Indian apparel export industry is eagerly waiting to make its presence in the export of PPE, as the Government has not lifted the ban on the export of the same so far. Meanwhile, other countries are taking the lead, as they are not only allowed to export PPE, but are also getting various facilities. Indian companies strongly believe that the delay in lifting the ban has already been killing opportunities for them; in fact, any further delay is likely to make more space for the nations that are in competition with India. But at the same time, it is equally important to see whether Indian companies are really geared up for export, as it has stringent compliance and terms.
Just have a look how India’s competitors have already taken a lead in the PPE export. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and a few others have lifted the ban on PPE exports and they are receiving huge orders too.
The Indonesian Government declared a tax break for all manufacturers of PPE, so now they (manufacturers) will be able to offset 30 per cent of their production costs for the months of March through September 2020 against their taxable income.
The Vietnamese Embassy in Washington has established a channel of communication with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has created an ‘air-bridge’ to quickly get medical supplies like 2.25 million PPE exported from Vietnam.
Pakistan received US $ 100 million export orders last week which is likely to go up to US $ 500 million. Bangladesh has also aggressively protected the global business from countries such as the US, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Kuwait while tackling the pandemic.
So in the light of all these developments, it is natural that Indian apparel exporters are afraid to lose export markets to competing countries. As per the website of SITRA and DRDO, there are more than 700 PPE manufactures in India. Industry insiders strongly claim that most of them are operating below full capacity because of the oversupply situation in the country. Despite the tough time caused by the pandemic, many of them invested hugely in heat seaming machines, as they were quite hopeful to get full orders from domestic as well as export markets.
No doubt, In India there is a rapid increase in the number of infected cases and it seems to be a logical reason for holding the ban, but given the number of manufacturers, the internal demand can be met easily. India is now producing 8 lakh PPE on a daily basis and its manufacturers are eyeing the US $ 60 billion global market which is currently dominated by China.
Dr. A. Sakthivel, Chairman, Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), agrees with all this, “The production of PPE is more than sufficient to cater to the needs of the country and can be opened up for exports.” AEPC has again requested for the same to the Government and sent letters to the Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and the Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani.
It is pertinent to mention here that the US and Europe, traditional markets for Indian exporters, are the largest potential buyers for PPE also.
Many companies are in the process to get certified for the US and EU. Few of them accept that the process needs to speed up from their end.
“We are in the process to get certified and complete all the rules and regulations, be it quality, compliance etc. as far as the US market is concerned. It will take almost 15 days, while the process for EU is also going on,” says Raman Bhatla, Director of Arnit Creations, Delhi, who has a state-of-the-art manufacturing unit in Noida.
“India is also part of the US ‘air bridge’ initiative. It should not lose out on an attractive global business opportunity, and the need of the hour is to initiate PPE exports. India should consider the economic and political dividends that timely PPE exports will generate in the post-COVID-19 era,” says Dr. Sakthivel.
Whenever the Indian Government will allow the export, it is also important to see that the majority of Indian PPE manufacturers are geared up to do the export. Looking at the technical and legal requirements of PPE export, this point becomes all the more relevant.
Although it is just a garment to wear and can be manufactured easily, the intended use of it is what differentiates it from the normal garment and labels it under the definition of PPE or/and medical device.
We have been getting a lot of inquiries from customers from outside India, especially the US and Europe for related products such as Isolation Gowns, Medical Aprons and other partial body products, etc. which are similar to coveralls. These products are made up of same or similar material as of coverall with varied thickness ranging from 23 GSM to 60 GSM. The fabric could be non-woven Polypropylene Polyethylene (PE Coated), Spunbond Meltblown Spunbond (SMS) Fabric, SMMS Fabric, etc. And now the raw material availability of all these materials is not at all an issue.
All these products attract immense regulations and compliances when it comes to selling it to the US and EU.
As most of the companies are manufacturing class 1 product as per the EU standard, these products have to be registered in the EU before it is exported to Europe. Similarly, the products have to be listed in the US FDA before these are sold in the US market.
GBKC Fashions, Dehradun, is among the Indian companies whose various products have been listed in the US FDA and are in the process to be listed in the EU Market as well.
Vandeep Singh Ratra, Director and CFO of the company, shares his experience, “We have invested a lot of time and resources in understanding and meeting the export requirements. The product needs to go through various tests as per the EU standards, unlike in India where the requirement of tests is less, and in fact, there is no capability in the country for performing some tests. So, these have to be performed either in the UK or EU, which involves huge investments.”
It is almost a month that the Textile Minister Smriti Irani and the Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan had a meeting (web dialogue) regarding export preparedness for PPE coveralls, certification process and export facilitation with more than 500 indigenous PPE manufacturers and industry leaders like Harish Ahuja, CMD, Shahi Exports; Gautam Nair, Matrix Clothing; and many others. Almost two weeks back, Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), also asked the Commerce Ministry to allow exports of PPE kits.
Indian Government has taken much time to allow the export of non-surgical (fashion masks) and the same is being repeated in the case of PPE now. It is high time that the Government as well as the industry should grab the opportunity of PPE export.