Post Covid-19 lockdown, we have a new vision and a well-defined mission of attaining self-reliant India -‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ laid down by our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi Ji. The Hon’ble Prime Minister observed that in order to fulfil the dream of making the 21st century India’s, the way forward is through ensuring that the country becomes self-reliant. Talking about turning a crisis into an opportunity, he gave the example of PPE kits N-95 masks, whose production in India has gone up from almost being negligible to 2 lakh each, on a daily basis.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister remarked that the definition of self-reliance has undergone a change in the globalized world and clarified that when the countrytalks about self-reliance, it is different from being self-centred. This clarion call of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) is to fight and win the war against the novel coronavirus and to emerge as a global leader in the coming years. He clarified that Atmanirbhar Bharat means that we will become stronger and embrace the world and will be fully integrated with the world economy and also supportive. He observed that the crisis has taught us the importance of local manufacturing, the local market and local supply chains. All our demands during the crisis were met ‘locally’. Now, it is time to be vocal about the local products and help these local products become global.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister urged the Indian industry to invest in Robust Local Supply Chain that strengthens India’s stake in the Global Supply Chain. Championing the call for ‘Made in India, Made for the World’, the Hon’ble Prime Minister stressed on “sector-wise structural reforms” to revive growth. Prime Minister remarked that self-reliance will prepare the country for tough competition in the global supply chain, and it is important that the country wins this competition.

As pointed out by Hon’ble Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal Ji, “the principle of Atmanirbhar Bharat didn’t mean the country was going to be inward-looking. Whatever we have to import and is of high quality, we will import. All countries in the world are balancing their trade”.

According to NITI Aayog CEO, Shri Amitab Kant, “Innovation is the key to success for economic growth and Atmanirbhar Bharat is not anti-globalisation. It is about getting the best from the world. It is not about protectionism. It is about enhancing the ability of Indian companies to create world-class products and capture the domestic market and then use the strength of the domestic market to penetrate into the global market. It is about being a global champion.”

It is heartening to know that the Textile Sector is one of the “Champion Sectors” identified by the Government to provide hand-holding for investors with a focus on improving India’s manufacturing capabilities. An action plan for 12 champion services sector identified by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for special focus has received Cabinet approval. A Rs 5,000-crore fund is proposed to be established to activate the plan for realising their full potential. Other major developments favourable to the textile sector are that the Ministry of Textiles under the able leadership of Hon’ble Union Minister of Textiles, Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani Ji is set to launch the Focused Product Investment Scheme to attract investments in the Manmade fibre segment and is in the advanced stage of finalising in setting up of 10 integrated mega textile parks closer to ports (with parks having minimum land size of 1,000 acres) and creating a national textile fund that would enable us to improve our global competitiveness.

Indian Textile sector can indeed play a vital role in achieving the desired self-sufficiency as the sector has inherent strength in all segments of the textile value chain and ready to serve the entire world especially EU and USA which are the biggest markets for our textile products. India is the world’s largest producer of cotton and jute and the second-largest producer of man-made fibres — polyester and viscose. Over the years, the country has established a large spinning, weaving and apparel making capacity to convert the abundant available raw materials like cotton, jute, wool, silk, etc into a wide variety of end-products. India also has abundant skilled manpower in the textile sector, a strong domestic market and favourable demographics.

After the outbreak of Covid-19, the Indian textile sector is witnessing a drastic shift from traditional products to new and innovative ones, such as PPEs, N-95 masks and technical textiles. As we are currently in the Unlock 3.0 Phase, the textile industry has ventured out afresh on its new journey, achieving new milestones each day with PPE kits and anti–corona fabrics development.

However, India’s textile sector has a long way to go before it achieves economies of scale to challenge China’s dominance in world markets. Post Covid-19, owing to supply chain disruption in China, India should capture high value-added products like blazers and overcoats. India can become a reliable sourcing destination due to the recent developments in the global textile market. It can be a boon for India if a significant share of the investments exodus from China can be captured by the Indian Textile Industry through innovative consistent policies and attractive investment schemes. This requires technological advancements and gearing up for natural transition towards high value-added products across the textile value chain.

Yet, despite its many advantages, Indian productivity, technology and products lag behind countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam, who have built their capabilities fairly recently. Some reasons for the stagnation in Indian textile exports are the low scale of operations, preference for cotton over other fibres and lack of trade agreements with other countries.

In a post-Covid-19 world, raising the “Competitiveness” of the Textile sector is the most important task that should be worked out as it is making India uncompetitive in the global textile market, particularly to Bangladesh, Vietnam, etc. Enhancing market access to other new geographical areas like Latin America, EU, Africa, etc needs to be explored as one of the options to come out of the present crisis. If the global competitiveness of the Indian T&C is enhanced by announcing a special stimulus package for a period of two years, by including the entire textile value chain under RODTEP Scheme and a level playing field is created, India has the potential to become the second-largest exporter, next only to China. The immediate need of the hour is to make the Indian textile and apparel industry globally competitive. Primarily, our lack of cost competitiveness in textile value chain export is due to embedded state-level taxes/levies which are not refunded at any stage.

CITI has been actively participating and organizing webinars to get a contextual understanding of the various immediate issues erupted due to the pandemic. CITI in association with International Trade Centre (ITC), Support of Indian Trade and Investment for Africa Initiative (SITA) and others organized a webinar on “The Future of the Textile and Apparel Sector – An Indo-African Perspective: Challenges and Opportunities”. CITI also participated in the webinar hosted by the Indian Embassy in Japan to explore the possibilities of enhancement of trade and investments in Textiles and Clothing between the two countries. Further, CITI in association with Gartex Texprocess India organized a half-day virtual conference on “Rebooting the Textile & Apparel Industry” where dignitaries from the textile and apparel industry discussed about global opportunities, productivity and competency challenges, measures to support the entire value chain and future of textile and apparel industry.
I am sure, with the able guidance of Hon’ble Union Minister of Textiles and the support of the Ministry of Textiles and all stakeholders, the Indian textile sector will gear up to make the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India)’ mission a reality soon. For this, the Indian Textile Industry has to be more confident, resilient and carve out a future from its unique advantages and be sustainable. The Indian textile industry should use this Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to scale up its production and become a sourcing hub for global textile and clothing products.

Dr S Sunanda
Secretary General – CITI