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Stone Industry: the Purest, the Holiest

Gem

 

 

 

 

R. VEERAMANI
CHAIRMAN : GEM GROUP OF COMPANIES, CHENNAI

CHAIRMAN : GRANITE, NATURAL STONES & PRODUCTS PANEL, CAPEXIL
REGIONAL CHAIRMAN : SOUTHERN REGION, CAPEXIL (Sponsored by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India)
IMM.PAST PRESIDENT : WORLD NATURAL STONE ASSOCIATION (WONASA)

 

“The best contribution of the stone industry is linking the remote, unknown villages, not having road and electricity, to a well known metropolitan city in a developed country adorning 30—50 storey buildings with Indian stone. That’s the pride of India.”

 

From being a well-to-do lawyer, Mr. R. Veeramani’s rise in the Indian stones industry looks like an allegory of inspiration, high moral and persistence – even more when he was reluctant to leave the prolific legal career. “I’m happy as lawyer. It’s a good public service, fighting for rights and justice, protecting lives. This is much more enjoyable than personally doing business and making money,” said Mr. Veeramani way back in early 1970s when one of his friends proposed to him the idea of starting the stone enterprise.

A thoughtful but non-flamboyant leader such as Mr. Veeramani does not impose his views, but prefers to establish truth by logically enumerating facts and leaving the rest to be understood as conclusion. He is a consensus builder, and as a result he was very effective at cutting across politico-industrial line and achieving practical results during his course of activity in Indian natural stone industry as may be borne by his fruitful efforts in establishing associations, launching international fairs, and heading many coveted organizations. He is humble and accords due credit to all the initial believers in the potential of stone industry. “I don’t claim anything to myself. I may have the idea, but my friends joined me and worked together to make this happen. So, whenever I say ‘I’, don’t take it as if I am claiming anything exclusive,” he remarks.

Having donned many caps during his marathon in the stone industry, Mr. Veeramani stewarded many nodal agencies related to stone business and trade within and beyond the country. After presiding over the first executive committee of AIGSA, he goes on to become the Chairman of CAPEXIL, and subsequently headed Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, Indo- Japan Chamber of Commerce & Industry and World Natural Stone Association (WONASA), Spain.

In a wide-ranging interview with Stone & Tile in India, Mr. Veeramani of Gem Granites delineated his gradual ascendance as leading persona of Indian stone industry-a journey fraught with uncertainties and perils, and studded with gleaming successes at the same time. He was one man army. “Initially I had no idea to leave my legal profession. I was managing my business and legal profession side by side from my lawyer’s office. As a lawyer, you need to spend at least 5-6 hours to study, 2-3 hours to prepare the case. Along with that, managing time for business was really trying-going to banks, meeting the buyers, going to shipping agents to ensure if shipments are going on, checking at the quarries if the material is ready. My goodness! I did not even have separate staff for the business. My law office staffs were working for Gem Granites too for communication, typing, etc.,” says Mr. Veeramani.

Gem Granites: Sailing for Four Decades

“I never thought I would do my own business. I was a happy lawyer. I enjoyed my profession and was quite successful as a young lawyer having the rare distinction of conducting a couple of thousands of cases in course of about 11 years of my standing in Madras High Court Bar,” maintains Mr. Veeramani. After this quote, the entire journey he has traversed as a stone entrepreneur seems a mystery. Mr. Veeramani’s legal career was quite happening from the view-point of him having the rare distinction of conducting government cases, murder cases with death sentences and life imprisonments, serving as State Electricity Board’s legal advisor.

“Probably, I would have handled about 250 murder cases in the course of two and a half years. Ordinary criminal cases may be 1500 to 2000 and as State Electricity Board’s legal advisor I handled several hundred cases including civil matter, writs, arbitrations, labour matters, etc.,” says Mr. Veeramani. That sounds terrific. Then, what made him abandoned such a lucrative profession? Especially when the level of stone industry was unknown and only a few people from Bangalore and Kuppam (Andhra Pradesh) were exporting tombstones and cemetery stones to Japan and UK. The feed back in 1960s and ‘70s was on a very small footing having turnover just few lakhs of rupees.

