So, what makes the states of South India different from those up north, or maybe towards the west as well? Some analyses and perceptions from those on the ground.

To look at South India from the standpoint of the textiles and apparel industry would be a fallacy-for one might invariably start with the idle assumption that it is a composite ecosystem on its own. But then, it is anything but that. The five states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana differ from one another in innumerable ways-right from having their own respective textiles policies to the multifarious sectors of the industry that contribute to the overall Indian textiles economy. Then, within these states there are clusters and hubs that virtually stand on their own, and each state has its own singular textiles heritage. Yet, the more one delves into the manifest differences and seals the assertion that South India is indeed not one homogeneous entity by any yardstick, the more one discovers common threads running through the entire South.

Importance of Being South

When Fairtrade India was launched a few years back, it chose to operate out of Karnataka capital, Bengaluru. Fairtrade India's chief executive Abhishek Jani offers his insight: "There have been several hubs for handlooms, textiles and apparel production across the South-one can still find historic hubs for silk sarees and apparel in Mysuru, Kollegal, Kanchipuram and Dharmavaram, and hubs for traditional cotton-based textiles like Ikat in Nalgonda district (in Telangana) and Jamdani in Venkatagiri district (in Andhra Pradesh) and the Real Madras Handkerchief from Chennai.

"In addition to these historic hubs, over the years, South India has also developed several other textiles and apparel manufacturing hubs which have emerged as centres for specialisation, especially for the international markets. Cities like Tiruppur have several integrated units and thousands of MSMEs (medium, small and micro enterprises) undertaking specific functions for yarn, textiles and apparel manufacturing making it the leading knits production hub of the country. Bengaluru in addition to information technology has also emerged as a major hub for fabrics and garmenting."

Cities like Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Telangana capital Hyderabad too have the presence of a large number of textiles and garmenting units. Karur (also in Tamil Nadu) and Chennai are specialised home textiles hubs, while Erode has evolved from being a handloom and carpet manufacturing centre to a powerloom / spinning hub. In addition, several specialised units can also be found dotted across South India landscape. These hubs have made this region a valuable and integral part of the Indian textiles-apparel landscape as a significant contributor to exports.  

Contributing an overwhelming 90 per cent to the cotton knitwear exports of the country is Tiruppur, located on the banks of the Noyyal river in Tamil Nadu. Working out of this town is Syndicate Impex, whose marketing head Kathir asserts, "South India has always been the backbone of the Indian textiles industry.