The question if India will become the world’s economist superpower is a very beloved one. Some economists predict that India’s growth will outpace China by 2014 and others claim that it could even upstage the U.S. by the year 2025.
Whenever this is going to happen or not, fact is that the Indian economy is booming. The textile and apparel exports grew with a percentage of 22.5 year-on-year in August 2010, while imports over the same period grew by 32.2 percent.
These are amazing figures, especially when you have a look at the relative short timeline in which this has all been accomplished. As a result, the question amongst us rises ifthe country is able to deal with such a growth and moreover, how the country is able to deal with it. To answer this question, it is necessary to take a closer look at the characteristics of the Indian clothing industry and see what their current strategy is.
In the past, India has been facing many issues and problems in the textile and apparel sector, such as obsolescence, working conditions, restrictive government regulations and a severe lack of modernization.
Nowadays this is changing and the main advantages of the industry are the strong production of raw materials, skilled manpower, a young and growing workforce and low wage costs. But this last advantage has been threatened by the competition of even lower cost countries, such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia. In order to withstand this growing competition and to distinguish itself from other players in the market, India is busy adopting another, new strategy.
Therefore the main challenge for the textile sector at the moment is to invest in innovation and modernization rather than further growth. The Indian government is keenly aware of this phenomenon and invests lots of money in the textile industry in order to keep the business up-to-date, as well as in the area of technology as this of design. The 2007’s National Design Policy has set up a plan to reach a 1,000% growth in design-related export products over the coming eight years.
As a consequence, the ability to understand consumers and adapt to fashion trends is becoming more and more important for India and this will possibly become the unique selling point of the country in the future, setting the Indian textile and apparel industry apart from cheaper manufacturing countries.
Nevertheless, many steps need to be taken in order to reach that point, implementing such a new strategy is a big challenge. Does the Indian textile industry have the capacity and the ability to set its focus on design and innovation? A complicated issue and obviously the opinions about this subject are diverse.
Over the last few weeks, we have visited a variety of textile manufacturers in Gurgaon, a place near Delhi where many factories and headquarters are based. There we have indeed noticed the fact that most of these companies are trying to become more and more design-focused. The greater part of the visited factories has for example a design team in-house.
The design team develops a broad range of styles, based on findings abroad (mostly Europe and the U.S.), fashion magazines and various fashion blogs. They try to imagine and understand the western taste of design and implement this within their designs in order to propose and sell these to their customers. We have been told that many big American and European brands incorporate their manufacturers’ designs into their own collection or either chooses to pick a few elements and mix these within their own designs.
From my experience so far, I can definitely say that I feel the attempt of the Indian apparel and textile industry in becoming more innovative and design focused. As one of the manufacturers told us, “We make sure that we understand our western customers. We know what they want and our task is simply to prepare for that.”
Nevertheless it is hard to make a judgement about the kind of level on which they cooperate and whether they are able to fully understand the western taste and notion of design. And even more interesting, how this development will continue in the next coming years. Therefore time is probably the only one who will be able to tell us.