Sri Lanka terror attack: Global apparel industry shows spirit of integrity

by Dheeraj Tagra

04-May-2019  |  6 mins read

Sri Lankan Garment Factory
Staff of Fashion Garments Ltd. (FGL), in all locations, observed a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the attack. FGL is a subsidiary of the Hirdaramani Group of companies, Sri Lanka and LT Apparel, US.

The gory 26/11 Mumbai attacks are still fresh in our memory. While now the garment manufacturing has shifted from this city, but at that time, Mumbai comparatively had much involvement in the garment export sector. Apparel Resources had also done a detailed cover story highlighting how the Indian apparel export industry faced minor impact of the terror attacks for short-term with few buyers cancelling their immediate visits and factories putting their operations on hold.

Now a similar incident has jolted Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. The city, on 21 April 2019, the day of Easter, witnessed gruesome multiple bomb blasts killing around 250 people. Denmark-based fashion mogul and CEO and sole owner of the international clothes retailer chain Bestseller, Anders Holch Povlsen, lost his three children in these attacks.

There are mix opinions that these attacks and allied issues like internal politics of Sri Lanka will have major or minor effect on the country’s apparel export business. But for sure, one should appreciate the spirit of Sri Lankans, who despite this sad incident, are quickly back to their routines and even top companies of this country are showing their positive side.

MAS Holdings, one of the biggest apparel companies in Sri Lanka, said on its social media handle, “Today more than ever before, we are called upon to truly demonstrate mutual respect and acceptance of all religions, races and cultures. At this time of grief and shock, let us unite, stay strong and stand by one another. Our resilience is what makes us stronger. Let us stand by each other as ONE NATION.”

Sri Lanka terror attack

Apart from the several condolences coming from across the globe, companies have come forward to support Sri Lanka in terms of continuing their businesses undeterred and this gesture is also getting appreciation. “Carmel Clothing Ltd. will continue with business as usual despite the recent attacks. Our support and love for the country remains unbridled at this sad time. We will never bow down to such acts against our freedom. Thank you to all our team for their continued support in the region – stay strong Sri Lanka,” Paul Vickers, Director of Global Operations, Carmel Clothing Ltd, Sri Lanka wrote on Linkedin. Carmel Clothing is a London-based clothing company having operations in various countries.

Some of the Indian textile and apparel companies do have their operations in Sri Lanka. Bangalore-based well-known kidswear manufacturer, First Steps Babywear, which has been into the process to start garment manufacturing in Sri Lanka, has put its activities on hold for sometime. “Yes, we have put our planning on hold due to this sad incident. Though things seem to be settling there, but I can’t say when we will resume our operations in the country,” shared a company professional who doesn’t want to be quoted.

“I feel it is too early to say about the impact of this attack as far as our apparel manufacturing industry is concerned. Sri Lanka has seen LTTE violence till 2009, but industry grew. Let’s hope for the best,” Keerthi Abe, MD, SewEasy and renowned international consultant, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka.

It is pertinent to mention here that in 2009, Sri Lanka had an apparel export of around US $ 3 billion, and has seen around 70 per cent growth in last decade. As in 2018, it had apparel export of close to US $ 5 billion. It further has the target of attaining US $ 8 billion by 2025. Last year there was a growth of 5 per cent in the country’s apparel export. The garment manufacturing industry contributes 7 per cent of Sri Lanka’s GDP and 53 per cent of export earnings.

“Not only these tragic attacks, but also recent political developments of Sri Lanka are not going well. There are some rumours too that due to all this, definitely there will be a negative impact on Sri Lankan apparel export. Our operations in Sri Lanka are almost three decades old, but it reduced considerably in the post-quota period and in recent years, and will reduce further even in future. We are concerned about the safety and are receiving goodwill messages from across the globe. However, the next two to three months will clear the overall picture,” Sameer Thapar, CEO, Montrose, Delhi. Montrose, a buying agency, started its operation from Sri Lanka in 1976 and later opened an office in India. Sameer travels two to three times annually from India to Sri Lanka.

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