“Leaving all that (legal profession) to choose a business field was a big decision-a life time decision. My coming in 1971 to this was purely by accident. My mother requested me to start some business for my brothers when my father’s business suffered some setback,” remarks Mr. Veeramani. “But, I was not sure about ‘doing something’ would be in stone business. One of my clients, Mr. Paranjothi Chettiyar, a human hair exporter, sought my legal advice when his business was affected. Later, when he got over with the case, he brought some granite stone orders from Japan. He proposed that I should join him. I showed my unwillingness to join him, but took him to my father who also happened to reject the idea, and the matter fell through. However, a year later I revived the idea on my mother’s reminder and that’s how Gem Granites was born in 1971-72.

Early Hitches and Overseas Exploration

No endeavor is devoid of obstacles especially when only few have given it a try. In the beginning, Mr. Veeramani was handling the business and legal profession conjointly. Gem Granites, like others, was exporting only tombstones. Suddenly, Israel-Egypt War broke out and oil prices soared, after OPEC increased the prices by 200-300 percent, resulting into economic chaos everywhere. The countries importing black granites, including Japan, stopped importing as the stone no longer remained their top priority. Petroleum became top on their agenda. It was a serious setback for a nascent enterprise such as Gem Granites. However, with every such hitch comes the catalysis to explore more in order to sustain and survive. Let’s hear more from Mr. Veeramani himself.

“They suspended the import of stone products suddenly. Quarries were there, materials in stock, 400 people working. Suddenly all of it was cancelled. There were big liabilities with bank too. Unable to pay the workers, it all was a big confusion, and I was seriously thinking whether I have done the right thing,” states Mr. Veeramani. “It was a big turning point though. I started to explore myself all possible options and markets, not with internet or google those days, but all by myself. I had to go to embassies and consulates. I corresponded through letters too. It all took time. However, I found out new markets other than Japan such as USA, UK, and Europe.”

In the course of such exploration, Mr. Veeramani came across Mr. Bill Mckay, from Aberdeen, Scotland, who became an all time friend. Arrival of this man struck like a fortune. Mr. Mckay invited Mr. Veeramani to visit his country and explore the Scandinavian countries to learn about the modern stone industry which he later obliged. Meanwhile, Mr. Mckay visited India in May 1975 with two of his friends, one form USA and other from Germany. They visited the quarries and explored the Indian stone varieties under Mr. Veeramani as guide. But, nothing fructified as the emergency was declared suddenly and they left the country hurriedly in fear of some bloodshed or violent uprisal. However, it was a big turning point in the history of Indian stone industry as these were the first foreign buyers coming to India from the West.

“Until then, only the buyers for tombstone used to come from Japan. No other buyers visited India,” declares Mr. Veeramani. “I continued my communication and relationship with them.”

Later on, by virtue of this continued friendship, Mr. Veeramani decided to visit Scotland on frequent invitation from his friend Bill Mckay. Mr. Veeramani vividly explained the quandaries involved in getting a loan of USD 500 for his travel. Nevertheless, he visited the country of his friend where he had the experience of his life. He found Scottish people quite hospitable and warm. The scenic landscape of Scotland was breathtaking as per Mr. Veeramani. From Scotland, he left for Sweden and got trained in a famous granite quarry known as Tranas Rubino including jack hammer drilling, derrick lifting and more under a scientist, Mr. Sven Wallin, who also became a close friend later. He learned all the quarry operations in Tranas Rubino Red Quarry under the company of Walin Granites. Afterwards, he got trained in sawing, cutting, edge-cutting, polishing, etc. at Sven Wallin’s factory.

In course of his first overseas trip, Mr. Veeramani also visited Italy, Germany and France, and saw big stone industry flourishing there. “Building stone industry” as in Italy, Germany and France was yet unknown to India. “I brought with me technology and expertise after this visit. I learnt making building stones which was not done until then. I helped India turn to developing building stone industry after my return i.e. after 1976,” remarks Mr. Veeramani.

His overseas visits continued ever after. There was Anti Dumping proceedings by the European Union against India in Brussels and earlier by Canada. Mr. Veeramani took delegation there to argue the case which he won eventually after some times.

“I met Mr. Chandrasekhar, the ambassador to the EU, who escorted us to the court of the European Union having seven judges. I argued the case myself and got the judges virtually convinced. We also formed liaison with other associations in Europe and the EU finally withdrew the case. We won the case. That was a big success,” Mr. Veeramani avers.

He goes on, “When Canada imposed Anti Dumping against India, I again came forward and spent about a crore of rupees myself for hiring lawyers and going there. I was afraid that if you allow it to happen in one country, it will spread to other countries in the course of time blocking the total export of India in many countries.

