Indian stone industry bullish on growth momentum

Bangalore, Feb 2 (IANS) The Indian stone industry is upbeat on maintaining growth momentum as retail, real estate and infrastructure sectors boom and exports rise in new markets, an industry leader said.

"The stone industry has a huge opportunity to flourish on the growing consumption of stone in the form of granite and marble by the buoyant retail and real estate sectors for housing and commercial buildings and the infrastructure sector across the country," Centre for Development of Stones (CDOS) chief executive R.K. Gupta told IANS here Wednesday.

Though unorganised and fragmented, the Indian stone industry has been growing at 15-20 percent annually even during downturn in fiscal 2008-09 and 2009-10, thanks to a huge domestic market and growing demand for its designer products in the Middle East, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and South-East Asia.

"India has emerged as the largest producer of stones, including granite and marble, followed by China and Spain. But on the export front, we rank third after Italy and China with the industry generating Rs.7,000 crore (Rs.70 billion) from overseas markets in fiscal 2010-11," Gupta said.

With a market size of Rs.30,000 crore (Rs.300 billion), the industry employs around 2.5 million people directly and indirectly in a dozen states across the country.

As an autonomous organisation of the Rajasthan government and the state-run Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO), the Jaipur-based CDOS promotes the multi-dimensional stone sector and provides a platform for stakeholders to modernise the industry with newer technologies and skills.

"As a nodal agency to promote the industry, we keep stakeholders abreast of the latest technology for easy adoption and value addition to improve their business in the domestic and export markets," Gupta said at STONA 2012, the 10th international granites & stone fair being held at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC).

The agency's research centre at Jaipur also helps the industry in testing the various stone products for quality and finish.

Noting that trade fairs such as STONA, organised by the All-India Granites & Stone Association, attract international exhibitors to showcase their technology and products, Gupta said the domestic industry also benefited from the biennial event for exploring newer markets and overcoming competition from neighbouring countries.

"There has been an increasing participation of the marble and sandstone industry in STONA and by the granite industry in India Stonemart, held in Jaipur every alternate year," Gupta pointed out.

Gupta is leading a CDOS delegation to the four-day trade expo to promote the seventh edition of Stonemart to be held in Jaipur in January 2013.

Jalore, about 400 km from Jaipur, has emerged as a hub for granite processing in the country and its products are in great demand in export markets.

"With the increasing consumption of dimensional stones like granite, marble, sandstone and limestone in diverse sectors, there a need to educate end-users on the characteristic features of the raw material in different types to enable scientific selection of the product, keeping in view elegance, durability and maintenance," Gupta observed.

Admitting that the stone industry had to be eco-friendly as a sustainable construction material, Gupta said CDOS had initiated measures to develop appropriate technologies and implement best practices in mining and processing units.

Endowed with different natural stones, including redstone, white marble and sandstone, Rajasthan is the largest producer of the natural construction material in the country followed by Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in south India.

"States like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana have been promoting the stone industry with proactive policies as the raw material is present in pockets of the respective regions," Gupta added.