Titagarh Wagons has quietly started shipbuilding activities and is ready to expand the business once the industry revives.
Titagarh Marine Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary, has just started manufacturing sea trawlers and pontoon jetty.
"Works has started a few days back. While the jetty is being manufactured for the Kolkata Port Trust, the trawler is being built as a standardised product to be marketing to different customers," JP Chowdhary, chairman of Titagarh Wagons, told dna.
The initiative, till now, is on a scaled down version of its earlier grand plan to set up a shipyard in over a 50 acre existing piece of land belonging to the closed Titagarh Paper Mills in Kankinara near Kolkata.
The current operations, instead, are happening within Titagarh Wagon's existing sprawling wagon complex at Titagarh near Kolkata where it has 70 acre.
"We decided to cautiously proceed with our investments plans in building a new shipyard and have began our marine business within our premises as it has a 15 meter-long water front and adequate metal fabrication expertise. But as we scale up our business after getting some big orders, which will happen shortly, we will start our project at Kankinara. But for that we want to be sure that business indeed is picking up," Chowdhary said.
Titagarh is dreaming big and has startedparticipating in tenders floated for navy ships among others, he said.
The slowdown in the shipping industry had impacted Titagarh indirectly even before its started working on its first vessel.
In 2012, Titagarh went for inorganic growth in the shipbuilding business by acquiring Corporated Shipyard Pvt Ltd which had been making ferries, survey vessels, pilot launches, patrol crafts, tugs, dredgers, warship blocks, naval crafts, fast patrol launches and tourist cruise vessel.
This would have immediately helped Titagarh get going but the slowdown in the industry came in and Corporated Shipyard's premises got blocked with two vessels that Bharati Shipyard had ordered.
"With Bharati suffering, it couldn't take deliveries of these vessels. But now with signs of recovery in the industry we hope Bharati would be able to take possession of them and free up our capacity," Chowdhary said.
While Chowdhary is optimistic, he is also realistic, keeping his money close to chest.
"With the new government in place, we are hopeful of increased government spending but we are yet to see that happening. When it happens our marine business will grow," he said.
Titagarh's venture into shipbuilding will help it diversify and cut its dependence on wagons, which constituted 88% of its revenues in the last fiscal.
The company recently ventured into metro rail coach business by bagging a contract for rehabilitation of 56 coaches of Kolkata Metro.