A single Haas Mini Mill, 11 VF-1 VMCs, and eight SL-10 turning centers make the parts for 1800 different pieces of medical equipment at Appasamy.
aſter their journey across the North Pacific, were waiting in an unused part of the factory to be unpacked and installed. “We have 16 new Haas machines here this week,” says
Ravichandran, “10 VF-1s and six ST-10s. Eighty percent of our employees on the production line are female, and they like the Haas machines because they are easy to operate and maintain. Te Taiwanese machines we had before were big, complex, and intimidating.” Many Appasamy products contain fine, small parts made
on the Haas machines. Ravichandran claims the female machine operators have good manual dexterity, but the main reason why they populate the lines during daylight hours is so they can be at home with their children during the evening, night and early morning. “Te women work the day shiſts and the men work the single night shiſt,” he says. “Many of the women join our company directly aſter school or college, and work here for three to four years, until they marry. Some return and continue; many stop work to have children.” With a seemingly inexhaustible demand for clinical equip-
ment and instruments, and with such an enormous customer base of indigenous ophthalmologists, it’s no surprise that Appasamy has enjoyed uninterrupted growth for the past two decades. Business is brisk, in no small part due to the company’s relentless development of innovative, lower-cost products. Doc- tors in India are free to undertake their own private practice, so it is essential that equipment is affordable, which is also why Appasamy runs a program to help doctors buy the equipment they need to undertake cataract surgery. But the company also
exports its products, and regularly attends trade shows in the US and Europe. By doing so, it qualifies for lower taxes on im- ported machine tools under a government-run incentive. “Because we export a large part of our production, import
duties on the Haas machines are less,” says Ravichandran. “Our company has also been recognized and awarded for exports by the Indian government. We received Te Engineer- ing Export Promotion Council of India award for the best performance under the category of small-scale industries.”
Manufacturing a Future A lot has been written in recent years about the surge of
technology that’s swept across India, but authors are usually referring to the Internet and broadband networks, which have permitted locals to access business opportunities that originate thousands of miles away. Call centers in India have transformed the customer interface of cost-cutting insurance companies and ticketing agencies in the US and UK: As a re- sult, Indian college graduates can hold a white-collar position with a Western company without leaving their native cities. What’s less documented is how engineering companies in
India such as Appasamy are taking advantage of the best-avail- able manufacturing technology, and in so doing, are not only addressing the country’s pressing social and health issues— such as helping the blind to see again—but are also quietly establishing innovative Indian products in growing Western markets. What’s good for eye patients in rural India, it seems, is also good for eye patients in the rest of the world.