In 2006, when Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata made the announcement of a constructuion equipment manufacturing by Telcon, then a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Motors, the project hardly attracted any public attention.
This was because the project was announced on the same day as the Nano plant in Singur, which was the star. Ironically, the much-talked about Tata Group's dream project, the "Rs 1 lakh car" was pulled out of West Bengal after an indefinite agitation led by Mamata Banerjee, but the a constructuion equipment manufacturing has quietly come up in Kharagpur, which the company plans to make its export hub for its cost-effective products.
“Currently, we are exporting around 2% of our total production or around 300 units annually. The Kharagpur plant would be the export hub for the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka and other developing regions like Africa and West Asia,” said Mitsuhiro Tabei, vice president and executive officer at Hitachi Construction Machinery Company of Japan, which now owns 60% stake in the company. Tata Motors owns the balance 40% stake in the joint venture, which was today rechristened Tata Hitachi Construction Machinery Company Ltd.
The Kharagpur plant, spread across 250 acres, has the capacity to produce 6,000 units annually which includes excavators, wheel loaders and dump trucks. Currently, only 35% of capacity is being utilised due to slowdown in construction equipment market, which the company expects to pick up with greater exposure to export market.
“Despite what has happened to some other industry, we could set set up this plant with a lot of ease. The total investment is the plant is about Rs 475 crore,” Tata Hitachi Managing Director Rana Sinha said, making an obvious reference to the fate of the aborted Singur project.
“This plant will be a factory to the world. Tata Hitachi Construction Machinery Company reported a revenue of around Rs 3,000 crore during 2011-12. This will hopefully become $1 billion company over the next 5 years led by export growth,” Sinha said.
Incidentally, Tata Hitachi too has its share of concern in the state as the company is yet to get land for its township project, which would cater to its employees in the Kharagpur plant.
“We have approached the state government in this regard, and requested them to provide land in an adjacent area. Apart from the residential area the township would include schools, hospitals and shopping centres. We would require about 225-250 acres for that. But, the state government's land policy of direct aqusition by the company, has made the life difficult for us,” Sinha noted.
“We have no option but to have the township. We need accommodation for our people. Due to lack of this we have seen a 10% attrition rate in the current year. We are in touch with state government and hopefully get a solution,” he added.