Director Mehala Machines India Limited
Indian apparel sector is on lookout for affordable technology
Mehala Machines India Limited has risen steadily to become a group of companies of repute from a humble beginning in 1974 as a proprietary firm dealing in indigenously manufactured machines suitable for the hosiery industry. Bharath Subramaniam, director at Mehala Machines India, discusses the opportunities and challenges for the Indian textile machinery industry.
How is the Indian textile machinery industry faring in terms of technology and innovations compared to those in China?
In terms of machines for the garmenting industry, China is far ahead of India, and we are yet to even make a start to enter that league. Sewing machines made in India still cater to the small tailoring shops, cottage industries and households. The technology used in these machines is still primitive. However, if you see products like automatic fabric spreading machines, manual cutting machines, ironing and finishing equipment, we have Indian companies that have shown interest and have started manufacturing the same in India. In fact, we at Mehala are manufacturing our own range of Orbito brand-tubular spreading machines, band knife machines, ironing and finishing equipments, in addition to some customized solutions which we develop for specific needs in sewing and cutting.
What percentage of apparel machines used by Indian garment manufacturers are 'Made in India', and what percentage are sought from abroad?
If you take the entire garment industry, the percentage of Indian machines used by garment manufactures would be negligible, and almost everything is sought from abroad.
How has the cash crunch and the fluctuating export demand in the Indian apparel industry affected the textile machinery sector?
A cash crunch affects the apparel sector considerably due to the fact that the apparel industry requires a lot of working capital right from procurement of yarn to making it into a finished garment, and until the time of realisation of payment. SMEs especially get affected the most due to inadequate banking finance available to them. A fluctuating demand-be it in the export or domestic sector-does add on to the woes of the apparel industry. Moreover, these are further aggravated with uncertainties relating to currency fluctuations, raw materials prices, etc. The ripple effect of the above doesn't spare textile machinery either, because if your customers are affected, then your own sales take a beating as well.
How do you think the amended technology upgradation funds scheme (ATUFS) approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in January this year will help boost this sector?
With rising labour costs and falling labour productivity in India, the apparel sector is very much on the lookout for affordable technology to reduce dependency on labour and improve efficiency and productivity.
Be it ATUFS or any move by the government to reward adoption of new technology is going to be of strategic importance in terms of our products being globally competitive, and in turn directly contributing to the growth of the industry. Apart from the ATUFS, the recent announcement by the government that the job working units can now claim duty benefits under EPCG scheme will also help boost the apparel machinery sector.
What are the latest technologies being employed by Indian apparel manufacturers? Which machines are witnessing a growing demand?
There is an increasing demand for sewing machines which come with features that reduce human handling-be it elimination of manual processes such as feeding of cut pieces, and unloading. With use of robotics, human handling is reduced, which results in consistency in quality and output. Further technologies such as CAD, automatic cutting and spreading machines are in good demand as they help in reducing fabric consumption, increasing efficiency, improving productivity and reducing labour costs. We have seen growth with our automatic solutions particularly with machines from Duerkopp Adler, PFAFF, Bullmer, Macpi and Siruba.
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