“Then, there was a child labour allegation by Germany. We proved that there is no such thing as a child working in mines. There was some vested interest behind the allegation. We don’t need children working when advanced machines are there to do all that work. A paper published our stand and we won the case.”

Godsend ‘Red Stones’

After the return from the training trip in Sweden, Gem Granites resumed the business with new vigour fuelled by new knowledge and technology brought back by Mr. Veeramani from his overseas visit. But, another setback hit him and, with the change of political parties, the state government started taking over mines refusing anymore renewals. In this time of crisis, he came across a person from Karnataka Mr. Doddanavar with a sample of red stone. The sample was rejected by everybody including MMTC who initially wished to export it. This was the same stone which he happened to see during his Sweden stay. It was a momentous event in Mr. Veeramani’s long career. He immediately forged a partnership with M/s. Doddanavar Brothers from Belgaum who owned the company by name Gomatesh Granites. Afterwards, he discovered some other red stone quarries nearby, also rejected by buyers.

Mr. Veeramani also realized that black granites from Sweden was selling at about four-five times higher price than Indian material. “I felt why our price should be lower?” says Mr. Veeramani. “I immediately increased the prices which the buyers accepted in Japan. This was possible since we maintained high quality standards and technical specifications as required by the market.

“I’ve seen God’s hand playing everywhere. Whenever I faced enormous problems, tough situations-be it the central government, the state government, market, or the banks- I was always supported by a good sign, something like Godsend.”

New Technology and Stone Varieties

Introduction of new technology helped Gem Granites by the leaps and bounds. Mr. Veeramani brought ‘Wedges and Feathers’ technology from Sweden to split the stones in perfect linear direction. “So, with wedges and feather both sides, we could have a perfect linear split to any depth giving a good split,” explains Mr. Veeramani.

“I also brought about fifteen stone varieties, marketed all over the world, from South Africa, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Brazil, etc.”

Identification of more stone varieties continued unabated. Mr. Veeramani succeeded in spotting many new varieties of building stones, as many as seventy to eighty varieties of colors black, red, brown, blue, etc. The course of exploring new stone varieties was fraught with many problems including a battle of several hundred cases against the government regarding getting leases for quarries and obtaining renewals, etc.

“All the time something was tied to your leg-like a steel ball-and you are asked to run a marathon. That was my life,” quips Mr. Veeramani.

Gem Granites was evolving from crisis to crisis looking up with a strong determination. Following Tamilnadu, Karnataka also adopted taking over the mines without citing any reasons, not only of black colour but all other colours. In search of quarries, Gem Granites under Mr. Veeramani kept scaling walls of various states and the journey took Gem Granites from Tamilnadu to Karnataka, to Andhra Pradesh and Orissa to sustain in the stone business. In course of this wandering, many new stone varieties were recognized having business potentials.

Mr. Veeramani elaborates, “In the process, we identified stones in many other states. We found many new countries to market them. I am happy to say that some of the stones from India are sent to more than 90 countries. Some of my stones happened to be the ‘first ones’ because I happened to be one of the earliest with all the sufferings, perils and pains.”

Modern Granite Factory by Gem Granites

Gem Granites further expansion included establishing a modern factory with imported machines. It became the first 100% EOU license holder with green card in 1983. Gem Granites was a major factory now in Chennai from being a small factory. The company became first 100 percent EOU to make building stones with gangsaws along with monuments with imported machines.

“I must tell you that I changed the country’s prospects of being a monument exporting to building stone exporting country. That is a big change for further tremendous growth in the natural stone industry benefitting several hundreds of entrepreneurs in later years. I also contributed my bit in modernizing monument stone industry. Except a few, all are juniors to me in the monument stone industry,” informs Mr. Veeramani.

Subsequently, Gem Granites set up seven factories in the course of time for specific products viz. monuments, tiles, slabs, surface plates, sculpture, etc. Gem Granites opened up a new business by producing surface plates for making precision measurements for making LED, LCD, plasma TV, automobile, satellites, missiles, etc. For such precision measurement, granite table is the basis.

“Granite table has minimum thermal linear variation. It does not shrink much, nor expand much. We have the technology to make such surface plates and created a new business out of it for our country,” Mr. Veeramani says.

Gem Granites contribution to get all its stones registered with trademarks bearing Indian branded names. “These stones have acceptance with all humility as Indian brand names all over the world. I am happy we could do that,” says Mr. Veeramani.

