Textile industry takes the mother of all beatings, but recovery in sight

Humayun hoped that the government chips in at least to help the employees, if not the employers.

Published: 03rd October 2020 05:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd October 2020 05:09 AM   |  A+A-

Workers at a garment factory in Bengaluru before the Covid-19 pandemic

Express News Service

BENGALURU: India’s textile industry, the second biggest employment generator after agriculture, has been dealt a devastating and crippling blow by the Covid-19 pandemic. With a 2 per cent contribution to the country’s GDP, it accounted for 15 per cent of export earnings for 2019 fiscal.

It has around 4.5 crore employed workers, including 35.22 lakh in the handloom sector, across the country. Anywhere between 30 and 40 per cent of jobs have vanished over the last six months and the tragic part is that over 80 per cent of the employees in the sector are women.

The coronavirus has ravaged the businesses and lives of every single person involved in the industry was the unanimous opinion of manufacturers, retailers and allied associations in the textile and garment industry in Karnataka. 

Honorary Secretary, Clothing Manufacturers’ Association of India, Naseer Humayun said that it will take a long time to recover, and added that nearly six lakh were employed in Karnataka in the garment manufacturing segment alone. “Orders for exports to Europe and the United States came down by 50 per cent as many outlets abroad were closed. Along with Noida, Jaipur and Delhi, Bengaluru is a big manufacturing hub for garments. Peenya and Hosur Road are its major centres,” he said.

The clothing business locally took an even bigger beating. “With hardly any business done by showrooms here, orders were not placed at all,” he added. “All this has resulted in job losses of up to 40 per cent, with 80-90 per cent of them being women,” Humayun said.

Praveen Bafna of Bafna Clothing Corporation at K R Market, whose family has been in this business for 79 years, said, “This has been the worst impact the business has seen in its history. After the first lockdown was lifted, we had to start from the scratch from May 3. From a peak of manufacturing 6,000 items of men’s wear a day till the last week of March, we were down to zero in April. We slowly started by manufacturing 1,000 pieces a day and it has now reached 4,000 pieces. It is picking up and if we still get even 40-50 per cent of sales of last year, I will consider it a good year.”

Not just sales, the payment recovery from retailers has suffered enormously as this is a credit-oriented business, he added.His firm employs 800 staffers and its garments are sent across the country. “We have not asked anyone to leave, but many women staffers have voluntarily opted not to come in the interest of their own health and pressure from their families,” he added.

That even half the sales of 2019 would be considered a big boost was a point seconded by a big retailer in Bengaluru (requesting anonymity) who runs a popular chain of stores. “Everyone is affected, particularly retailers. Even if we get 50% of last year’s business now, I will consider it a good situation this year,” he said.

Trade activist and ex-president of Karnataka Hosiery and Garment Association, Sajjan Raj Mehta, feels that the government can help the industry by coming out with a unified GST structure for all categories of clothing. “The idea behind GST was a common tax. But in our industry, garments costing up to Rs 999 are levied 5% and those above attract 12 per cent. If a common slab of 5 per cent is applied, it will give us a big boost,” he said.

Humayun hoped that the government chips in at least to help the employees, if not the employers. “Because of the Minimum Wage Act in place, we have not effected pay cuts. But our employees are all registered under the Department of Factory and Boilers and the government can come forward to help them out in some way,” he added.

The industry is cautiously optimistic. With Dasara, Deepavali, Christmas and New Year around the corner and manufacturing picking up with most shops opening, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.


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