Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is the biggest festival of India and is also celebrated globally now. US President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, UK PM Boris Johnson and Canada PM Justin Trudeau, Australian PM Scott Morrison, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are among a host of world leaders who extended their best wishes on Diwali. An official statement was issued by the White House in this regard. So, India was in limelight on this festival of lights but not India’s apparel export industry. India’s software industry has a strong positive impact on a global level unlike Indian apparel industry as it still lacks progressive attitude, best practices at all levels, strong commitments and timely delivery. In North India, there was not much enthusiasm this year for the apparel manufacturing industry during Diwali. The festival includes a tradition of gifting, not only among family, friends and known ones, but even in the offices and factories. Already facing major challenges like less business, high costing, the industry witnessed a major cost-cutting this year be it giving gifts to their staff, bonus or even celebrations at the factory/office premises.
Apart from celebrating the festival, this tradition of gifting and paying bonus at the festival time developed as a culture as it has a motto to bring enthusiasm in the team and to recognise their efforts toward the growth of the organisation. But over the years due to growing difficulties in the overall textile and apparel business, the majority of companies have reduced whatever monetary or gifts items they used to give to their workers and employees.
Many companies did nothing this year on the occasion, not any kind of celebration, nor any gift to any of their employees or workers. And this includes some big and mid-level export houses, few multinational trims companies. “We used to celebrate Diwali, Christmas and New year in a very impressive way. But this year, there is like a blanket ban on all, forget costly gifts,” shared a sales manager of one such trims’ company having factories and offices across the world.
It is also pertinent to mention here that like recent negative experiences(Mid-level professionals on shopfloor trapped in low salaries but high responsibility roles), this time too it was the mid-level staff of the export houses who was impacted more as few professionals told Apparel Resources, “Every year on Diwali, we as mid-level staff, use to get a bonus and it used to be a good amount but this year we got not even a single penny. But at the same time, our workers got a bonus.” Even whatever gifts the professionals received depicted signs of cost-cutting as this time, the value of such gifts was considerably less.
Will all these not have a more negative impact on the morale of workers and employees while they are already low in spirit? Apparel Resources asked this question to few such professionals. “Yes, many professionals who got nothing are downcast but it will have a very short-term impact only as everyone is aware that their organisations are also under pressure. At the same time, there is little hope also that whenever the situation will improve properly, every employee will be ‘compensated’,” they said.
As an exception, there are few export houses who despite having financial challenges, anyhow managed to give bonus to not only workers but also mid-level professionals. The amount or ratio was different from company to company while many factories gave half amount to their professionals compared to what they used to get previously. But good thing was that the HR department discussed with them why they are being paid less this time and how the company managed to pay even this amount also.
Apart from the companies, at the market level too, sentiments were quite low this time as from the raw material suppliers to jobworkers, who have developed a strong professional relationship with concerned professionals in the factories over the years, did not exchange gifts unlike the past years.
“Culture and traditions need to be respected but as industry and overall apparel trade in India demand more professionalism, it is time for change. Everyone has to understand and accept that such practices now need not continue, especially gifting. There are many scientific or systematic ways to motivate the employees as well as workers and motivation is a year around exercise. No doubt, the bonus is something as per rules and the company’s overall performance. And this year, when factories were closed for almost two months, it is not fair to expect a reward from them,” concluded an industry stalwart who is part of a well-known Indian buying house.