The Indian garment export industry is at the threshold of dramatic and far reaching changes. Garments are one of the most important value added production the export basket of India. From the point of view of employment generation and net foreign exchange earnings, there are very few parallels for the garment export industry. However there have been various phases of growth, the garment export industry had experienced the pangs and anxieties of transition before the phase out of multi fiber agreement (MFA).

But now in the days ahead we are going to face increased competition, erosion of margins, lack of expertise in global sourcing, pressures on lead time and quality which are going to affect growth and profitability. The garment export industry as a whole now need for a paradigm shift in attitude, concepts, concerns and product marketing strategies.

The Indian garment export industry is viewed as a highly disparate group of small-scale units, located mainly in metropolitan cities and few other cities, with outdated technology and production systems. The small-scale industries again dependent on the disorganized power loom sector for the supply of fabrics, the raw material for garments. Further the processing of fabrics and washing of garments and many other significant activities are carried out in several small units with obsolete technology. Many other value-adding activities like embroidery, appliqu and sequin work are also done in rather non-descript and tiny units. Besides, there are infrastructural problems. The task ahead, therefore is to transform such an industry into a world-class competitor so as to compete in this quota free era of garment trade. This in turn will lead to the building up of better market share and positive image.

Historical Perspective

The latter half of 19th century saw the emergence of the readymade garments industry in the world. The department stores set up in the US and Western Europe during the years 1840-80, increased the consumers accessibility to the readymade garments, which helped the initial growth of readymade garment production and consumption. After World War I, the manufacturing facilities set up for army uniforms were converted to readymade garment manufacturing units. This resulted in the growth of ready to wear garment industry.

The year 1920 is considered as the year in which the modern readymade garment industry began its rapid climb to prominence. The factory made clothing gained worldwide consumer acceptance and retailers recognized its business potential. The years following World War II saw further growth of mass production and marketing of garments. Imports to the developed markets also began to grow.

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The authors are associated with SVITS