Executive Vice President-Technology, Sustainability & Marketing Asmara Group
What are the sustainability goals set at Asmara India and the Group in general?
We are consciously working towards encouraging our clients to move towards more sustainable raw materials, and not just linked with the marketing of such a move. We are actively working on promoting BCI cotton as well as recycled polyester. We are also working on establishing our internal sustainability policy which looks minutely on our carbon footprint. This includes changes in our energy consumption by shifting to LED lights, reduction in paper use and shifting to FSC-approved recycled paper, better wastewater management including enhancing our rainwater harvesting systems, setting up solar panels for electrification or water heating, etc. Apart from that we are developing tech solutions that will switch all technical and quality reports from a traditional physical copy to a digitised paperless system.
Will the US-China trade war be beneficial to Indian garment exporters?
It is too early to say if the US-China trade war will benefit the Indian garment industry, as the dynamics of manufacturing and production in China are very different from India. Raw materials particularly synthetics are of a superior quality in China, while product categories are much wider than India's. Some of our larger export houses with a highly organised operation are already seeing an uptick in inquiries if not orders, particularly in specific categories like soft dressing and bottoms. However, the main beneficiaries from the trade war will be countries like Vietnam and Cambodia who offer a product portfolio that is similar to China's.
Do you plan to integrate systems at Asmara with Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is a very interesting idea whose time has come. We have certain systems and applications that have been beat-tested and a few others in development which focus on the use of AI and machine learning to take over some of the more mundane and unproductive processes of our associates. We hope to update you in a few months on the success of these trials.
What are your thoughts on blockchain?
Blockchain will play a huge role in transforming the apparel industry towards a more transparent supply chain. Physical-digital link between the product and its digital identity, digital chain of custody, etc, will greatly help identify counterfeits from originals. We continue to watch the progress of blockchain and what new possibilities emerge for our business.
Which new markets do you plan to tap in the future?
Our attention continues to remain the best partner for our clients and vendors, and we continue to build internal bench strength together with skillsets to cater to every future need of our clients. We feel that our operational excellence, innovation and philosophy offer a unique platform for us to enter new markets and make deeper inroads in ones we already have a foothold in.
What are your expectations from the textiles policy?
India is losing its global competitive edge especially in apparel exports over the last few years. I am hoping that the textiles policy will address issues that have challenged our export and manufacturing. I am also wishing that there are incentives and encouragement to move towards digitalisation and import of technology in this regard should be made duty-free. Job creation especially for the female work force is another expectation. The policy should also lay emphasis and encourage sustainable raw material production, practices and business processes.
What are the challenges curbing the growth of the Indian apparel industry?
The industry continues to be fragmented and a large part of industry is in the MSME segment with low adoption of technology as well as best practices. Fortunately, the worst effects of demonetisation and GST implementation are waning, but other challenges like the reduced export incentives, global price pressures and competition, cotton price volatility, logistics shortfall, delay in infrastructure projects are affecting the growth. We have also not focused on enhancing our raw material capabilities particularly in fabric production and processing as well as a superior quality of polyester yarn is hurting our competitiveness. Speed and flexibility are new normal in the export industry, and there is greater need for the industry to move faster with innovation to meet the market changes.
Any expansions planned for 2018-19? Can we expect any major announcements from the Asmara Group this year?
This has been an action-packed year for us. We have commenced operations in Myanmar and Morocco for two of our main clients to tap into what these regions offer in the global sourcing world. We will also be setting up the Asmara Foundation towards the end of the year as our commitment to making positive impact in communities where our associates live and work. The foundation will formalise our global efforts in CSR as well as sustainability and mobilise both funding and man hours of our associates, where we can share our knowledge and skills and lead campaigns as well as participate in disaster relief. (HO)
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