Interview with Manoj Agarwal

Face2Face
Manoj Agarwal
Manoj Agarwal
President
Federation Of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA)
Federation Of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA)

Surat can boost India’s share in global textile exports

The Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA) comprises 180 registered textile markets. Each market is but a building, and there are more than 60,000 trading firms operating out of these multistoried markets. FOSTTA serves as a platform for processing units to engage in constructive interaction and work towards mutually beneficial policymaking. Fibre2Fashion talks to FOSTTA President Manoj Agarwal to glean more.

What is the objective of the Federation Of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA)?

The main aim of FOSTTA is to suggest textile policies for the development of the industry. FOSTTA also focuses on introducing better quality products, helps traders in marketing so as to increase their turnover, and resolves issues within the industry. For instance, FOSTTA has been instrumental in setting up an 'economic offence cell'. There were traffic issues aplenty here, what with narrow roads and trucks and tempos carrying the wares. We worked out ways with local authorities to ensure that traffic moves smoothly. We also ensured that labour and those who set up shops on rent are registered with the local police. We also provide information on national and international fairs to FOSTTA members so that they can choose events to attend that would help them in developing their businesses.

What does FOSTTA want to do over the next one year?

A common problem in the textile markets of Surat is that of defects in weaving and printing. FOSTTA plans to help manufacturers produce zero-defect fabrics and increase their share in exports. India's share in global export of textiles is just 4 per cent. We wish to increase this figure further. Surat is a huge hub for textiles. With government support, we can increase the quantity of textile export from this town.

What are the future plans of FOSTTA?

The plans include campaigning for an arbitration act. There are a lot of financial fraud cases. With help of the government and the 'economic offence cell' we hope to control and reduce such cases, and help merchant manufacturers from losing money. We also plan to focus on exports.

Where is FOSTTA now placed over its demand for anti-dumping duties on Chinese fabrics?

When commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman came here recently we apprised her of the fact that the dumping of Chinese fabrics, at a cost of `10-15 per metre, is detrimental to the growth of our industry. To restrict this, we proposed that the government should conduct strict and random checks of containers to ascertain at what rates fabrics are being imported through fake invoices. The cloth that comes in is very cheap and can be used as dress material and for furnishings, and naturally it is harming our business in a big way. The cheap fabric comes in not only from China but also from other regions-nations which import the fabric from that country and dump the defective cloth here at throwaway prices. With the help of the TUF scheme of the Union government we can make the best of cloth.

What are the problems that require government help?

We do not get any sort of financial cooperation from the government; loans available for manufacturers have high interest rates. Besides, unskilled labour and instability of labour are other major issues where government help is required. The schemes introduced have a complex set of terms and conditions, which are difficult for small merchant manufacturers (traders) to follow. However, these manufacturers have the skills and technology. Government support in the form of marketing is also required.

Which are the other burning issues?

The textiles industry is one of the largest employers. We need trained and skilled labourers; otherwise it is hard for micro and small industries, which form a huge base of the Surat textiles industry, to survive. These industries are labour-intensive, and do not have sophisticated machines. On an average, a micro enterprise employs 3-4 workers and has 10-12 contract labourers. Small companies have about 50 employees, and medium companies like process houses have about 500-600 employees.

Have any steps been taken by FOSTTA to meet the shortage of skilled workers?

Surat is home to many who come from across the country in search of work. This skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled migrant labour should be encouraged to stay by creating the right infrastructure like housing, public transport, etc. At present 6-8 people dorm it out in one room. The migrants go home thrice a year, and each time this disturbs the industry and production, and other costs go up. But if given better working conditions, these people will come here with their families.
Published on: 02/09/2016

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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