The 15th edition of the spectacular bi-annual STONA, the third largest international Stone Fair, in Bengaluru is all set to begin on Feb 15th at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre. STONA 2023. The 4 – day long STONA Exhibition will be host to over 3000 stalls spanning over an area of more than 40,000 Sqm with country pavilions from China, Turkey, Iran, Sweden, besides the multiple individual exhibitors who will be participating from various countries.
A flagship initiative of the Federation of Indian Granite & Stone Industry (FIGSI), STONA will be on till February 18th 2023 STONA has been working for the scientific development of the stone industry since 1983. The international stone fair serves is a veritable ground for new opportunities, facilitating to build relationships between domestic and international business houses, connecting designers, artisans, exporters and allied industry professionals. Not surprisingly, STONA is viewed across the world as the most preferred stage to promote natural stone and allied industries since 1987.
A commendable journey
STONA has come a long way since its first edition in 1987, having grown by leaps and bounds over the last four decades, enabling exports to cross Rs 15000 crores by year 2022. The investment in the stone industry likewise has witnessed a steep climb in the country during this period, crossing Rs 50,000 crores and employing over 2 million. The 15th edition of STONA 2023 will be held between 15th to 18th February, where business generation is expected to cross over Rs 1000 crores in natural stones of India. STONA 2023 will also have on display a lot of new machinery introduced in the stone industry.
Besides the stalls, STONA 2023 will also host two seminars, one pertaining to geology, on the topic of ‘Sustainable quarrying of natural stones’ where scientists and eminent speakers will participate. The second seminar will be on architecture on the topic of ‘Sustainable use of natural stones in architecture’ where prominent architects from across the country will deliberate.
Given the strong intent to promote stone artisans of India, a special initiative, Shilpgram, will be host to 30 leading artisans from across the country, exhibiting their skills.
“Stona is a biannual event in the stone industry that provides a platform for manufacturers, exporters, suppliers and service providers to showcase their products, services and technology. Stona is a great opportunity for the stone industry to network and collaborate, as well as to stay up-to-date with the latest developments and trends in the industry,” said Ishwinder Singh, President, FIGSI.
“Stona is a must-attend event for anyone involved in the stone industry. The event provides a platform for companies to showcase their products and services, network with other professionals, and learn about the latest developments and trends in the industry. Whether you are a manufacturer, exporter, supplier, or service provider, Stona is an excellent opportunity to promote your business, make new contacts, and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the industry,” added Manoj Kumar Singh, Chairman, STONA and Vice-President FIGSI.
STONA 2023 will be inaugurated by Halappa Achar, Minister of Mines and Geology, Government of Karnataka. Chief Minister Shri Basavaraj Bommai will be the Chief Guest for the Valedictory function.
Challenges faced by the stone industry
India is home to the second largest deposit of natural stones in the world, housing 15 per cent of the world’s natural stone reserves, equivalent to 46.23 billion cubic metres. The country is also one of the top 5 granite producing countries, along with China and Brazil. It stands in third position in the world natural stone trade, employing 2 million people. Our exports of natural stones crossed $2.2 billion (Rs 15000 crores) in 2022.
Yet, issues continue to plague the stone industry, hampering its smooth working. For instance, the stone industry, especially granite, is facing severe shortage of raw materials. “This is chiefly due to the closure of many quarries in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The growth of the processing sector for the industry too has been very fast, with multiple processing units having been set up in the quarrying districts to meet the spiralling demand in domestic and international markets. But unfortunately the supply of raw materials has not kept pace with this growth to keep the units running. This calls for suitable policy changes, both at the State and National level”, stated Mr Ishwinder Singh, while elaborating on the challenges faced by the industry.
The industry has also been facing other challenges such as competition from countries like China, Turkey, Brazil and Iran. There has also been unfair competition from similar products such as quartz, ceramic, porcelain, glass, negatively impacting the natural stone industry. False propaganda carried out about usage of child labour, radiation from stones affecting health, have again negatively impacted the natural stone industry.
Soliciting policy changes
Effective address of these challenges requires key policy changes starting from giving long term quarry lease of 30-50 years with guaranteed renewals/ extensions. The auction system needs to be dispensed with, replaced by royalty collection which is more practical. This would end illegal quarrying too and corruption, besides earning more for the State Exchequer. The quarry leases too need to be time bound, along with relaxation of conditions prescribed in environment clearance for the smaller quarries.
Commenting on the accumulated quarry waste, S Krishna Prasad, General Secretary, FIGSI stated, “Currently there is huge accumulation of quarry waste which is a major threat to environment. This waste needs to be constructively utilised as a value added product as well as meet social issues such as prevention of coastal erosion, use of aggregates and M-sand as replacement for natural river sand, usage in road construction, to name a few. In short the waste needs to be viewed as an asset and used in accordance as done in countries like China.”
The recovery percentage of saleable blocks too needs rationalisation as currently this is low, varying from 5 to 20 per cent due to inconsistency in colour and texture, geological disturbances such as hairline fractures, joint spacing, integration of mineral constituents, long planes giving non-uniform patterns. Besides these, easy import of granite blocks should be permitted to add variety as well as permit Indian industry to take up projects across the world. Lastly, since everything boils down to economics, it is imperative that the current level of GST is reduced to 5 per cent on blocks and 12 per cent on slabs and tiles, to make our natural stone industry more competitive.
With the right policy support in place that is conducive for growth of the natural stone industry, the annual growth going forward can be expected to reach 10-15 per cent, aided by an increase in exports to the tune of 15 to 20 per cent. Creating conducive atmosphere will also push up investments to Rs 1 lakh crore from the current Rs 50,000 crores, providing employment to an additional 15 lakh skilled and semi-skilled workers in both rural and semi-urban areas.