Founding AIGSA, Launching STONA

The Indian stone industry did not have any association before 1983 to promote the natural stone industry and act as liaison between the industry and the government.

“We did not have any association and I wanted to form one with other colleagues in Bangalore. After much effort, All India Granite and Stone Association (AIGSA) was born in 1983 and I was unanimously elected as its president,” Mr. Veeramani states.

Many of the stone industry colleagues formed the executive committee and became office bearers in AIGSA to further the interest of entire natural stone industry. Afterwards, the industry’s stalwarts at the association contemplated on organizing an international stone fair. Mr. Veeramani took the charge of it and arranged a small office in Delhi for the purpose, all at his cost, which was operated for two years to get the approval for the first international stone fair “STONA – 87” at Bangalore in 1987.

“I got the approval from nine ministries/departments to conduct first international stone fair. If you see the executive committee’s agenda book, you’ll find that association did not spend even a single rupee for the purpose of going to Delhi etc. I got it sanctioned from Commerce Ministry, Industry Ministry, Finance Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Mines Ministry, and Trade Fair Authority of India. They agreed after much persuasion and we had the first STONA in 1987,” says Mr. Veeramani.

The Association conducted its first international stone fair during 1987, namely STONA 87, which was the first stone fair in Asia. From then onwards 11 stone fairs have been conducted with an interval of 2 years; and the latest fair as STONA 2014. STONA fairs are well accepted and recognized globally by the stone community and the fair is gaining popularity year after year.

“There were about 70 exhibitors at STONA 87, a big number for that time. If you see the souvenirs we introduced at the time, you’ll find the largest number of foreign advertisements. I got it all through my connections,” avers Mr. Veeramani. “A large number of foreigners attended the fair. It was a new opening for the whole public, the government, and the industry.”

However, Mr. Veeramani sounds somber despite all the attainments of the first STONA. “There was a big setback for the exhibition as media mistook and wrongly projected the industry without any basis as money minting business when the whole industry was about Rs. 50 crores by way of exports for the whole country. Since that day, the Indian stone industry is not well understood. I’m very sad,” he says.

AIGSA asked the government, at STONA 87, to get the stone industry to a proper Export Promotion Council. Before that, the stone was treated as a handicraft industry and the government advised the stone industry to go along with the Handicraft Export Promotion Council which was not welcomed by the exporters. It is not a mere handicraft industry. It is a huge investment oriented industry with many risks involving mining, processing and exports.

“Then, we were asked to go to CAPEXIL where I was elected unanimously as the stone panel chairman (for all types of stones along with granite). Later, I became the chairman of CAPEXIL itself for all the products including stone. We formed a new forum for 100% EOUs and organized a conference of all EOUs and EPZs (later SEZs) where I got elected as the president of the Confederation of Export Units (CEU), Delhi,” states Mr. Veeramani.

“Since then several STONAs were held and in the meanwhile I relinquished the office as President when Mr.Vinay Poddar, who was the Vice President took over as the president. Then, many others followed; and after thirty one years, my younger brother Mr. R. Sekar has taken over as President which is now converted as Federation of Indian Granite & Stone Industry (FIGSI),” added Mr. Veeramani.

Indian Stone Industry: Battling Challenges

The Indian stone industry has evolved adequately with time as regards to technology and quality upgradation. However, like any industry, it has many challenges to overcome for sustained growth.

“We are one of the most advanced and technologically upgraded country in the natural stone industry of the world compared with China or any other nation,” asserts Mr. Veeramani. “ However,one must understand that this is a first generation industry born during last 30 to 40 years, and bound to have certain challenges.”

According to Mr. Veeramnai, the government does not have the exact understanding of the industry, nor are there proper research, text books, and white papers to guide the authorities while shaping policies for the industry. The wrong perception, about the huge recovery rate and the industry being branded with high exports than reality was created by media without any basis. Delay in granting mining licenses and lease renewals also create hindrances in the robust growth of the industry. The competition is huge in the international market; any delay either in the policy formulation, or granting licenses, will cost heavy as there is always someone from many countries waiting to replace someone else off the market.

“My fundamental concern is that an ordinary stone used for wall building, rustic works, other such works in villages is a minor mineral used without any technology and has recovery rate of about 85 percent to 90 percent. But, for granites the recovery rate is only between 3 percent and 12 percent at the top out of which recovered material for export quality is just about 60 percent. That means the maximum recovery rate will be about 2 percent to 8 percent for the exportable material. Just like gold and diamonds. This fact is not understood by the government,” clarifies Mr. Veeramani.

