The synonym of garment manufacturing and exports is crises management. It’s a process that has proven time and again, whether rightly or wrongly that it needs constant and continuous re-engineering, not as a structural reform, but towards clearing one more shipment. Read my latest update on the last two months of crises management for the apparel export industry on LinkedIn and share your views.
Businesses are finally opening up and losses are being assessed. New strategies are in discussion and the thrust is not on growth, but how to stay alive for the next one year, which is widely being considered as the timeline for recovery.
In a relief to many small businesses, the Supreme Court has asked the Central Government not to take any coercive action against companies who are not paying wages, or paying wages with deduction during the lockdown, as per the Home Ministry order.
While one may argue that employees are dependent on the employer for their livelihood, but as the Supreme Court rightly said, “Paying full wages to its workers may not be viable for small and private enterprises, which themselves are tottering on the brink of insolvency due to the lockdown.”
We have all seen how the salary issue has dominated discussions in the industry for the last 2 months. March payments were duly paid, but since then it has been a struggle. More recently we are hearing of worker unrest, which does not mean only amongst the factory workers, but also the middle-management and even the uppermanagement.
Liquidity is at its lowest and companies do not really know how and where all to circulate for best results. So, we are also now seeing what was earlier a common practise in the medical profession in times of a calamity, referred to as Triaging, in the business world. Faced with limited resources, they prioritise patients for treatment to maximise the number of survivors. Now companies are doing the same, triaging their workforce; that is retaining only those who are most critical for their functioning. The logic is simple, the company has to survive!
And of course, there are those companies that have already given up or could give up over the next few months. An estimate puts the number of such companies to 20 per cent of what existed post the pandemic. So, in real terms it is the survival of the fittest!
The picture is really bleak at the moment from a manpower stand point and it has already been predicted that nearly one crore jobs are at risk in the textile and apparel value chain due to the impact of the global closures of business in the wake of the pandemic.
But the irony of the situation is that, when workers are most needed, as factories finally open up, there are hardly any workers. The Government has indulgently decided to send the migrant workers home, free of cost and take the credit of being ‘sensitive’ to their sufferings.
What bad timing…, when there was no work they were asked to stay put and survive on charity; and now when work is finally available, they are heading back to their villages. And with all the support promised in the new financial package, industry will find it very difficult to get them back to work, at least not any time soon.
Some believe that this is an indication that factories should move nearer to the villages, but have we not failed to get this theory into practice time and again; so what’s new now, or have I missed something!