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President Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI)
What can the industry do to increase global exports?
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are giving India stiff competition. China has reduced their share in RMG. All international brands are currently sourcing garments from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. These countries import and use fabrics that are made in India. Power in India is very expensive; in Ahmedabad the cost of energy is ₹7.5 per unit. But the cost of power in these countries is about ₹2.5 per unit. The labour cost is also less. Apart from this, the Indian government does not levy any duty when garments are imported from these countries. This is counter-productive and affects our domestic industry. The entire value chain must be considered when we talk about Make in India.
How adept is the Indian textiles industry in adopting new technologies?
When it comes to new technologies, Indian textiles and apparel manufacturers lag behind. We still import buttons for shirts. Our ancillary industries are not quite developed. The availability of technically sound staff is scarce. We need training centres for imparting technical skills. The productivity of labour is very low in India. A Chinese worker makes 20-25 pieces of apparel, while in India a labourer barely works on 7-8 pieces per day. This is a big challenge for us. I am not a big supporter of robotics, since we are a labour-intensive nation. Industry 4.0 is working well for the European markets; in fact, they are going beyond that too. In India, industry 4.0 can be used in the textile engineering sector, but not for garmenting. It will otherwise create unemployment. A lot of uneducated people are absorbed in the textiles industry as workers; hence, I wouldn't recommend it at the garmenting level.
The government has simplified the process for global retailers to enter India. Will this affect manufacturing or retail in India?
We always lay out red carpets for foreign companies, not only in textiles, but for other industries too. There should be a level-playing field. This will also be highlighted in the white paper. The policies and ease of doing business provided to international retailers and foreign investors must also be given to domestic companies. When a foreign company wants to invest, land is easily available, and the paperwork gets done in a few days. But when an Indian entrepreneur wants to do the same, the prices are high, and the paperwork is time-consuming. This is affecting the textiles and retail industry.
Has e-commerce helped small and medium enterprises, or changed the usual business pattern?
A company like Raymond can sell a shirt at ₹3,000 at different places across the country while many MSMEs sell one for ₹800. Their markets and target audiences are different. Selling beyond that will be difficult unless they provide quality products and market those, which is important to survive in the domestic as well as global markets. Another essential aspect is environmental compliance. Whether it is a small or big company, it has to become compliant, especially small ones-if they fail to do so, they will vanish. We have schemes for cluster development for environmental compliance. Under this, 50 per cent of the cluster development cost from land and construction to machinery is sponsored by the government through a subsidy, and the rest 50 per cent has to be borne by members of the cluster. And because it's a cluster, the laws are liberal. But, non-compliance is no more an option. No small company can say that because I am small, I can pollute. The court, NGT, or an NGO will not accept it. There is a lot of awareness about protecting the environment. NIMBY-not in my back yard-is the mantra people go by. Every industry needs to deal with its own waste and pollution. No third party is liable for it.
What would be your expectations from the textiles policy?
The labour laws need to consider the fact that if a worker is not productive, the company can fire him/her. The laws need to be fair and not favour labourers by providing them protection. The government cannot keep neglecting this. Other countries have stricter rules to hire and fire. No company is going to fire workers unnecessarily, since there is a shortage of manpower. But a worker can be fired for misconduct or wilful mistakes. This freedom is needed for the growth of the industry.
What would be your concluding thoughts?
Farm to Fashion is GCCI's first event of this kind. We hope that the global summit gives life to the textiles industry. We are expecting the government to become a part of this. They have shown their inclination to join our conferences. If every state identifies its core strength across the textiles value chain and works towards developing them, we can reduce our imports and increase revenues. (HO)
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