Covid terminated 40% of Jalandhar’s Rs 2,000-crore sports goods industry, government claims no distress

The city of Punjab is known as one of the country's largest sports manufacturing hubs, producing everything from professional boxing gloves to gully cricket balls.

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Covid terminated 40% of Jalandhar's Rs 2,000-crore sports goods industry, government claims no distress

Many of India’s greatest sporting moments feature a touch of Jalandhar, from the sticks used by the Indian hockey team to win bronze at the Tokyo Olympics to the bats used by cricketing greats like Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni hit winning sixes.

The city of Punjab is known as one of the country’s largest sports manufacturing hubs, producing everything from professional boxing gloves to gully cricket balls.

Also Read: The cost of Covid school closure’s effect on India’s ‘pencil village’

However, post-Covid, fewer people are interested in what Jalandhar has to offer. Business owners and workers in Jalandhar told ThePrint that the athletic goods industry is in serious trouble. Officials from the government, on the other hand, claimed that the situation was being exaggerated.

As per Ashish Anand, president of the Jalandhar Sports Goods Manufacturers and Exporters, the business has decreased substantially from over Rs 2,000 crore pre-Covid to just Rs 200 crore now.

“There are currently 500 micro, small, and medium firms operating in the city,” Anand said, “but around 40% of total manufacturing units have closed shop in Jalandhar since the pandemic began.” As a result of the halving of production, several manufacturers have had to reduce workers by 70-80%.

However, the government claims that these data are incorrect. “There is no distress to the best of my knowledge,” Punjab principal secretary for trade and industries Tejveer Singh said.

“The industry’s turnover in 2020-2021 was Rs 2,000 crore, including Rs 500 crore in export costs. “There’s no way the sector has reduced to Rs 200 crore; if that had been the case, things would have been really, really awful,” Singh said, adding that he recently met with industry leaders “who did not flag any such worries.”

“Right now, their top priority is to find a location to develop, a separate industrial park where they can enhance production.” People would have died if there had been a 70% job cut!” he added.

The school-age market is served by a substantial portion of Jalandhar’s sporting goods business, which includes shoes, helmets, and other personal gear.

Manufacturers claim that while demand for boxing equipment has increased as individuals return to the gym, demand for team sports equipment has remained flat. They claim that the main reason for this is that schools are still not operating normally, and that children are not as active in playground sports.

“Post-Covid, people aren’t as interested in participating in outdoor sports. Those involved in the production of team sports equipment have been severely harmed. Nothing can happen as long as youngsters don’t play team sports or get back outside to play,” said Ashish Anand, managing director of athletic equipment manufacturer Anand & Anand. “Our output has been cut by 70-80%, and we’ve had to lay off 400 people,” he added.

The sports business, according to Somnath Kohli, owner of Beat All Sports, will not be able to revive until schools restore normal operations.

“Schools are the foundation of everything… Even sports academies have mainly closed their doors. Our business will continue to suffer as long as they don’t open,” he stated.

Kohli, like Anand, said that he had to lay off employees, but he didn’t say how many. Anoop Anand, the managing director, and partner of Anand Co Sporting Foundation, which makes boxing and mixed martial arts equipment, said he was forced to dismiss 50 percent of his workforce.

Daily-wage workers, many of whom are shoemakers in small shops and factories, are among the hardest hit in Jalandhar’s athletic goods industry.

Sarita Devi, a 32-year-old migrant worker from Raibareli, Uttar Pradesh, says her earnings have plummeted since the outbreak.

“For each shoe upper that I create, I am paid Rs 4.” I used to produce up to 100 shoes a day before the lockdown, but around two months ago, I couldn’t make enough to even buy food to eat. She explained, “I can’t do any other work because I have children and no other skills.”

Devi worked from her home in the Model Town section of Jalandhar’s Bank Colony.

During the lockdown, Anil Ambedkar, who belongs from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh and has worked as a shoemaker for the past 25 years, said he was compelled to walk back to his village in UP. “The job has dropped by practically half,” he remarked.

Despite the current challenges, numerous manufacturers expressed optimism about fresh prospects emerging.

India’s Olympic success has sparked a surge in interest in sports such as boxing, hockey, and javelin throwing, as well as a surge in equipment demand.

After the men’s team won bronze in Tokyo, Kohli said demand for hockey sticks surged by 90%, while Anoop Anand said LovlinaBorgohain’s medal improved boxing’s popularity.

“No one used to be interested in hockey, but even in these Covid times, my sales have increased by 90%.” After Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal in javelin, people were more interested in the sport. “If you go to any sports equipment store, you’ll see at least one javelin for sale,” Kohli added.

Decathlon, a massive French sporting goods shop, is also moving business to Jalandhar for off-the-beaten-path sporting items.

According to Ashish Anand, the business is now awarding equipment production contracts to sports that it had previously ignored. “They want horseback riding, rock climbing, camping, polo, water polo equipment… this will give the business a significant boost,” Anand said.

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Covid terminated 40% of Jalandhar's Rs 2,000-crore sports goods industry, government claims no distress
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The city of Punjab is known as one of the country's largest sports manufacturing hubs, producing everything from professional boxing gloves to gully cricket balls.
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THE POLICY TIMES
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