Majority of Indian apparel export companies are facing plenty of challenges and some are consolidating their operations also. At the same time, there are few companies that are completely supporting their workers as well as following some initiatives taken by their stakeholders or international bodies. Whatever steps are being taken or supported by such companies, their core purpose is to support the society and follow all aspects of sustainability. Shahi Exports, India’s leading apparel exporter, has best utilised the critical time of coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns.
The company has taken the lead in this regard, be it for endorsing ILO’s initiative, supporting its migrant workers to reach their homes, and paying full wages and salaries (without any deduction), or focusing more on the overall development of business, and supporting the country with PPE manufacturing. The list goes on and on.
Having 56 factories across India and working with most of the global brands and retailers, Shahi Exports offers employment to around 1,20,000 workers across the country and the majority of them are women.
It has factories in remote areas only so local labour can work comfortably. Some of its migrant workers stay in the residential facilities managed by an NGO Janodaya Trust. And in the current COVID-19 phase, the company is supporting its migrant workers to make sure that they reach their homes comfortably and safely.
“We have been working along with the Janodaya team to ensure stringent compliance with preventive measures, access to daily essentials, regular check-ups, counselling and engagement activities. Janodaya has also set up an emergency isolation building for the residents. Now, as the cross-border movement restrictions have lifted in the country, the Shahi team – along with Janodaya and local police authorities – has been facilitating the process of arranging travel for those who want to go back to their native places,” the company says.
Shahi Exports has been in continuous dialogue with its stakeholders including customers, industry bodies, Governments and experts to adapt to the evolving circumstances and prepare to resume work in factories. Even before the lockdown in India, since February 2020, the company has been taking preventive actions like conducting training and awareness sessions for its employees, to prevent the spread of the virus.
The company is among one of the few quality manufacturers of PPE. Since 6 April, it has repurposed its factories to produce over 2,00,000 Hazardous Material (Hazmat) Suits. Ravi Capoor, Textile Secretary, Government of India, has also appreciated the company for the same.
As mentioned before, Shahi Exports has best utilised the lockdown period so far, wherein it reviewed several best practices and also participated in a design-thinking workshop organised by its innovation partner Good Business Lab (GBL), to think through how it can create an anxiety-free workplace once factories reopen.
From 4 May 2020, the company resumed its operations in a phased manner in conformity with the Government guidelines. It is religiously following its COVID-19 response plan. Srinivasa Rao Venkatesh, Chief Compliance Officer, Shahi Exports, says “The core aim of our COVID-19 response plan is ensuring the well-being of our more than 1,20,000 employees, their families and extended communities such as healthcare professionals. We welcome and endorse ILO’s Call to Action. We believe that collaboration is critical to building collective resilience in this unprecedented crisis. We encourage all brands, manufacturers, industry bodies and partners to endorse the Call to Action and join the fight against this crisis.”
We must mention here that as a rare and commendable act in the Indian apparel industry, the company has endorsed the ILO’s Call to Action on ‘COVID-19: Action in the Global Garment Industry’, which aims to generate actions from across the global apparel industry to protect workers’ income, health and employment, and support manufacturers to survive during this crisis.
No doubt, being India’s largest apparel manufacturer and exporter, Shahi Exports has resources, strong teams and all other advantages, but the most important is the vision of the company, thinking of its top management and execution of the same. There are many other apparel export companies that are doing fine, but they can learn a lot from Shahi Exports and can do better.