G.V. Aras, Director, A.T.E. Enterprises, in a recent TAI webinar, adeptly brought out some interesting facts and strategies about Unlock India. “The industry, as we know, is struggling to restart. We are faced with shortage of labour, a near absence of demand, and a lot of uncertainty,” said Mr Aras, listing out the main challenges in front of the industry today.
According to Mr R. D. Udeshi, President, Polyester Chain, Reliance Industries Ltd, “The challenges are as you list out. What is a challenge and a solution is how the way of doing business has changed. People are working efficiently from their homes, having virtual business meetings, and webinars.”
According to Mr S .K. Khandelia, President & CEO, Sutlej Textile, digitalisation of work processes is of paramount importance. “We are in fact moving towards paperless working in our company.” He also believes that automation will be the key to facing the current challenges.
For Rahul Mehta, Mentor, CMAI, it is important to change the mindset of the industry to successfully tide over the changes in the way of doing business. “There is a saying that it’s difficult to change a man and it’s almost impossible to change a successful man. We need to bring in new blood into the industry, create an entirely new set of leadership,” he stresses.
For Mr Narendra Dalmia, Director, Strata Geosystems, the lockdown posed challenges in that it became a little difficult to fulfill the export orders that the company was inundated with, given that it operates in the road construction sector. And road and infrastructure are a priority in every country, and one of the businesses that had not stopped. “However, we had to deal with some labour leaving for their home towns, and production capacity had to be cut. However, we had managed to retain most of our workers, and as orders started pouring in, it was relatively easy to restart our factory. Besides, the pandemic helped us to improve our systems, our work processes, to become more efficient.”
Agreed Mr Rajeev Jain, Chief Executive, Yarn Business, RSWM, “This situation has forced us to align our working despite the many restrictions. It has made us relook at cost factors, that were earlier not taken too seriously. These changes will become a habit, and will help businesses get leaner and agile.”
Moving from cotton to polyester
According to R. D. Udeshi, the government has taken a lot of policy measures to bring cotton and polyester at par in terms of taxes and duties; the industry has excellent upstream facilities; the industry realises that the future is synthetics. “It’s now necessary for mindsets to change. We have to think of setting up large capacities, like 1 billion metres of fabric per day kind of capacity that is needed in the industry today. Then, we need to match this with the requisite, world-class processing capacity too. The geo-political issues in the world today will support India becoming a textile and apparel supplier to the world. So, we have to act quickly.”
How to increase India’s apparel exports
Rahul Mehta reiterated what we’ve been hearing for over 20 years – India needs to diversify its product base, and move into formalwear, synthetic-based apparel, performance wear, winter wear, sportswear.
“As an industry, we have never paid attention to productivity, even though this is the only thing that we have control over in our factories. Today the buyer nominates the fabrics which we have to buy, the price at which we have to buy, the number of toilets in the factory, the distance between the head of one worker and the nose of the second worker, the salaries that we have to pay to our workers – virtually everything is dictated by the buyer. The only thing we have in our hands is the number of shirts that we produce per day per machine. And unfortunately, we have never focussed on that.”
He further advised the industry to stop being scared of large scale production at one place, and of labour unrest, etc. “This had kept our industry technologically backward, even though immense opportunities exist in the world.”
Giving the example of the home textiles sector, Mr Khandelia reiterated Mr Mehta’s point that world-class manufacturing facilities with scale, quality design capabilities, product and process innovation, market-oriented approach, organic and inorganic growth by acquiring international brands – are some of the different strategies that helped this sector’s remarkable performance.
4.0 Smart Factory
As automation and digitisation become the answers to running business with restrictions and shortage of labour, RSWM has been way ahead of the competition in adopting these changes.
Says Rajeev Jain, “Way back in 2011, we had decided to invest in the fullest level of automation, installing the latest technologies in our factory. The kind of productivity and level of quality consistency we achieved was just awesome. And even after 8-9 years, our factory is among the most automated in the country. So definitely, to move up the textile chain in the global market, to achieve the ranking that India deserves, automation, Industry 4.0 is the answer.”
Medical textiles, PPEs, and India’s capabilities
The current trend in manufacturing of PPEs, where India within a few months set up capacities to manufacturing 400,000-500,000 PPE suits a day, shows the capabilities and resilience of the Indian textile industry. Moreover, these suits are sold at Rs 500-600 per suit, against Rs 2000-2500 per suit when imported. Similarly, with other medical textiles, the pandemic just gave the necessary boost to this sector.