India's plastics processors long have eyed the huge potential for exports to the United States: They peg the potential market at $1.7 billion.
This targeted figure is, however, a far cry from India's dismal export performance; at present, India does not supply more than $5 million worth of processed plastic products to the United States.
Indian officials privately lament that India's export performance has been poor compared with that of other Asian countries, particularly China, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
For the current year, the Indian Commerce Ministry has set a target of $720 million for Indian exports of plastics, which would entail a growth rate of 24 percent, compared with 18 percent this year.
But now that many East Asian nations have devalued their currencies, Indian officials wonder whether they can achieve those optimistic export projections.
R.P. Kalyanpur, executive director of the Plastics Export Promotion Council in Bombay, said the depreciation of Southeast Asian currencies will be a problem for India's exports, which will lose their competitive edge in world markets.
Indian plastics processors agree that the impact of the Southeast Asian crisis on India's domestic market has been ``virtually zero,'' as Arvind Bharucha, a leading Indian plastics entrepreneur, put it. But India's exports have been hit by the devaluation resulting from the Southeast Asian crisis.
According to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the ``overall effects [of the devaluation] on India's exports have been negative.''
However, Bharucha added that the value of the Indian rupee also has depreciated by some 10 percent in relation to the U.S. dollar, ``but this depreciation is nothing compared to the plummeting of the Southeast Asian currencies.
``India's exports of plastics-based auto components and industrial components have been badly hit,'' Bharucha said.
Gaurav Swarup, a Calcutta-based entrepreneur and chairman of the Plastics Export Promotion Council, tried to play down the negative impact on India's exports of automotive and industrial components by saying that those products form only a ``small chunk'' of total exports.
``I personally feel that there could hardly be any effect on this sector,'' he said.