The dearth of research, training, and study material is a big issue faced by the stone industry. The industry cannot blame the government for not framing authentic policies for the industry in the absence of proper guiding materials and technical data. There is no textbook on the stone industry, nor are there any chapters in the geology books specifically focusing stones. By virtue of lack of such material information, not knowing deposit locations, varieties of stones, method of manufacturing and marketable stones tests to be carried out, sample making, etc. are difficult tasks for a new entrepreneurs.

“It was none of policy makers’ mistake. How do we expect them to make a good policy if there is no material input? They thought that granite is also a mineral. But in my opinion granite is not a mineral like all other industrial minerals. A mineral should have a definite chemical / atomic formula, with all the other associated minerals which will be a small percentage, while the main mineral will be the largest content. It has got varying descriptions with predominant presence of silica / quartz with little bit mica and innumerable other trace elements. But, that is yet to be understood by people involved in the industry,” informs Mr. Veeramani.

In fact, the granite should be described in reality as a mineral bound product comprising of various minerals by a unique geological and chemical process over millions of years with earth pressure and the heat generated. The mineral compound has been solidly formed as rocks of various kinds. A real mineral should be processable to make a totally different product. For example, there are more than 600 varieties of granites world over.

While in our country, we have so far identified around 120 with a further potential of developing equal numbers in the next 5 to 10 years provided the state governments and the Central Government cooperate and assure a firm and reliable investment oriented industry friendly policies.

Speaking about the challenges, Mr. Veeramani adds, “Yet another challenge is not realizing the competitions from China, Brazil, and other nations. There are about 80 countries producing granites. Today, Chinese materials are coming at almost a third of the Indian prices. Other countries are ready to sell cheaper than Indian prices for similar materials. We lost many markets which were established by Indian companies. In Japan, we had 60 percent market share once, now our share is just 0.5 percent – all arrogated by China which now has taken 80 percent of the total market!”

In the same way for finished products like monuments and building stones and tiles, we lost heavily to China, Europe, North America, Australia and Middle East and Central Asian countries.

The successful countries in such takeover are China, Vietnam, Brazil, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia etc. Global competition is one thing in the regular game of marketing.

But unfortunately, we lost prominent in many markets due to the enormous delays in giving leases and renewals and the frequent disruptive unreliable leasing policies followed by many state governments.

Also, unfortunately, some state government corporations started campaigning that in the private companies who pioneered this industry will not be doing the supplies as on the ground that the mines were already leased to the state government corporations.

The Indian Stone industry also became a victim suddenly by a court order stating that no more leases in forest areas or in certain regions etc. due to some big interest litigations etc. In countries like Sweden, Finland, Norway, Canada, USA, Brazil, Argentina and many other countries the granite and other dimensional stone deposits are located in the think forest areas and as well as closed to wildlife habitat. But in our country, there is no certainty of doing an international business due to so many adverse factors. How can one invest and do an international business in the dimensional stone industry with so much of risks uncertainties.

There are problems with the banks and financing too. “When China can work with 3-4 percent interest rate, why not India?” asks Mr. Veeramani. “Other countries are working with even lesser rates. We are incurring 12 percent to 15 percent interest rates for setting up factories. We have to compete with the likes of Italy who give long term credit. And, if you do not pay for six months, interest or the likes, you become NPA. Another big headache.

“With the company’s track record, the banks should take recourse not to brand the company as NPA. If somebody does it deliberately or with criminal intention, you must do it.”

The Reserve Bank of India allows the repatriation of the export proceeds within 360 days as such if the export proceeds are not coming within six months we cannot service the bank loan. Under such circumstances, we do not know how a company can become NPA under the RBI guidelines especially 100 percent EOUs and EPCG units faced innumerable problems at home and abroad. Many kinds of strikes and the sudden imposition of the environmental clearances by the Supreme Court and the non availability of the state level teams for getting the environmental clearances and other Force majeure situations genuinely delay the cash flow and the liquidity conditions of a good company.

Indian Stone Industry: Expectations and Optimism

The dimensional stone industry still being a nascent industry needs

  • Government’s strong support in assured long term leasing and renewal policies
  • Global level of competitive royalty rates
  • Global level competitive freight rates and handling cost at the port; smoothly workable infrastructure with adequate power supply and availability of trained manpower, etc.

But, unfortunately, India is far away in these aspects from our global competitor.

