Indians have always been known for their communication skills and the extensive use of the English language in the learning years of schooling has made communication on a global platform a relatively easier task. This is not true for many countries in Asia, and international business is somewhat restricted by the so-called ‘language barrier’. Have Indians, particularly those in the global apparel trade benefited from the advantage… Well yes, and no!
Yes, because most jobs related to marketing and communication like that of country heads and merchandising, across most apparel manufacturing destinations are manned by Indian professionals.
We see many Indians from leading fashion institutes and also those that have moved up the ranks holding very senior positions in liaison and buying offices in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China. Though less in number, many big export houses across the region are also engaging Indians as CEOs, merchandisers and product development specialists. But then this advantage is for individual professionals, and India as a garment manufacturing industry has not really benefited from being ‘smart marketeer’, as is the general perception.
The buyer is not impressed by only good command over language but needs some very basic commitments which a country like China, that is considered a ‘language nightmare’ by many, has delivered over time to consolidate its position as the factory of the world.
So…! No we have not really reaped the benefit of being good communicators, mainly because factories have failed to live up to expectations and promises made during negotiations to get the orders have not fulfilled.
Talk to any buying agent and the general peeve is that many mid-level and smaller international retailers do not even want to meet them when they hear they have come from India!
It is becoming exceedingly difficult to built trust in a scenario where there is already a huge trust deficit. That is also the reason that buyers normally prefer to work with the same factories again and again as the comfort level has been built over time and both parties are well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
For other destinations, getting business is not about smart talk but smart delivery. Every box that needs to be ticked to qualify as a preferred supplier is taken care of and factories are more than willing to go an extra mile to invest, interact and respond to buyer demands.
Unfortunately, Indian manufacturers are still stuck in a time wrap; they are not looking inwards at what they can do to improve their services as also manufacturing capabilities. Many of them just give up saying that working on such low margins makes no sense.
But in reality, other destinations are continuing to not only pick up orders but also make profits, though no doubt less than before, but enough to sustain and grow… at least for now.
Many believe that we as a nation are not really made to be manufacturers, but traders and service providers. The mindset is not attuned to the grind of manufacturing and hence while our industries that are driven on the intellect of our people thrive like the IT and Finance sector, few manufacturing sectors can claim that type of success and Garmenting is no different.