Most of the time when I have a conversation with friends in the industry, there is always a feeling that things are not moving and business has come to a standstill. But then again, if I look around, everyone is so busy.
This may seem like a contradiction, but actually it’s not. People are busy as they are trying hard to get back on track, negotiating with buyers, managing factories that are running at practically 50 per cent capacity, tackling labour issues – all while navigating the challenges of the ‘new normal’.
The feeling that nothing is moving is more because what is happening now is not about growth or revenue, but survival. The first task, of course, is to get the factories back to the level they were prior to the crisis, which no one really anticipated would stretch so long and have such disruptive repercussions.
And the reality is that the pandemic is far from over and no one, including experts, really knows when things will be stable, forget about ‘normal’. Every day, we hear contradictory statements like ‘the pandemic has peaked’; ‘no, there is a second wave to come’; ‘the vaccine will be available in October’; no, it will come early next year’; ‘people are back to buying’; ‘people want to save, not spend.’ The statements doing the rounds are so diverse that it is only adding to the confusion.
The concept of ‘planning’ has gone out of the window and people, companies and even governments are reacting to situations as they come. This is perhaps the biggest reason that there are so many diverse statements and claims, and of course, uncertainty! For the industry, there is no denying that things are definitely better than 2 months ago. Most of the factories have restarted production and many claims are being heard that fresh orders, and that too in decent quantities, are finally coming in. I have even heard from a few buyers that the S/S ’21 orders are as per normal expectation.
Recently, when German leisurewear brand Marc O’Polo decided to place an order that it previously did in China with a Tirupur supplier, the industry was super excited. The Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA) President claimed that based on feelers from buyers, they expect 25 per cent increase in sourcing this season, mostly because of shifting orders from China.
This claim has started another debate altogether… Is the Indian industry ready for such business? Even the TEA President, Raja M Shanmugham, whose company has received the order, admitted that it’s a litmus test for the country.
So much is riding on how the flow of orders coming in at this point of time will be executed. It would not be wrong to say that the companies which are receiving these orders have to perform and show the world that India is a reliable, sustainable and quality-conscious manufacturing destination with integrated supply chain, then only the floodgates for more global business will open.
It’s not that we don’t have the infrastructure or the resources, but the will is missing. I have always advocated that greater collaboration along the supply chain and among players is the only way to grow beyond a point.
The time has come for manufacturers and exporters to let go of their petty personal concerns and think like a nation. A fresh start is what is needed and I can see the shift in mindsets. Among the many things that the pandemic has caught us, it has uplifted the human spirit and the importance of being together and for each other, achieving goals for mutual benefits!