Sir, you recently visited Japan, EU Countries and US. Can you share some of your experiences of those visits with our b2b constituent?
So far, Indian textile manufacturers and exporters had been focusing only on traditional markets like the USA, European Union (select few countries), Japan, France, Germany etc. But certain markets like Latin America, Japan and South East Asia, North and South Africa, Scandinavian Countries, BRIC Countries etc. have not been explored thoroughly. Even among the traditional markets, we never explored the idea of product mix and mass customization. In case of unexplored markets, geographical distances apart, marketing channels were yet to be established on Government to Government (G2G), Association-Association (A2A) and Institution to Institution (I2I) basis along with individual companies with whom we had deeper interactions. Companies in Japan, EU and also the USA have shown keen interest in partnering with their Indian counterparts that will help attract inflow of FDI besides generating employment opportunities which are all logical offshoot of such visits.
When I realized that 60% of our exports are to the countries in the European Union and the United States, both hit by the economic slowdown, I shifted focus to the ‘Look East’ Policy. Nevertheless, we continue to concentrate on the United States and Europe, our traditional markets. We are seeing some signs of recovery in the US. But, in Europe, recovery may take a little longer than anticipated. In addition to the US and Europe, we will focus on the East. I led a delegation of exporters to Tokyo, USA and some European countries recently.
I apprised them of various advantages of investing in India, particularly, in textiles sector, which has a highly skilled workforce, high capital-employment ratio and immense potential to promote employment, and a strong and diverse raw material base. India is the largest producer of Jute, second largest producer of Cotton and Man-made fibre and yarn, and third largest producer of Silk. India has a vertical and horizontal integrated textiles value chain, and represents a strong presence in the entire value chain from raw material to finished goods.
We went at the right time and got a very good response from there. I am also trying to promote our textiles products in other untapped markets. With its consistent growth performance and abundant cheap skilled manpower, there are enormous opportunities both for domestic and foreign investors to make investments in textile sector in India. I would say that there is a need for further enhancement of business cooperation to expand our market share, while leveraging the common potential.
There is a notion about lack of competitiveness in Indian textile products vis-à-vis those from Vietnam and Bangladesh. How strongly do you feel is this affecting Indian textile business and how is the Government trying to erase this?
Indian textile products are really competitive but the drive and inertia on the part of the exporters seems to miss out on the essentials – offering the right product mix, quality, and marketing and promotion. The Government and the Ministry of Textiles has extended a long hand for capitalizing on all such efforts and will continue to do so. We are seeing some definitive changes here, but more is yet to come from the industry side that will ideally boost our prospects in the global marketplace.
Whatever competitive advantage during the WTO era that was there is non existent now and countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh have shown the way for others to follow.
In our case, I can confidently state that we are much better placed than our competitors having the entire value chain, literally at our disposal and given a huge domestic market to deal in, at this economic juncture.
Sir, how would you rate Indian textiles in international markets particularly against China? Can you enumerate your Ministry’s efforts to ensure India makes it to the top as a manufacturing destination for textiles and clothing in the world?
Here, we are talking of differing sizes and scales which make up for the numbers. We do acknowledge the sheer scale of operations that China operates about, today. But having said that, India needs to ramp up its textile business given the resilience of its home bred indigenous industries backed by traditional and modern skills, and technology that we possess. The Government has allowed 100% FDI in textiles sector and launched trend setting initiatives, such as the Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS), Scheme for Integrated Textiles Parks (SITP), etc. TUFS ensures the availability of bank finance at rates comparable to global rates. Under this Scheme, the Government reimburses 4% to 5% of the interest charged by banks and financial institutions, thereby ensuring credit availability for units planning to upgrade technology. The Scheme spans almost all the segments of the textiles industry. We have currently on hand 40 textile parks, which are at different stages of execution; while proposals are under way for additional parks under the Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks. Besides, infrastructure and production is being scaled up by taking up existing centres for development as mega clusters under the Comprehensive Cluster Development for Handloom, Powerloom and Handicrafts segments. Cluster Development Schemes besides those for traditional industries like handlooms and handicrafts need special helping hand in these difficult but opportune times. I would reiterate that the various incentives given by the Government of India will go a long way in making India as a most favourable destination for textiles products.
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.