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India will become a global PPE hub: Ashwin, SIMA chief

by BQ News Bureau
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In the Recipe for Revival series, Business Quest presents to you Ashwin Chandran, Chairman, South India Mills Association, and Managing Director, Precot Meridian Group. In an e-mail interview to G. Rajasekaran, Mr. Ashwin shares his bold and positive vision for the post-lockdown revival of the textile industry.  

Ashwin Chandran, Chairman, South India Mills Association, is the Managing Director of the leading Precot Meridian Group having textile units in Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra.

One of the youngest to lead the largest and oldest textile industry body of India, Mr. Ashwin is steering the mill sector at a challenging phase during the pandemic. The young scion says opportunities are flooding the country as the gigantic Chinese textile supply chain weakens amid global pressure. According to him, global buyers are turning to India to source textiles and clothing goods, fashion and lifestyle goods, as China grapples with the impact of COVID-19 outbreak while Indian apparel exporters are gearing up to make the country a hub for sourcing PPE kits.

He lists the requirements of the textile industry in taking up the emerging challenges and the role of the government in aiding the industry to seize the unprecedented opportunities.

Broadly outlining his recipe for revival in the post-lockdown, Mr. Ashwin says the textile industry needs to have a relook at the conventional way of doing business. The consumption level needs to be reset by giving away the “business-as-usual” approach; similarly, re-assessment of the existing costs and price structures, leveraging of value-added products, assessing and planning of utilization levels, exploring new customers/markets/products and continuously engaging with the existing clients and vendors are the need of the hour.

Revealing that in the past few months Indian manufacturers and exporters of such goods have received an increasing number of enquiries — mostly from the US and the European Union –, he says that the demand for textile and clothing industry will bounce back soon, considering the large and growing domestic market of India.

Also, Indian apparel exporters are gearing up to make India a hub for sourcing PPE kits. The demand for medical protectives such as masks, disposable gloves are expected to surge and sustain even after the end of the COVID pandemic, he predicts.

In a reply to a question on what he thought was the core strengths that will help in coming out of this pandemic, he says, “As global demand of PPE is on the rise, global buyers are importing large quantities of medical protective gear, including surgical masks and protective clothing, from across the globe. Notably, the country has become the second-largest manufacturer of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the world by increasing its capacity from zero to two lakh a day within two months and this has given us the confidence that challenges can be converted into opportunities.

Also, the industry has resurrected the “Make in India” model, consequently attracting foreign investors exiting China to consider India as a viable destination for production and operations. A global report indicates that the medical mask industry alone would reach a market size of USD 10 Bn by 2025. Indian companies are well placed to leverage this emerging opportunity”.

On diversion of orders from China

The anti-Chinese sentiment grown in the post-COVID era has brought new opportunities for Indian textile and apparel producers. China is losing its market share in global textiles on account of rising manufacturing costs, resulting in global buyers preferring India as a viable destination.

COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for technical textiles. The product categories such as PPEs (including masks, coveralls and other related products) and other medical textiles products have an essential category status and can possibly drive the textiles and clothing manufacturers to recalibrate their existing infrastructure to manufacture these products for the domestic and global markets.

On Man-Made Fibres (MMF)

India’s textile value chain has so long been largely on the cotton front. In order to increase exports and curb imports, it is essential to focus on the MMF value chain and make the raw materials available at international prices. The government has already made the polyester staple fibre and several other MMF raw materials available at international prices to enable the industry to improve global competitiveness. It is also essential to remove the Anti-Dumping Duty levied on viscose staple fibres to improve the global competitiveness and grab the emerging opportunities.

On steps needed to revive the economy

With the unpredictable and volatile international situation, almost every country has to manage this uncertainty. In these circumstances, the respective governments should be prepared to respond to the evolving situation swiftly and effectively and to the extent possible, in anticipation of unprecedented immediate developments.

(To be concluded)

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