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Spotlight | June 2019

Indo-US meet kickstarts drive to hit $100-bn trade in textiles

A recent conference on Textiles: America First & Make in India, Together Achieving $100 billion Trade in Textiles in Mumbai was the culmination of efforts by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, spearheaded by the Chief of IACC Textile Forum, Suresh Kotak, the well-known Cotton King. It was one of its kind where experts from all the fields of textile industry, converged to explore ways and exchange ideas to take the Indo-US trade in textiles to the next level of fulfilment.

IACC’s India President struck the keynote. “India’s exports of ready-made garments are under pressure. In 2018-19, garment exports dropped to $16.37 billion from 16.71 billion, a year ago.”

Excusing himself for starting the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce’s recent seminar on a ‘sour’ note’ in Mumbai, SK Sarkar, National President of IACC said that India’s garment industry is unable to compete successfully with some new countries like Bangladesh. But this industry is a major employment generator, creating about 45 million jobs directly and another 20 million indirectly.

Praising the way Indian entrepreneurs have moved up the value chain, Sarkar gave the example of Reliance, which has redeemed one million PET bottles into fibres for manufacturing cloth. The brand’s name is Ecovera, and which has proved that there are sustainable ways to convert waste into wealth. He dwelt upon the manufacturing of eco-friendly textile products, for which India holds a great potential. He however pointed out how emerging economies including Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka are posing problems to the Indian textile industry due to the former’s advantages as a result of preferential treatment they have been enjoying from the importing countries.

Complimenting Gujarat for its credit-linked interest subsidy scheme from 2012-17, Sarkar said that this scheme helped in raising the number of units from 17 in 2013 to 181 in 2017 with a 10-fold increase in investment. He also mentioned the Tiruppur clusters contribution by saying that they reported 8.3 per cent rise in exports to Rs 26,000 crore.

Kotak underlined the scope of achieving $100 billion textile trade between India and the US. Highlighting the successful finance partnership between India and the United States, Kotak said that it is time to repeat that success story in textile industry too to achieve the dream of $100 billion. He also mentioned the great achievements of North Carolina and South Carolina as global textile cities. He mentioned particularly the contribution of textile universities from these two textile places.

“Colombus wanted to discover India, but discovered America and Vasco da Gama discovered India. Today, we are discovering both the countries to come together,” said Kotak to a loud clapping of applause from the audience. “US needs jobs, India needs jobs and both the countries think alike and want to create wealth by collaborating with each other.”

Edgard D Kagan, US Consul General, emphasised the importance of India and the US working together as in the past. “In today’s environment, proper relationship brings about a win-win situation for both the countries. In the 21st century, with two countries practising democracies, no other countries will have better relationship than India and the US. This cooperation will have better impact not only on our countries but also worldwide,” said Kagan. This will also pave way for a greater productive relationship, despite all the cultural and societal differences both the countries may have, he added.

Balkrishan Goenka, Chairman of Welspun Group, who gave an interesting impromptu speech, talked about the birth of polyester industry since 1985 when he started his venture. Stressing the tremendous scope for textile trade between India and the US, Goenka said that India is the fastest growing country today with a GDP of 7+ growth.

India’s exports of ready-made garments are under pressure. In 2018-19, garment exports dropped to $16.37 billion from 16.71 billion, a year ago

He recalled an incident when a European company, seeing the samples of towels from his company said that ‘you Indians show something, but deliver something else.” “And later we bought that company since from that day I made it a point that everyone at Welspun dared to commit to quality. Each one of us firstly is our country’s ambassador,” Goenka added.

Goenka did not spare the banks, which are failing to lend to the textile industry. “All the big industries including Tatas, Reliances, etc. have started from investing in textile industry. This is a traditional industry, which provides maximum employment, next to agriculture and contributes immensely to forex,” Goenka said. “India has everything – huge raw material base. In cotton, we are the largest producer and in synthetics, we are one of the top-most producers. It is the value chain that is missing. For every Rs 1 crore of investment, garment industry produces 75 new jobs. This is the only industry that gives maximum employment for minimum investment,” Welspun chairman said.

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