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Run, it s the global textile beast! burp!

When our Editor called us to his office a few months back and told us that us two ‘lucky’ one’s had been chosen to ‘recon’ the Indian textile sector and to compare its progress globally, we realised that finally, us two upstarts had arrived; and our calibre recognised. Visions of the fashion capitals of the world started floating all around us. Which one should be the first one we should hit to really understand the effects of India’s textile sector on global players? Should we travel to New York? Or perhaps Paris & Milan? Maybe London would be a better bet? Or closer home, Tokyo?

The truth hit us hard, too hard. When our cab stopped at the city centre, the searing heat got to us faster than the bill we had run up from New Delhi! We were in Ludhiana! The fact is that if one has to understand which places really drive the Indian textile sector, the names are as unfashionable as they could be. There are basically three belts that drive Indian textiles – the Ludhiana belt, the Tripur belt and the Ahmedabad belt! Punjab, Gujrat and Karnataka in fact contribute a smashing 40% to India’s total textile exports! And this story is about our experiences through these belts with people who can change industry dynamics with just a phone call. And about the fact that 3 years after the textile quotas were abolished, the Indian textile industry is surely dying; waiting for that last bone crushing hit from the sharks of the global textile world, led by the ruthless beast of an animal called China!

How better could you describe it? Walk through any street of Ludhiana, and you’ll see at least one dying textile unit. Ahmedabad – once called the Manchester of India – has seen 65 mills close down in the past two years. The irony is that it wasn’t too long ago that the contagious energy of the blued eyed boys of the Indian textile industry was propelling analysts from all over the world to think big about India.
Just three years ago, Crisil had envisaged that the Indian textile industry would reach a sprawling $110 billion turnover by the year 2012. It’s 2008, and we’ve reached a pathetic $20 odd billion. The DHL-McKinsey Apparel Trade Report had forecasted that the the Indian prêt-a-porter industry (part of textiles) will have a $16 billion global turnover by 2008. That figure in reality is only $12 billion! Our global market shares are anyway pathetic. Take USA (the world’s largest apparel market) as an example. According to OTEXA (Office of Textiles & Apparel, USA), for the year ended 2007-08, India has a puny market share of 5.42% in the US as compared to China, which had a stunning 33.55%. And which are the other countries about to go ahead of India in the US and even global markets? It’s a shameful list. Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam and several other developing nations are slowly and steadily emerging as sharks ready to devour India’s global market share (if we had any, that is).

Inferiorly intrastructured

A bird’s eye view of the textile industry and there are two factors that are enough to give you a high volt shock. One, the power factor; second, the infrastructure. If we both saw, on a daily average, a minimum of an hour of power failure in Ludhiana, the other cities we visited suffered much worse in terms of infrastructure. “Moreover, compared to other textile manufacturing countries, electricity comes for a high price. An Indian manufacturer pays 10 cents/unit,” added D.K.Nair, Secretary General of Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI), when we met him in New Delhi. We run into Namita Chhetri, President, ICMR, at a textile conference in Ahmedabad, where we ask her about Nair’s claim. She confirms with jest, “It’s true. Bangladesh, for example, pays only a mere 4 cents/unit while our land of dhoti wearer has the nouveau award of being the country that has the highest cost of power amongst all textile manufacturing nations.”

By:- B&E

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