The Garment Industry of India is an Rs -one trillion industry. Almost 33 % of its knitwear production and about 20% of its woven-garment production, both by volume, enters export markets. Overall about 25 % of the volume of its garment production goes into export markets, leaving 75 % for domestic consumption.

The Industry covers over one lakh units and employs about 6 million workers, both directly and indirectly in almost equal proportion. The indirect portion helps to sustain the direct production sector in the shape of items associated with the garment industry production including sewing/embroidery thread, buttons, buckles, zippers, metal plates, cardboard sheets, plastic butterflies and packaging material.

Organized sector of the garment industry is roughly 20% of the total industry, concentrating chiefly on exports. These are usually limited Companies while the rest are proprietary or partnership Companies.

Geographically, men's garments are largely produced in western and southern India while production of ladies garments predominates in North India. Eastern section of India specializes in children garments where in fact, these took their birth.

Fibre-wise, 80% of the production is of cotton garments, 15% of synthetic/mixed garments and the rest of silk and wool garments.

The industry manufactures over a 100 different types of garments for men, women and children. These includes overcoats/raincoats, suits, ensembles, jackets, dresses, skirts, trousers, shirts, blouses, inner-garments, T-shirts, jerseys/pullovers, babies garments as well as accessories like shawls/scarves, handkerchiefs, gloves and parts of garments.

Fabric constitutes 65 to 70% of the cost of production with labour making up a further 15% and the rest go for overheads and manufacturer's profit.

Retail trade in India is spread over department stores, hyper markets/discount stores and specialty stores. A number of shopping malls have sprung up all over the country, especially in the metros. Due to this, land prices have spiraled. Attention now shifts to "B" class, "C" class cities and the rural area.

Government policies of economic liberalization have raised incomes, encouraged women entrepreneurs resulting in a steep rise in family incomes and making available increasing levels of disposable income in their hands. This has helped to increase purchase of garments but has limited this purchase due to rise in prices of food grains on account of unseasonable weather. The benefit of economic reforms has percolated down to rural areas coupled with the spread of education. In fact, some of rural areas enjoy a life-style comparable to or even better than that enjoyed by urban folk.

For the last several years, 9 to 10% of the disposable income goes into the purchase of garments and textiles in items like house-finishing, drapers, tapestries and the like.

Export of garments and accessories from India are routed to all corners of the world. However, the USA, EU and Canada together account for 70% of world exports. Markets in Asia, Africa, East Europe, Australia, New Zealand and countries in the Pacific Ocean account for the rest.

Immediately after the cessation of ATC (Agreement on Textiles and Clothing) in December 2004, limiting exports of textiles and garments from India, there was a 25% spurt in exports of garments in the following year. This has since slowed down to around 10%. A number of supplying countries from Asia have come into existence, notably, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Srilanka, Cambodia and Pakistan resulting in cut-throat competition in the supply of popular varieties helping to bring down prices. India has had to adopt innovative practices by upgrading the quality of product in order to sustain (leave alone increase) her market share in the world community. In recent years, appreciation of the Indian Rupee vs.US $ and the downslide in US economy has had a restraining effect on garment exports from India, but the industry is now coming to terms with the development.

As a labour-oriented industry, the activity in production and marketing has now shifted to Asia with India and China being leading suppliers as well as markets for garments.

About the Author:

The author is associated with The Clothing Manufacturers' Association of India.