There is nothing more fulfilling than success, but success is not always on the face. Sometimes even surviving in difficult times is a measurement of success. Though many positive signs of better times ahead for the apparel manufacturing industry are encouraging, it does not take away from the fact that a majority of players in the industry are struggling to stay afloat.
But what the players tend to forget is that it is not difficult time only for India, but also for a country like Bangladesh which has been riding the high tide in apparel exports. Only recently, the BGMEA President Rubana Huq shared her concern on the slowdown and cautioned the industry on future projections, which for a country like Bangladesh is a reversal of over two decades of continued growth that too mostly in double digits!
For Indian exporters, the situation has been slow for some time now and they have sort of got used to it. The stagnation in the industry has compelled some to close doors and move to other alternate businesses, while many others are seeking ways to keep their factories running, not only for their sake, but also for the many families of workers who are dependent on the factory.
According to latest reports, while exports to the US is still on an upward trajectory, the situation in Europe is on a downhill and even countries that have been traditional strongholds for Indian garment manufacturers like Germany, Spain and the UK are registering slowdown.
But there is always a silver lining and in apparel exports, it is the emerging markets in Asia and Africa! Our data analytical team was ecstatic to find that there is major growth registered in some very unexpected places. Though these markets are still very small and even a small jump reflects as a big percentage increase, the very fact that there is a positive upward movement is a clear indication that exporters need to look beyond the traditional markets.
Talking of emerging markets, our own fashion retail market is a very good option for garment manufacturers to explore. Of course, the working systems are different and even the payment terms and conditions are in many ways dissimilar, but then exporters are aggressively looking at new markets and willing to learn how to work in them, so why not Indian market?
When other manufacturing destinations are looking at India as a strong future market, it is important that Indian companies also look inward and explore how they can align their manufacturing capacities and capabilities as per the need of Indian retail players. One big advantage that Indian manufacturers have over other country manufacturers that are looking at the Indian market is that they know the consumer, being on the home front. While other country players are trying to understand the demographics of the country and how fashion works, Indian apparel manufacturers have only to learn how to work with the retailers.
Despite this obvious edge, not many apparel producers are seriously moving into the Indian retail market. They prefer to struggle it out with international buyers as the comfort level in exports is very high. However, the market dynamics are not the same and the reality is before all.
The traditional markets are no longer the growth markets. And even if a manufacturer prefers to remain in the international arena, the challenges are very new and lot of restructuring is required to continue working successfully in the same market, which was a familiar ground earlier.