In one of my earlier editorials, a few months ago, I had talked about the growing perception that the Indian apparel manufacturing set-up is shrinking. At that time, I felt that the perception was a bit overprojected and the slowdown was a natural business cycle, and things would improve.
We all know that the industry at all levels is struggling and the challenges are manifold, but when technology and service providers to the industry start saying that the industry is shrinking, there is concern.
What could have been a good time for Indian garment manufacturers, with China systematically and significantly moving away from apparel, has not created the repercussions that one had hoped for. Small order shifts have happened, but the large business has eluded Indian manufacturers.
I remember, a few years ago, when China moving out of the business was just becoming a talking point, there was much excitement amongthe manufacturers on its implications and why India would get a good share of the business.
Sudhir Dhingra, CMD, Orient Craft, in one of his interviews with us, had stressed on the fact that even if one per cent of the business moving out of China came to India, the industry will not be able to fulfil the orders owing to lack of capacities; so building capacities was a must.
But, the industry did not move forward to prepare for the need and preferred to wait for the business to come… they are still waiting!
One of the biggest reasons for the setback is the lack of competitiveness, a term that has many dimensions. For some, competitiveness is only about price since any manufacturer, situated in any part of the world, can make the product or something similar at the lowest possible cost, hence the best FOB is offered to the buyer.
But this perception is only part of the truth!
Competitiveness comes from many factors… quick turnarounds, product development capabilities, higher efficiencies, well-managed factories, trained manpower, strategic positioning, to name a few which add or subtract from the performance of any factory when pitted against one another.
The buyer, while looking for great price, is also looking for good product. When placed on the shelf of a store, it is the product that catches the first attention, then the price, and if the combination of product and price is ‘value’ to the consumer, sales is a natural progression.
So, it is all about value…, both real and perceived. For some, value could be a brand name, for others it could be a perfect fit, while for some others, it could be the overall look of the garment. The definition of value is different for everyone, hence giving value is a real challenge.
In this challenging situation, manufacturing needs some support and the reality is that the Indian apparel manufacturing industry has been let down by the policy makers. There have been many promises, but little deliveries.
Though I firmly believe that the time is gone when the industry had to look at the Government for support, the reality is that most exporters are disappointed with the lack of support coming from the corridors of power.
Will things change, post elections? I have my doubts! So it is better that the industry accepts that they are on their own and start viewing competitiveness with a new lens!