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Kerala touches a chord in western music buffs' hearts

Special Correspondent

State feeds the global guitar makers

KOCHI: The music buffs go into raptures hearing and seeing their favourite stars perform under the strobe lights.

While the high wattage music rocks the audience, few might believe that the guitars the stars hold are made of parts exported from Kochi.

According to KSIDC (Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation) sources here, 90 per cent of the rosewood parts required for making acoustic guitars that leading singers in the world use go from Kerala. There are about ten exporters in Kochi, who have been exporting the Backs and Sides, fingerboards, bridge, finished bridges, head piece and rosewood veneer of guitars to leading makers such as C.F. Martin, the Gisbon Group and Taylor, mostly in the U.S., for the last 30 years.

These companies, which include Gemwood, Patel Pranlal Babulal, Athena Exports, Associated Timber, Malabar Timber, Wood House Limited and New Tech, together exported guitar parts worth Rs.60 crores, according to M. Gopalakrishnan, partner, Gemwood.

In the latest issue of the KSIDC newsletter, he is quoted as having said that "tremendous value addition takes place at the manufacturers' end, where they treat the wood to get the best possible sound.

A set we export for, say $25, becomes a guitar that costs $5,000 after the processes."

Last year, these companies together exported 2.1 lakh sets of veneers, 26.25 lakh pieces of fingerboards, 10.5 lakh bridge, finished bridges and head pieces.

The industry is having some serious problems like sourcing rosewood from Karnataka.

In Kerala the availability is next to nothing. 12.5 per cent VAT and an equal rate of entry tax are vexing problems for the industry.

This adds to the overall cost which is up by over 25 per cent than that charged by a manufacturer in Karnataka where they get back the VAT payment on exports, he points out.

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