<p>The scientific instruments cluster at Ambala in Haryana, which houses about 1,000 micro and small enterprises, is struggling for survival.
It was a flourishing industrial centre until the late 1990s, but the rapid pace of change in the business environment in post-liberalisation India and growing competition in the international market has jeopardised its future.
Over the years, manufacturing activity in the cluster has declined in the absence of technology upgradation.
The technology provided by state-run institutes, according to entrepreneurs, is obsolete. The demand for scientific instruments is nevertheless increasing. So those who once manufactured them now find it more profitable to import products from China and trade in them. About 400 of the 1,000 enterprises in this hundred-year-old cluster are now purely traders.
Scientific instrument manufacturing runs on low margins, said Ashwani Goel, a member of the Ambala Scientific Instruments Manufacturers’ Association. “We cannot afford to buy new technology, and as a result, most manufacturers are now making low-technology devices. We have consequently lost the competitive edge in the global market as well as the domestic market,” he said.
The cluster, according to Puneet Gupta – a small-scale manufacturer – has the potential to yield annual sales revenue of Rs10,000 crore, but is doing business of only about Rs1,000 crore. A large chunk of this is accounted for by a couple of big players which have the funds to invest in R&D.
The Ambala units cater to export destinations in Africa, the Far East and the Middle East. The larger players sell to the United States and Europe.