We should draft country-specific strategies to explore new markets

We should draft country-specific strategies to explore new markets

Suvin is a textile consultant from India offering management consultancy, project management consultancy, financial consultancy, technology consultancy, construction management consultancy, and process management services. They render turnkey services from market research, techno economic feasibility, technology selection to project engineering. Avinash Mayekar, Managing Director of Suvin Expo LLP, outlines the challenges in the textile industry and discusses strategies to reach the $ 100 billion export target by leveraging our strengths.
What are the challenges before Indian textile and apparel (T&A) manufacturers as they seek to increase their global market share?
Indian textile & apparel industry is facing many challenges. They are just surviving every season with a new challenge but kudos to their valiant thinking they are always ready for the curve ball. In current events, I can jot down two major challenges:
Growth of the global market: It is not much on a positive scale. So to get better market share we need to be cost-effective, competitive, prominent on delivery schedule, and most importantly quality conscious. These are the 4 basic commitments for consistency in the global market. However, not many efforts are drafted toward achieving all of them at once. Efforts are put in for either one of the commitments. More focus must be given to commitment to all four common goals.
The scale of the economy is another long-time challenge which is the result of why our competing countries are gaining the upper hand. Somehow we have not achieved that mark of large-scale production throughout the industry as observed in our competing countries which is the reason for our low market share despite being one of the oldest industries in India.

Has government policies/schemes of the last few years helped in increasing exports? What else can the government do to achieve the $ 100 billion export target? Can India achieve $ 100 billion T&A export target (if yes, by when)?
It is right thing that Government is focusing on manmade fibres and technical textiles as focus areas for increasing exports but we need to focus on our core strengths as well which was always cotton fibre related products. So along with manmade products, we need to promote value added cotton products as well and they should be considered for incentives. Also PLI scheme needs to be studied properly in terms of goals which would be textile industry specific e.g. Ratio of project cost to sales turnover as well as increase of sales every year.
As we know when it comes to manmade fibres (MMF), there are certain limitations for our country right from the availability of type of certain qualities of special raw material, material pricing, and cost of operations to value-addition opportunities.
We have achieved great success in producing value-added cotton textiles and apparel. So I strongly feel we must play tactfully on our strength, cotton, and promote more value addition and scale of operation in this field and also focus on promoting applications of technical textiles that use cotton.
Moreover, the Government has started having FTA with leading countries that will help us in surplus exports. So as an exporter, we should draft country-specific strategies to explore new markets and also learn the market demands of these countries to produce products needed by them.
Coming to India achieving the export target: India as all of us have seen over the years, is known for its persistent quality of completing targets by hook or crook. We have done remarkably well during the COVID situation as well. So if at all there comes a challenging situation but we have pre-set targets, I think there is a possibility of India achieving the target. At the same time, we cannot overlook the slowdown in the global market. The situation is not currently favorable maybe because of the political imbalance through the Russia- Ukraine war, and trouble in the Middle East. All these issues are causing delays with container movement, logistic costs have spiked and there is a lot of uncertainty. So all factors need to be considered for achieving the target but we can only hope for things to go good year forward.

Globally, climate change has been gaining centre stage in recent years. Is it a challenge or an opportunity for Indian T&A exporters? Have Indian T&A manufacturers been successful in incorporating sustainable practices to enhance overall exports?
Global environmental change and the policy reforms that are happening at an international level are certainly going to create a lot of trouble for the existing setups in the world around. We are no exceptions to this trouble, however, when we say of changes to be incorporated, India is a quick adapter, many exporters knowing the impact on orders for noncompliance have already started the compliance practice in terms of engineering routines, waste collection & disposal. They are also using zero liquid discharge in processing units. Even government bodies are monitoring the level of discharge so we will adopt this reform 100 per cent.

