Bengaluru holds a special space among all apparel manufacturing/fashion retail hubs of India as the city is home to factories of many top exporters, domestic giants; sourcing as well as design development offices of many top global as well as Indian brands and retailers.
High on professionalism, the city is also the first choice for young workers wishing to make it big in the apparel industry. Compared to any other hub in India, opportunities for learning is comparatively high in Bengaluru. The good infrastructure of the city is also one of the advantages, besides others pros like high number of women workers present in the hub, the availability of land in nearby areas ready availability of manpower.
Once known for woven products like shirts, trousers and suits; the city is now tilting towards knitted garments. Apparel Resources, in discussion with various stakeholders of the industry, tried to discover the ‘why and how’ behind this changing focus, especially interacting with those who have deep roots in Bengaluru.
Buyers’ push for a complete package rather than a specific product item; self-motivated diversification/increasing product basket and viability of knitted products are some of the main reasons for Bengaluru’s bent towards knitted products, recently. Moreover, saturation of trousers and shirts in the overseas market as far as the city is concerned, is another significant factor. Official data also strengthens this fact as trousers are among the top export items for countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Myanmar.
Sharing similar views, Raghavendra Shah, VP, Knits, Texport Industries, Bengaluru, also adds, “Buyers need larger capacities, vertical set-ups and prefer a vendor, who can give a large variety of products in woven as well as knits. Since most of the liaison offices are in , they don’t want to keep another office in Tirupur for knits’ products, and want to save time on travel from Bengaluru to Tirupur, apart from having better overall control; hence, buyers’ priority is to source knit garments from Bengaluru.”
He also believes that predictability is less in Tirupur, as it focuses on all segments of the domestic market since it houses factories which work with the domestic mindset (dealing mostly in unorganised or comparatively low-cost products).
“Yes, there is a kind of saturation that has happened in shirts and trousers and professionals wish to work in Bengaluru rather than in Ludhiana or Kolkata. These factors are pushing knitted products manufacturing in Bengaluru,” stated Sanjay Anand, Operation Head, Bloomcraft Apparels, Bengaluru. The company is known for quality shirts and caters to top global brands.
It is to be noted that out of the total production of Texport Industries, 40 per cent is into knits, and last year, it added two units of around 2,000 machines (one for knits and one for woven garments) 120 km away from Bengaluru.
The increasing direction towards knitted garments is mostly seen in case of big and small companies while the medium-size companies are still focusing on their strength in woven and are not willing much to expand in the new segment. There are some industry giants which are doing knits since day one and for them expansion is like a routine. First Steps Babywear, Page Industries Ltd. (Jockey) are a few such renowned names. Many Bengaluru exporters are into woven as well as knits too.
Suresh Kumar, VP-Marketing, Goodwill Fabrics, Bengaluru, who also has a huge garmenting set-up in Madhya Pradesh for woven garments, further affirms that medium-size companies are not focusing much on this changing trend of growing knits manufacturing, “Recently I was looking for polo and crew neck tees but was unable to get it from Bengaluru. Big companies who are already doing knitted garments are unapproachable and small units are into sub-contracting, and hence don’t serve the purpose. This gap needs to be filled by medium-size companies and that too keeping in mind that cost should not increase compared to Tirupur,” he said.
Professionals who are working in Bengaluru since a long time also share similar views. One of them is Arun Sahu who is currently working as Head-Projects & Engineering (Denim Garmenting Division), Arvind Limited, and has also worked with top companies prior to this in Bengaluru. “Arvind has a separate knit division and we are also planning big in indigo knits. The future is there for denim as well as knits. Potential for knit market is definitely there and I hope in next few years, Bengaluru will grab more share of this potential,” he shared.
Growing manufacturing in the domestic market is also the reason for Bengaluru’s tilt towards knits. Looking at the figures – India’s total apparel import from Bangladesh was US $ 438.22 million (January-December 2018) and knitted products were just 25.17 per cent of the same. This strengthens the assumption that India’s sourcing for knitted products is still dominating within the country including Bengaluru. As value addition is the core strength of India and knitted garments (especially products like kidswear and womens’ tops) are related to it, this goes in favour of increasing knit production.
Ravi Shekhar Sharma, Head-Product, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited, Bengaluru sees this in a broader perspective. “As far as the demand for knitted products is concerned, it is growing across India and that too in various product categories. We can see the growing demand for knitted shirts, trousers and blazers. Scope for knit inspired denim, footwear upper is also growing apart from rising focus towards the undergarment category for many international brands which was not there earlier. So, with the growing demand for knit-based products, increase in manufacturing is natural.”
Apart from garment exporters and top domestic players, Bengaluru-based machines suppliers also share similar opinion. Syed Abdual Azeez, ED, India Agencies, Bengaluru asserts, “I have seen a marginal increase in knitwear and that is due to the diversification of bigger players into knits. Though it is at a slower pace, it will grow. When companies can fit in costing for shirts, trousers or any other woven products, why it can’t be done for knitted garments. Technology is already there to support factories doing knits and woven both.”
“Knits in Bengaluru is not something new. There are a few erstwhile companies who have been doing knits for ages in Bengaluru. But for sure, off late, the number of knits’ producers have increased. Apart from the reasons cited above, one of the other main reason for this recent shift is Bengaluru’s proximity to Tirupur. There are quite a few Tirupur based companies who have moved to Bengaluru and have been quite successful, shifting even their knits business to this booming city. Bengaluru supersedes most places in India in terms of productivity / managerial skills and disciplined workforce which Tirupur, with all its amazing infrastructure, still lacks. This has further led the knits manufacturers to move to Bengaluru. So, those who have wanted to pick up the best of both the worlds have happily moved their knits’ business to Bengaluru,” said Hiren A Ruparelia, MD, Maestro Fashions, Bengaluru.