With the entire apparel and textile manufacture sector in the throes of high compliance norms and expectations, one would expect that the subject would be of keen interest to participants at the 41st edition of the India International Garment Fair. However, a survey conducted at the Fair indicated that for exporters working with wholesalers/importers and boutique owners social compliance was the least of their concerns.
This is not to say that the exporters do not know or care for compliance norms, in fact most of the exporters talked about self-monitoring systems to ensure clean working conditions for good productivity. Tushar from Jaipur-based Tushar Handworks is quite candid when he says, “Wholesalers/importers do not expect much on compliance. Child labour is taboo with everyone but beyond that, we have our own standards and the onus of providing compliant working conditions to our staff rests with us.”
[bleft]Compliance is actually the last thing on buyers minds. They discuss price points more than anything else [/bleft]
The buyers under discussion are selling their merchandise to either small chain stores, big retailers looking for in-trend supplements for their shelves or for their own store. Most of the exporters openly admitted that in this segment, the buyers are really not concerned from where the garments were sourced from and whether the factories were compliant in every possible way, adhering to all the code of conducts. In fact, price and quality and on-time delivery is what matter the most. Given that wholesalers/importers are also linked to retailers and boutiques, and that products made under less then satisfactory conditions could be featuring in the products they put up for sale, should not be matters of whether they were made ethically?
- Apparel Online estimates that nearly $ 4 billion worth of buying from India is done by wholesalers, importers and boutique stores
- Child Labour issues are the most important compliance norm for exporters working for this section of buyers
- Price and quality and on-time delivery is what matter the most
Apparel Online estimated that nearly $ 4 billion worth of buying from India is conducted with such buyers mostly from the former non-quota countries and boutique stores in the US and EU. Ironically, while exporters with large capacities working with retailers like GAP, JCPenney, Wal-Mart, Target, H&M, to name a few, are devoting much time and money to remain compliant to norms that conform with ILO standards, those working with wholesalers, importers and boutique stores are content doing business without the added pressure.
A lot many brands and companies, represented through their buying agents, make enquiries about how many styles the company can generate per season; how many machines the factories have; how many days it would take to deliver ordered supplies; etc. but matters of compliance are not brought up. “To be really straight, retailers are not bothered about compliance,” begins Mukesh Sharma at Shree Dayal Exports. The Jaipur-based company manufactures and exports high fashion ladies garments, made-ups and handicrafts. “The first thing that matters to them is quality. The second is price on which they can be flexible. But on delivery, they don’t like to make any compromises,” he emphasizes.
Delhi-based JK Exports, represented at the IIGF by Jeetendra and Viren, deals with retailers and wholesalers in the US and UK markets. It has been in the business of making dresses for about 12 years now. On matters of compliance, says their representative, Deepa, “There are quality checks which take place. Most of our clients are not too fussy. But retailers like JCPenney audit the factories themselves. They send their employees to do this. But we have our own self-checking mechanisms in place and carry out checks quite regularly.” Child labour, she is quick to point out, is a big NO. Even issues such as overtime and global warming issues are now becoming important, she indicates.
Anuj Sadh, who’s Kanishka Designs is a designers’ workshop of accessories and garments works with big wholesalers and retailers in Europe and Brazil. “Compliance is actually the last thing on their minds. They discuss price points more than anything else,” he says quite bluntly.
Manufacturer of dresses and skirts from Jaipur, Rajesh Ahuja, who works with wholesalers/importers through his company, Amrita Fashions, agrees that the “whole compliance issue is over-hyped”. But believes that brands need to play up that aspect due to market demands and perceptions about ethics. “They charge an ethical premium,” he concludes.