can build 60 to 70 molds a month, and more than 50 percent of its business is in the auto sector.

The company is continually making smaller investments, he said. "The investment is to further improve our capabilities and efficiencies by introducing new technologies," he said.

Prakash was also interviewed at the tooling summit, which was organized by the Mumbai-based Tool and Gauge Manufacturers Association of India.

As well, Chennai-based Clastek Engineering Pvt. Ltd. is engaged in a smaller expansion for the automotive market -- it added a double-column electrical discharge machine and an injection molding machine last year.

It formed a separate business unit for the automotive industry in 2009 and focuses on making molds for small and mid-sized interior and exterior parts, said Managing Director D. Ravi.

"The demand is growing, and [the] mold industry is also maturing to meet the demand," he said. "But there is still huge shortfall in domestic mold capacity. Available mold production is insufficient to meet the increasing demand. The shortage is also an opportunity for the domestic players."

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