Opening up the EOU & SEZs in the pandemic

The Export Promotion Council for EOUs and SEZs (EPCES)

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Bhuvnesh Seth, managing director of Replika Press and vice chairman of the Export Promotion Council for EOUs and SEZs. Photo IPP

Replika’s phenomenal rise as a book printer and success as a book exporter was possible because of its extensive infrastructure and technology investment. The build-up of the Export Oriented Unit infrastructure in the Kundli Export Promotion Industrial Park in the New Delhi National Capital Region has been vital for Replika. It has constructed three EOU buildings with a built-up area of 646,000 square feet. The newest and most modern facility of over 400,000 square feet contains a 100,000 square foot automated bookbinding unit on a single floor.

The Export Promotion Industrial Park at Kundli has, like at the other EPCES industrial estates, allowed for plant and machinery to be imported and cleared from the inland customs bureau in the EOU zone itself. The paperwork for exports is processed expeditiously by the locally accessible authorities who are extremely helpful in export and import matters.

On our recent visit to Replika’s plants in Kundli, its managing director Bhuvnesh Seth told us that book printing exports had not been as severely impacted as domestic production. However, after the country-wide lockdown on 23 March 2020, it was not easy to get to the Kundli special economic zone opened up and functional. Public transport was lacking in these difficult times. The roads and sanitation facilities in the industrial part require immediate attention from the local administrative state authorities. All-around efforts are needed to create a world-class export hub to help entrepreneurs optimize their export efforts from the EPIP in Kundli.

Bhuvnesh Seth, as the vice chairman of the Export Promotion Council for EOUs and SEZs (EPCES), played a crucial role in writing to the central and state authorities in reactivating production and exports. He also helped the other Kundli entrepreneurs and exporters write to and brief the officials on this issue and improve the infrastructure. He made concerted efforts to make the Export Industrial Park in Kundli the country’s best export hub.

Citing the loss of export orders and financial stress in the EOUs and SEZs, Seth requested the state government to allow EOUs and SEZs to partially function in seven districts depending on the number of infection cases. He suggested that the Kundli SEZ factories and especially its EOUs “should be permitted to function if not with 50%, then maybe with 30% of operational staff with the implementation of standard operating procedures” to maintain hygiene sanitization, the wearing of masks and social distancing. The government authorities acceded to the request. The plants in the Kundli and several other SEZ were allowed to open on 1 May 2020 with 30% operational staff allowed, and customs clearance of both imports and exports also commenced.

A challenging task

Seth has actively taken up the vicechairmanship role of the Export Promotion Council for EOUs and SEZs (EPCES) for the past several months. He is keen to improve the country’s export zones and has successfully launched a membership drive for the businesses. He has also appointed a high-powered legal team to provide members advice on direct and indirect taxation matters. All notifications, circulars, and trade notices issued by statutory, administrative, central, and state authorities are promptly circulated by email, WhatsApp messaging, and by publishing in detail in the EPCES magazine.

Through the EPCES, Seth has taken on the challenging task of interacting with numerous government authorities and agencies and enlisting industry associations such as FIEO, ASSOCHAM, FICCI, CII & PHDCC&I throughout India at all prominent platforms available in India. In numerous meetings, he has addressed the pain points of the exporters who suffer on account of cancellation of export orders overseas and domestic customers, non-realization of payments, and the high cost of finance and GST.

The annual membership is nominal for an exporter. The Export Promotion Council of India for EOUs and SEZs (EPCES) was set up by the Ministry of Finance of the Government of India. The SEZ units operating from any SEZs and EOU units in commercial operation from any part of India can be permanent members of the association.

EPCES has its head office in New Delhi and seven regional offices around the country. Members biannually elect the Regional Vice Chairman and CGC members. The Vice-Chairman and Regional ViceChairman are after two years automatically promoted to Chairman and Regional Chairman, respectively.

The primary object of the EPCES is to promote exports, convene workshops with various Government officials on issues such as GST, Revenue, Customs, and to resolve problems faced by the EOUs and SEZs. It also collects data about different countries’ incentive policies and takes these up with the concerned Ministries.

If one sees what Seth has accomplished with Replika Press in becoming one of the leading book printing exporters in the country, one can see that he is determined to improve the SEZs. Improvement of the roads and electrical supply quickly come to mind. Other practical measures can improve the situation with export industries creating an appropriate dialog with the government. A task that exporters cannot escape from, Seth has taken on the vice chairman’s role for the past two years in earnest, and in 2021 he will be promoted to Chairman for the next two years.

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