Kolkata, the workwear capital of India, is set to break the conventional mindset of manufacturing and get a makeover for better growth and efficiency.
West Bengal has the biggest domestic workwear brands and export companies but still remains less industrialised compared to other textile and apparel hubs in India. Kolkata-based workwear companies like JPM Exports, Rama Overseas and Mallcom (India) are looking to consolidate their manufacturing operations to reach their potential as apparel manufacturing hubs. These companies majorly cater to European markets, and work through a network of importers and distributors, supplying to a wide range of industries and retailers.
Recognised by the Government of India and Star Export House JPM Exports is a leading manufacturer and exporter of workwear, sportswear and outdoorwear from India and Bangladesh. Established in 2009, the company has grown at the rate of 100 per cent since its inception and plans to surpass the turnover of $15 million (Rs 100 crore) this financial year. JPM started with manufacturing gloves and ventured into workwear. For diversified growth, JPM is working with Dickes, F Angel Denmark and Wruth for workwear exports and Diadora, an Italian company for sportswear.
In the domestic market for casual wear, the company has started with Mahindra Retail, Pantaloons and Decathlon for stores in India. JPM has 600 sewing machines divided in a centralised unit and smaller satellite units that produce 200,000 units of workwear, 200,000 units of outerwear and woven casuals and 400,000 units of knit sportswear and casual wear every month.
Another workwear manufacturer Rama Overseas, established in 1975, started business with exports of finished leather to the Far East. In due course, the company integrated and mastered the art of making leather gloves adding to the product range they manufactured and exported safety garments.
The factory in Kolkata produces 700,000 pairs of gloves including leather gloves in cow grains, split leather and water repellent treated leather. They produce 100,000 pieces of workwear every month. Rama overseas generates 100 per cent of its revenue from the international market. To influence the quality of leather from its raw stage, the company has a tannery at the Kolkata leather complex. The company plans to expand further and explore new markets, modernise and undertake marketing initiatives.
One of the dynamic and most progressive workwear manufacturers in Kolkata is Mallcom (India) Ltd, a Government of India recognised trading house engaged in manufacture, export and distribution of a wide range of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) since 1983. Mallcom has been in the news for good reason since its inception. In August 2015, Mallcom received the Encon award and in September 2015, Mallcom was recognised in a prestigious Bengal Entrepreneurship Award forum.
The company has grown to become a complete workwear solution provider. The company registered a steady growth of 20 per cent Year after Year (YOY) in all categories. Mallcom generates annual revenues upwards of US$ 45 million (Rs 300 crore). With six production facilities in Kolkata and one in Uttarakhand and two units each for apparel and safety shoes and one unit each for leather gloves, it produces 8 million pair of workwear gloves, 1.08 million units of workwear and 1.2 million pairs of protective footwear. Mallcom supplies to companies such as BMW, Audi and other end users through a third company.
Mallcom is an investor-friendly company and focussing on fundamentals to deliver the best returns to shareholders. This consistency reflects in the figures and the un-interrupted dividends paid to shareholders for 30 years.
The Need and the Makeover Journey:
All three companies JPM Exports, Rama Overseas and Mallcom India have realised the need to have centralised manufacturing operations. Reasons include:
• Reducing manufacturing costs
• Taking bulk orders
• Uniformity in quality
• Accommodating business coming out of China
China is the biggest exporter and manufacturer of workwear products and is far ahead of India in workwear, despite rise in labour costs. Companies in heavy industries like steel or automobiles buying such clothing do not mind paying a little higher for uniforms. India is being looked at as the next option to relocate production to if labour costs shoot up further. However, buyers are sceptical about the ability of Indian workwear market to handle bulk orders because of unorganised style and decentralised manufacturing.
JPM Exports established its first centralised apparel unit in April 2015 with 350 sewing machines and an area of 40,000 sq ft at RDP Apparel Park in West Bengal. The unit plans to have five sewing lines for workwear and four lines for knit casual wear. The complete unit will be functional by November 2015. Now, two sewing lines are operational. Once this capacity reaches 100 per cent utilisation, the company will add another unit in same park with 350 sewing machines.
JPM Exports hired experienced people from established workwear manufacturing industry to help the company establish and streamline, as it is a difficult task to train employees, used to working at will, to put in a shift of eight hours.
Rama Overseas has a typical Kolkata-styled manufacturing where it has more than 700 sewing machines spread out in 15 smaller units, of which 300 machines are allocated to workwear divisions and the rest to gloves. Rama Overseas plans to relocate its unit in Tiljala Road, Kolkata, the centralised unit for cutting both workwear and gloves. The cut parts are sent to the sewing unit and after processing, the sewing unit sends back finished goods to the centralised unit.
Mallcom India has purchased land 60 km from Kolkata for its Greenfield facility. The company plans to train 1,000 unskilled people for the upcoming unit as per the requirements of the company, as it would be difficult to mould already trained employees. Like JPM Exports, Mallcom will also centralise its many small sewing units scattered in Kolkata city. This upcoming centralised unit will be dedicated exclusively to workwear apparel. The company may also seek intervention of a foreign consultant for this project.
The Global Workwear Market:
Globally, the market for workwear is good and the industry is set to grow 6 per cent from 2015 to 2019. Despite a slowdown in the European market, other destinations like South America, Australia and South Africa are lucrative. According to new market research report on workwear, growth in the short- to medium-term period is at its robust best in emerging markets of Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Latin America. Growth in the Asia-Pacific region primarily stems from developing nations like China and India which are not only gaining popularity for being most trusted destinations but also represent large markets promising sales prospects.
North America accounts for 41.2 per cent of total workwear revenue, and is predicted to dominate till 2022. Undergoing rapid industrialisation, the Asia-Pacific is expected to witness the highest growth of 7.9 per cent from 2015 to 2022, surpassing North America. Frost & Sullivan's report on workwear showed that the western Europe market is set to rise to € 7.4 billion ($ 8.1 billion) by 2017. In the United Kingdom alone, the sector's value is fast approaching € 1 billion per annum.
Workwear Market in India
Emerging trends in workwear is adding a fashion element to workwear. Traditionally, workwear has been associated with uniforms and single-coloured apparel. Workwear is making a shift from traditional designs to youthful designs such as low cut trousers made from functional textiles.
Currently, the domestic workwear market is estimated to be around US$ 357 million and is projected to reach US$ 1,108 million by 2021 growing at an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12 per cent. It is estimated that jackets and trousers will witness the highest growth of 15 per cent and 14 per cent respectively, outpacing the domestic market growth of basic workwear.
The workplace is set to get more interesting.