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Menswear industry is bigger than womenswear industry in India
Ira Soleil is an Indian ethnic and fusion womenswear brand. Its parent company, Amaltas Inc, deals in the manufacture and retail of kurtis, sarees, blouses and leggings. Sanjita Prasad, partner at Ira Soleil talks about the Indian garment industry, its strengths and weaknesses in an interview with Fibre2Fashion.com
What is the size of the garment industry in India?
The garment industry in India is around ₹ 88,000 crore. Menswear is the biggest segment in the Indian garment industry, I think around ₹ 30,000 crore. And then will be the womenswear segment of around ₹ 25,000 crore or so. Kidswear, home textiles and uniforms will make up the balance. I think the menswear sector is bigger than the womenswear segment in India.
Most of the exports are private labelled, i.e. being made for international brands and stores, which is good as they come in and teach compliance and standards, help with setting up of better factories and advise on best practices. But I would really like to see brands from India exporting to stores and wholesalers. It is happening, but in a very small way.
What are the sustainability and compliance issues facing this industry in India?
There are three main issues facing this industry in India - lack of government support vis-a-vis funds, lack of technology, and lack of education or awareness. The drive towards sustainability has to be balanced between correcting the above issues and local business interests. If we push mindlessly, then small- and medium- sized businesses will simply shut down. The government should provide technical and infrastructural support, especially to new or small entrepreneurs. They should also provide training to exporters so that they understand and comply with environmental requirements, without having to shoulder the full cost of compliance. Also, they will be better informed while executing business.
The disaster in Tirupur which happened a couple of years ago is a case study. River Noyyal is based in the midst of dyeing and printing units around Tirupur. The effluent discharge into the river continued unmitigated. When fishes began to die, then the government woke up. People were complaining about bad taste and contamination since years! And when they did wake up, due to a case in Chennai HC filed by an NGO, there was a commitment made to the court that they would ensure almost 0 per cent contamination - by using RO technology - at an enormous cost, which was way beyond the reach of the dyeing units. This is quite ridiculous, since even drinking water does not need to be RO treated and permits 50 ppm - which in reality is much higher than that and is supplied by municipal corporations all over India to households.
With this statement, the death warrant was signed for the whole city which houses most of the knitwear units of India. The thing to do would have been for consortia of 30-50 dyeing units to be formed and effluent treatment plants to be established on a co-operative basis with government help, so that each unit is not liable to be effluent-free on their own. There were 1500 dyeing units which shut down for almost a year. These were feeding the export units and printing mills around the area. The end-result was that 3 lakh workers were out of work one fine day.
There were big talks about labour laws and big trade unions talked about labour rights. But no one could find a solution to this or anticipate this disaster. The place became a ghost town.
Government needs to liaise with NGOs, trade unions and factories to ensure that such things are never repeated. Funds should be planned in accordance with a road map which is transparently framed for sustainable goals. Blind rush will kill more than help.
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