Exports of Ready Made Garments are under pressure. They dropped to $ 16.37 billion in 2018-19 from $16-71 billion a year ago. India garments find it difficult to compete with countries in this sector. A narrow product base in not making things easy.
But then the garments segment is a major employment generator with 45 million employed directly and another 20 million indirectly.
At this stage, let me place two questions before this celebrated speakers and the august audience:
a) Should we have minimum benchmarks of quality for each unit or at least entities that have a certain size?
b) Textiles are in the labour-intensive category. But, at the same time, this sector suffers from shortage of capital. How do we educate the entrepreneurs on the requirement of requisite capital equipment?
I believe that our policy-makers are seized of the matter and have placed on the table impactful Policy Research in Social Science (IMPRESS in short).
In the visual, I have touched upon rising incomes, abundance of raw materials, 100% FDI automatic route, Integrated Textile Parks, Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme.
It is heartening to note that Indian players have moved up the value-chain from being mere converters to vendor partners of global retail giants. Fiber consumption has 70% share through manmade fibers and only the balance 30% is natural fibers.
Let's turn to fabric's green frontier. I am referring to sustainable textile innovations. This is where value-addition lies.
Human activity has begun to effect significant environment consequences. The ultra-intellectuals have a word for it-Anthropocene.
Environment-unfriendly behavior may be costing the globe an annual $ 160 billion. I must mention here that Raymond in collaboration with Reliance Industries aims to redeem nearly one million Pet bottles from landfills throught the brand: Eco Vera.
Sustainable linen-like fabrics are a distinct possibility. We have a whole range, from Kenya's stinging nettles, coconut wool, vegan leather in the form of Pina-tex (pineap ple leather), microscopic spores of mushrooms (Mycelium leather), waste from the winemaking industry (grape leather), ocean plastic waste, lab-grown silk, apple-skin, graphene-based yarn.
North Carolina State University researchers have designed a fibre that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, resulting in a tougher material that could be incorporated into soft robotics, packaging materials or next generation textiles.
We are passing through challenging times.
In the beginning, I had referred to competition from emerging economies, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia enjoy preferential duty access in key markets. Then there are headwinds of continuously increasing costs of raw materials, fuel, power, manpower, dyes and chemicals. Add to that pollution issues, water scarcity, labor laws not in synchrony with the present times.
I end on a note of optimism. Goods & Services tax (GST) has been fine-tuned to provide for modification of Reserve Charge Mechanism (RCM), issuance of consolidated debit/credit notes covering multiple invoices, registration for different business verticals, increase of import duty on over 50 textiles products.
I must also compliment the Government of Gujarat on its credit-linked interest subsidy Scheme for 2012-2017 which saw technical textile units go up from 17 in 2013-14 to 181 in 2018-19 with investments up from Rs.156 crore to Rs. 1,775 crores. This may not be the whole story since the State Government has data of beneficiary units only. Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA), India's leading readymade/knitwear cluster, has reported a 8.3% growth in its exports at Rs.26.000 crores in FY 19 along with a domestic sale of Rs.24,000 crores.
Changing design patterns, life-styles across the planet, skilled workforce, per capita spending on garments, fashion-oriented world, China's non-aggressive push offer opportunities to our textile industry. Let's grab it with both hands.
S K Sarkar
National President, IACC