India textile firms vow to take on China

Tuesday, 20 January 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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FRANKFURT: Indian companies, comprising the largest single foreign presence at Heimtextil, the world's biggest event for the textile industry, say they are ready to "take on" main rivals China in the international market.

With 341 companies, second only to host Germany's 594, the number of Indian companies participating in the event has steadily increased over the years and has even surpassed the number of exhibitors from Italy, a traditional supplier of exquisite home textiles.

India's main competitors, China and Pakistan, were also represented by large contingents of 236 and 193 exhibitors respectively in the January 14-18 event.

"The rising number of Indian exhibitors at the Heimtextil show reflects a keen interest on their part to use the event as a global marketing platform where buyers and sellers from all over the world meet under one roof," Gert Boettger, the head of textile fairs at Messe Frankfurt, the organiser of the Heimtextil show, told IANS.

"India's designs and colours have definitely improved and become sophisticated. Indeed, you can expect India to figure prominently in the global textile trade, along with China and Pakistan, after 2005 when the quota system will be eliminated in terms of the WTO agreement," Boettger observed.

With the global economy showing signs of recovery - Germany's economy continues to be sluggish, accompanied by high unemployment - Indian exhibitors were in an upbeat mood.

The prospect of China carving out a still larger share of the textile market in a quota-free world worried other Asian exhibitors but Indian exhibitors were unperturbed.

Indeed, some Indian exhibitors averred at the show that given the "high quality and innovative designs and colours" of Indian textiles, they were confident of "taking on" China in certain segments of the textile trade.

Manmohan Sharma, director of the Panipat-based Mittal International, said that India's strength lay in its flexibility and predicted that China's competitive edge in its low prices would "come to an end because the prices of its products are gradually rising".

"Textile manufacturers in India can assert themselves if they provide good quality with innovative designs and colours, which they are doing now," Sharma told IANS here.

This view was also echoed by Nikhil Hira, executive director of Sarita Handa, a Haryana-based company that was exhibiting bed linens, decorative accessories and table linens.

"China's designs may be good but Indian products are a lot more embellished and eye-catching," Hira said. But he cautioned against complacency. "We still have a lot of work to do".

Dharmesh Shah, export executive of Amber Textiles Corp., of Mumbai, did not see his business threatened by China.

"This is because China's polyester towels are generally of low-end quality and are also inferior in terms of designs and colours," Shah contended.

But he felt that South Korea was a major competitor in the global supply of polyester towels. India, he said, should brace for more sophisticated fashionable and value-added products in keeping with the global trend.

Compared to the 2003 event, when the mood of many exhibitors was soured because of fear of the Iraq war, this year's show produced a "feel good" atmosphere amongst Indians, most of whom claimed they had received good orders and "solid" business enquiries.

Sanjay Bajaj, marketing manager of Bharat Silks of Bangalore, which manufactures cotton and silk fabrics and made-ups, was equally upbeat about competing in the post-2005 quota-free global trade.

"We are pinning our hopes on quality and designs. India's strengths are colours and designs. Indians are good at customizing their products according to the needs of the customers, which is not always the case with the Chinese. Also, India has a long tradition in manufacturing fabrics," Bajaj said.

The value of India's total textile exports during the 2002-03 fiscal year amounted to US$ 12.502 billion, according to the Indian Ministry of Textiles. This figure includes the value of handloom exports amounting to US$ 1.044 billion.

K. Shanmugam, the executive director of the Handloom Export Promotion Council, Chennai, told IANS that his organisation helped small and medium-sized Indian companies in participating in the Heimtextil show because this is the "leading event of the industry and it provides them with good market access through exposure to buyers from all over the world".

He said that the "bestsellers" from India's handloom industry included curtains, bedspreads, cushions and table linens.

Shanmugam said that China, unlike India, did not have a large handloom base whose backbone was made up by four million handloom-producing units. "We are not worried by the Chinese competition even after 2005," he added.

Pakistan's Shahazad Siddique (Pvt.) Ltd., a Faisalabad-based company manufacturing bed, bath and home textiles, claimed that it had received good business at the show.

Its CEO Siddique Chaudhary told IANS that the global trend in home-textile manufacturing "is moving towards Pakistan" because it offered cheap labour".

"India, Pakistan and China are all equals in the race and I think the post-2005 quota-free era will be a testing time for all three players," he predicted.

While emphasizing that he was giving his "personal view", he said that there should be no borders between India and Pakistan.

"There should be free trade between the two. Both countries should invest money in development and eradication of poverty," he said. Other Pakistani exhibitors present at the Frankfurt event also echoed Chaudhury's views.

Source: IANS
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