In the entire T&A value chain – from raw materials (cotton, MMF, etc) to end-products (garments, fabric, home textiles) to technical textiles – which segment/s offer high-export potential/opportunity? Which are emerging segments that need to be tapped to expand exports?
It is very difficult to understand exactly the product basket that will support us which is why a strategy similar to country mapping is needed where we map in which products we would be competitive or innovative. We also should explore which countries will be the most beneficial for the selected product mix. With alarming signs of global warming and tension building around it is best to adopt practices to convert more natural fibre into value-added products, increase the product portfolio, and market them on a larger scale.
Emerging segments are coming from technical textiles, we are doing exceptionally well with a double-digit growth rate in this segment. However if need to focus and increase our share in exports, we need to understand:
Which product from the wide range of technical textile baskets?
How we can be more cost-effective?
What should be the scale of operation?
How we can reduce operating costs? Though we have low labour costs, the number of labour required is less with this technology and more specific skill sets are needed in this domain
We have very high logistic costs as there are different belts increased across the value chain, spinning happens in one region for weaving it is then transported to another region which is again transported to 3rd region for processing and the end product apparels are produced again in an altogether different area. All this adds up as logistic cost multiplies at every stage. We need to figure out a more channeled approach like shirt city, denim city, socks city, T-shirt/knitted city, and likewise. In this way, if we develop new infrastructure for everything in one place, we will bring down not only the logistic cost but also the operating cost. This will also give us the edge by providing an optimum scale of economy as the total production will substantially increase through this concept.

How important is quality to be a part of the supply chain of multinational brands (or buying houses)? Has enough been done by the government and industry to improve quality and export-competitiveness of the Indian T&A industry?
In today’s context, you cannot have exports or make a name in the domestic market if there is no quality. Quality is a subjective term, you must have appropriate quality. But it is here where we are missing the bus. The term appropriate is not understandable to the maximum. Hence we need quality norms that are specific to the products sold and market catered and accordingly, we can club it with pricing policy. This will ensure that we remain prominent suppliers for our product basket in the global export market.
We cannot ask the government to take care of quality, manufacturers need to take care of the quality offered by them depending on the market served. It is their study to find out the essential and premium quality standards as per their consumer base/ country and bring into practice the producers for it.
We also can understand in AFRICA many used clothes are sold and it has a huge market. It also shows that in such markets we can tone down quality and supply appropriate products for getting a big share in such markets

How best can Indian T&A exporters prepare themselves for a highly uncertain global marketplace?
I strongly feel we lack in marketing efforts if China can do…India can certainly do it!!!
Price is not the only governing factor for acquiring bigger markets. There are many things with which we are compiling but we are not reaching the markets that are in dire need of our products. If we study the marketing cost incurred by global brands in comparison to Indians, we will find that we are not investing in research to explore new markets and have not penetrated segments that offer better margins. From my firm as a textile management consultant, we have done some analysis of the African market and found good scope for Indian products however the pie is yet to be grabbed by the Indian suppliers. This shows that we are not yet focusing on market penetration and segmentation studies.
Most of the Indian players, while they are taking care of the export market are engaging in activities where their strength lies but we need certain things to take into account business synergy. The government needs to have country policy which can be bibles for the exporters. They need to take a delegation of our exporters to the target countries to meet the probable importers and understand the merits and demerits of their market. Study the product specifications that are required by them like raw materials, dyes, and chemicals to map with our strengths.
From the Government, an exercise on the market cost of the target countries, duties & taxation that need to be borne by importers, and assistance in reducing these costs will provide leverage to our exporters in the global competition. What we are importing and how we can create bilateral beneficial trade will be of utmost importance to our exporters as well as traders.
We need to understand whatever we are doing presently is at a neutral level. Not flourishing or sluggishly lagging. We need to improve and be more efficient in all fields like commitments to delivery, product quality, reducing operating cost, understanding the traceability of raw material and consistency in quality, avoiding over-engineering, and focusing on the needs of the buyer this needs to be done on the country level and not a single buyer.
An overall approach of Government initiatives and industry experts for various products can help in a big way for Indian exports to be increased. We also need to focus on our imports and substitute them with our own manufacturing. We may have to take some bold steps to stop export of yarns and increase exports of value added products and Government may give some incentives for doing so. Many countries are concentrating on garment exports whereas we are still lacking in such initiatives
All said and done I am sure India can do it and high time we should do it “Now” or “Never”

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