– By René Van Berkel, Representative to India of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization
Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) are the backbone of most economies worldwide. India is no exception: in 2015-16 some 64 million MSMEs generated 29% of GDP and contributed 45% of exports and some 33% to manufacturing output. MSME Day is celebrated on 27, June 2019 to draw attention to the importance of MSMEs to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
For the manufacturing sector, SDG9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, foresees a transition to inclusive and sustainable industrial development, to make sure industries contribute to economic development, social inclusion, and environmental protection. This involves creating industries that are fit for the future as was essentially already needed yesterday. This means ensuring factories can compete on their own in national and international markets with innovative and quality products, factories provide decent work and consider interests of communities and stakeholders, and factories have environment and energy considerations integrated into their routine operations and decision making. Whilst the majority of manufacturing MSMEs are still in the early stage of transition to sustainability and inclusiveness, several clusters are taking the lead to become future ready.
Here are four examples of UNIDO’s work in India:
1. Sustainable Leather
In Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), appropriate technologies were demonstrated and promoted for tanning and leather manufacturing, which reduced wastewater discharges and energy use. These included water monitoring and automated mixing, hair-saving unhairing, dry and wet salt recovery, lime liquor recycling, and solar water and air heating, to mention a few. These and other measures saved costs and improved productivity, and reduced chemical hazards and improved occupational health and safety. Moreover, an e-learning portal on sustainable leather manufacturing was created.
2. Driving Innovation and Excellence at the Factory Floor
Factory improvements start with the implementation of lean manufacturing and total productivity methods, including through such tools like 5S, visual controls and shop floor participation. This pays off as demonstrated jointly by UNIDO and Indian Automotive Components Manufacturers Association (ACMA) in 25 clusters around the country. The participating 152 automotive components manufacturers achieved cumulative annual savings of 17.5 crores Indian rupees, whilst also cutting staff absenteeism by 31% and eliminated major hazards.
3. Green Innovations
Over 20 MSME clusters around the country are working with UNIDO and its partners on energy efficiency in sectors as diverse as textile, foundry, ceramics, handtools, dairy, etc. For example, in Coimbatore, some 100 foundry units have adopted energy efficiency practices, as identified with the aid of Energy Management Cell created jointly by UNIDO and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. The MSME foundries in the cluster so far have achieved annual energy savings of about 189 tonnes of oil equivalent with annual cost savings of 2.27 crores Indian rupees for an investment of 1.59 crore Indian rupees. This avoided 1843 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
4. Cleantech Innovations
Cleantech is a rapidly growing market that shows great potential also for Indian innovators. Over 80 innovators participated in a cleantech accelerator with their innovations covering energy efficiency, renewable energy, water, and wastewater and waste beneficiation. A total of 26 have already succeeded to create start-ups and collectively raised USD7 million for scaling up and commercialization. These include, for example, energy efficient foundry machinery by Rhino Machines, chemical and energy free water purification by Watsan, and floating drone to collect plastics and rubbish from surface water by Sagar Defence. Moreover, several of these are exemplary to combat air pollution.