Opening up the EOU & SEZs in the pandemic

The Export Promotion Council for EOUs and SEZs (EPCES)

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.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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