The contribution of stone industry from remote drought prone rural areas and modern technology application in mining and setting up manufacturing products and building a brand equity with Indian brand names have not still helped the stone industry to help the cheaper interest rates and the market focus and the product focus support that we have been requesting since many years. The 100 percent EOU policy with Income tax exemption for 10 years has suddenly been withdrawn. With a result building a world scale enterprise in quality and quantity is not possible.

Added to that when the shipping ports are congested the victims are the shippers who are forced to pay the congestion surcharge by the demand of the shipping companies for no fault of the shippers.

For this industry, the government should provide interest rate of 5 percent to 7 percent even lesser for 100 percent EOUs,” requests Mr. Veeramani. “I have also requested a Rs.10,000 crore Granite and Natural Stone Upgradation Fund with a 4 percent interest rate. The fund will be used for technological upgradation and industry upgradation on line with Textile Upgradation Fund with a view to increase the exports by 200 percent to 300 percent.

The point of ‘high interest rate’ recurs many times during the conversation. “My interest is running on seconds, not on years. Every second the clock is running, interest is multiplying, adding up. Every second I have global competitions to face. Government should look into all that,” he requests.

Durable Business, Sustainable Environment

On the issue of all pervading ‘sustainability issue’, Mr. Veeramani sounds resolute and positive. “It’s a good point. Everybody does not have proper understanding of the stone industry. We are not creating any dust, noise, or chemical emissions. We are using hydraulic machines in our mines. We have dust collectors and smoothly operating machines generating no noise. We use controlled explosives just to throw away the waste stones, but that is the standard practice world over,” he elaborates.

He argues further that the countries like Canada, USA, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc., which are much sensitive to the issues of environmental sustainability, global warming, green house effects, are allowing vigorous developments of stone and granite industry on their soils. “How is it done?” he asks. “They give large areas on lease where greening and landscaping are done. Large number of years is also given to build the entire infrastructure around. That’s not possible with the short term leases and small areas as is the case in our country,” he answers.

Granite and stone industry is quite green conscious, according to Mr. Veeramani. “We are maintaining the safety standards and environmental management. We are getting pollution and environmental clearances to operate,” he avers. “In fact, I myself introduced Gem Granites National Environment Award since 1991 after gaining from my training experiences from Sweden. Our awards are bagged by many government and big coporate companies.

His positivity on the sustainability issue is quite conspicuous when he says, “If we do not do charity by money, let us do charity by distributing the oxygen and building greenery. I believe that stone industry is taking care of this aspect very well.” The news media should publish all the successful-environmental promoters.

Passing on the Baton

Mr. Veeramani has gathered enough experiences during the course of almost four decades while consolidating the Indian stone industry. Speaking on imperatives and essentials the stone enterprise requires, he says, “Any industry should have the existing people and the future people. It should give room to everybody; it should accommodate” with positive hassle free policies.

He goes further by saying that nobody is permanent and realizing this everybody should change with the changing times. “Young people are coming up with new business ideas and with enormous drive. Their business model keeps in line with the new trends like internet marketing etc. They will do wonderfully well,” says Mr. Veeramani.

“My request to the government is to give the serious value and appreciation for time and time bound decisions and clearances and approvals when we get fast clearances and resulting in fast investments and fast economic generations and exports. Our country will be accepted as a developed country.

“I have one request equally to the natural stone entrepreneurs in granite, marble, sandstone, slate, quartzite etc. Please comply with all the rules and regulations the central and state governments and other agencies and pay the royalties and amalgamate with our local villages helping them to improve the standard of living by providing jobs with some social welfare measures. Also in all our business efforts there should be high safety standards and improved working labor standards.

“I am pleading for all the natural stones like granites, marbles, sandstones, slates, quartzite, lime stones etc. for our country’s growth from the rural areas with a view to generate and increase the present employment of about 2 million to 5 million in the course of next 5 to 10 years.”

He has a word of advice to pass on. “My only request to all the stone entrepreneurs is to develop their own stone varieties. Do not go with the same stone and try to compete in the same market. Develop new stones and find new markets,” says Mr. Veeramani.

Ending the discussion with a note foretelling a resounding prospect for stone industry Mr. Veeramani says, “The industry is sustainable and we have enormous reserves lasting for another 600 years in India. Moreover, stone aggregate-called jelly otherwise with capacity in this country many times more than granite, marble, slate, etc. put together. Jelly industry is very big than all the export oriented natural stones.”

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