In our endeavour to figure out what lies ahead for the SMEs in India beyond 2020, we created the series Business Beyond 2020 wherein we are continuously interacting with the leaders of business associations across the country to gain perspectives on how they see their business unfold in the future and its challenges.
On this journey we chanced upon a rather interesting probability that most of us seem to overlook. While plastic, to most of us, spells impending doom, we got to hear another undeniably melancholic side of the story from Mr. Vimalesh Gupta, President of the Telangana And Andhra Plastics Manufacturers’ Association (TAAPMA), about how these ‘myths and misconceptions’ could potentially leave thousands of people unemployed and in grave despair.
With suppressed sadness and a glimmer of hope Mr. Gupta recounts, “The plastic industry in general, looking at the trends of the past few years, is growing at an encouraging rate of about 11% - 12%, while the current average in other industries is not more than 7%-8%. But off-late, some rules regarding the use of single-use plastic, ambiguity around it and confusion has affected the industry a lot. Most players in the SUP category are from the tiny or the MSME sector, and that is why this is an alarming situation.”
The single-use plastic manufacturers are small entrepreneurs who depend on bank loans along with their limited savings to start their units. After they have put in all of their savings and are loomed over by debt, the government has decided to implement coercive steps that will largely affect the industry. He also points out how banks in the recent times, closely scrutinize any loan application the minute they see the word ‘plastic’, and the shocking news that many private insurance companies have denied an insurance on the grounds that ‘plastic’ is an inflammable component.
While saving the environment is the need of the hour, the larger question is ‘are we taking the right steps towards tackling climate change,’ and ‘are all plastics truly as disastrous as it seems to be portrayed?’ Mr. Vimalesh Gupta does not deny the harsh affects that plastics have on the environment, but drawing a parallel to the time glass takes to decompose which is 1 million years, or the fact that metals use ten times more energy than plastic in its manufacturing and recycling, he opens our eye to a possibility of a more feasible response to plastic.
Changing the misconceptions regarding plastic one step at a time
While each industry has its own set of pros and cons when they look at Business Beyond 2020, the plastic industry seems to be burdened with a singular challenge which is to change the perception that people hold towards plastics in general. As an association that has been existent from the last 50 years, TAAPMA is actively taking steps in empowering and educating the masses while also pitching new ideas to the government to help their industry sustain. One of the steps they have been taking is to put up a stall during the Ganesha Procession. They collect the waste from all the processions and ensure only the harmless and soluble components get immersed, thereby teaching the people around them the value of segregation. They recently pitched to the government an idea about a ‘buy back’ policy, which is already being successfully implemented in some parts of Maharashtra. In this they proposed that if a water bottle costs rupees 20 it needs to be sold at rupees 25 to the end consumer. When the customer returns the empty bottle to the store, the additional cost procured from him is returned and this model will ensure that the shop owner sells at the same margin, the buyer gets to buy at the retail price point and the environment is not harmed as the plastic finds its way back to a proper recycling channel. Apart from this, they take multiple other steps in collaboration with environmental forums and commissions to empower the general public about waste disposal and management.
According to Mr. Vimalesh “the management of solid waste, speaking on the area of plastic, is not the duty of the government alone or the industry alone, it has to be a combined affair. First and foremost awareness must be created amongst the general public for proper segregation and disposal of waste. Proper awareness is not present and therefore the public must also be held accountable.”
One key message for entrepreneurs of the plastic industry
Mr. Vimalesh claims that one must have a positive thought process and an optimistic attitude. If one has the confidence, then irrespective of the industry, if you have good work ethics and a good culture, you will be able to take any challenge in your stride and become successful in any industry.