The glass business has improved more than fifteen percent in the past one year due to increased activity in the construction industry, says Zubair Ali Khan, owner of Sheesh Mahal and general secretary of the Sheesha Market Traders Association.Monthly demand at the sheesha market in Karachi is between 2,400 tonnes to 3,000 tonnes with imported glass having a much higher share compared to locally-made glass.Mr Zubair says at present monthly turnover of the market is estimated to be around Rs 30 million but is higher than Rs 26 million recorded just over a year ago.He attributes the increased turnover to mass construction of high-rise buildings, flats and large number of show rooms in the city.
Nearly all types of glass used in the construction industry in the province of Sindh and parts of Balochistan are supplied from the sheesha market located at the old Bohrapir neighbourhood in Karachi. Presently there are 100 shops in the market of which some 15 shops belongs to importers, who import glass from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia.
Originally only couple of shops were situated in the area owned by a Bohri family and some Hindu traders. Soon after independence new Muslim inhabitants arrived in the area and continued with the business along with some Bohri traders. Later on with the growth of the city, especially during 1970s, coupled with rising demand for glass, it became the largest glass market of the country.
Glass imports: Market traders say only float glass is imported in the country. Float glass is a high-resolution glass that does not contain bubbles, waves or distortion as this kind of glass is made when molten glass is floated over molten tin oxide and gradually cooled.
About a decade ago all the float glass used to be imported from Belgium but after establishment of modern glass manufacturing units in other countries importers have shifted their focus due to cheaper rates, Mr Zubair says, adding that the rates of Chinese glass is 15 cents to 20 cents per square meter cheaper as compared to the same product of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Khawaja Masood, owner of Iqbal Sons Glazing Company, says Pakistan imports about 400 tonnes of construction glass per day, adding local manufacturers have the capacity to produce 200 tonnes of glass per day.
Nearly all the mirrors are made of float glass that accounts of about 15 percent to 20 percent of imports.
Six manufacturing units: There are six glass manufacturing factories in the country including four in Hasanabdal, Punjab, one in Nowshera, NWFP and one in Karachi. Mr Masood says only roll and sheet types of glass are made in Pakistan, which are mainly used as window panes and in some low quality furniture, but he adds that there is no major price difference between the imported glass and the locally manufactured.
On average, the per square foot price of five millimetre locally produced glass is Rs 22 at the wholesale sheesha market whereas same type of imported glass costs Rs 28 per foot, he says.
Apart from major use of glass panels as windowpanes, doors and outer walls at boutiques, auto and other showrooms, new variety of glass are blocks and tiles used as partitions in offices, flooring and for decorative purposes.
The glass industry has a bright future in Pakistan and we can foresee development of glass processing and finishing industry in the country due to rising demand, he says.