Despite being full of negative experiences, for Indian apparel manufacturers, 2020 had few positive aspects also and that too in various directions – be it large scale manufacturing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs); thrust on medical textiles; adoption of quick as well as short-term but effective strategies; investment in innovative technologies; focusing more on efficiency to mention a few. On a positive note, it will not be wrong to say that 2021 should be a good year for Indian apparel manufacturers.
As far as production of PPEs is concerned, around 1,000 factories added PPEs as a new product category into their product basket. The speed and scale was a perfect example of collective efforts of Indian Government and apparel manufacturers. Though as usual on the export front, there were a lot of policy issues which could be resolved with more prompt planning. Whatever, the good thing is that for some of the companies, body coverall is a regular product category while few are doing well in health segment. India has become the world’s second medical textile exporter. On the other hand, it was good to see that some of the exporters invested in 3D technology which ensures their smooth coordination regarding sampling and approval during the difficult time of lockdown. Digital measuring tape, monitoring app, auto cutters were also the focus of garment manufacturers.
Though the majority of garment manufacturers followed the ‘wait and- watch’ strategy, interestingly some of the exporters not only adopted different strategies but also executed them impressively. Some such examples are adding new product categories (apart from PPE), coordinating very well with the vendors and utilising their strengths, focusing more on product development.
Few of the domestic brands also took up initiatives like changing their logo, bringing new TV commercials, etc.
Though some of the top-level export houses suffered badly and shut few of their units, few of the companies announced to expand and in coming months, they will be adding capacity. So, it will be interesting to see how Indian apparel manufacturers grab the market share specially vacated by China as buyers are reducing their dependency on China now.
As many technical experts and honchos have rightly said that, this is now or never situation for garment manufacturers who are still lacking in terms of better efficiency as this is the only way to survive in the ‘new normal’. The good thing in this aspect is that many technical experts have come forward to support the garment manufacturers with easy payment terms.
In terms of Government support, the apparel manufacturers have had a majorly negative experience. There has been no specific help given for the garment manufacturers’ moratorium period, Covid loan and PLI scheme especially for technical textiles and MMF segment.
However, since vaccination has already started in many countries across the world, global issues are gradually settling down. Retail giants like Walmart have assured to increase sourcing from India in a big way. 2020 has been a year of maximum uncertainty but as usual, one should be hopeful that in the new year, things will be in favour of apparel manufacturers. Thrust on technology (right from zoom calls to virtual fair and much more) and working with minimum available resources will also help them to get, what they missed so far.
Tirupur has already shown positive indication as demand for knitted garments has increased – anti-China action from buyers, favourable Euro are few of the reasons behind the rising demand.
Many buyers across the world have given indication to the Indian exporters that in future they will have orders for sure.
At the same time, in domestic market, there is information that leading retailers are geared up for upcoming season and sourcing on large level. Last month, one of the biggest Indian apparel retailers (having equally strong offline and online presence) sourced 3 million pieces from Jaipur. And it is further in the process to increase its sourcing multi-fold. Though the retailers’ sourcing is also increasing from other hubs, comparatively it is more as far as Jaipur is concerned. Similarly, the hub has good demand from wholesalers and other segments of domestic markets.
Looking at the overall condition, one can expect that the industry will not only survive but will grow also. No doubt, there are challenges and even in future, there will be more challenges but Indian apparel exporters have the strength to survive and they will grow.