Dr. Darlie .O. Koshy


Leading Economists opine that every less developed country in the world has passed or passes through a “T-shirt” manufacturing phase in the process of evolution from an Agrarian to Industrial economy.  India’s organised Garment export industry also entered the scene in the early 70s much like the other under-developed economies in the world while transforming herself as a “developed economy” since 1991.  The Apparel exports have grown to be US$ 14 billion industry since post 2005, with the withering away of quotas, though the industry has not grown as expected owing to a variety of reasons.  The domestic branded retail fashion industry has also grown to be more or less equal to the size of India’s apparel exports post economic liberalisation.  Both exports and domestic apparel sectors require State-of-art manufacturing facilities.

Richard Locke, Deputy Dean of M.I.T.’s Solan School of Management argues that our insatiable hunger for cheap clothing, in constantly changing styles has created a race to the bottom in which brands perpetually push suppliers for “faster delivery” and “lower prices”.  He argues that consumer needs to break that cycle by, well, buying less of the cheap, fast fashion in the stores.  This unfortunately is not really going to happen as we all know but what, in this context India as an exporting country needs to do is to move up in the fashion value chain for which Indian Apparel exports need to gear-up by producing higher value garments with more fashion content, while also making an effort to move away from just “summer” goods to more Fall and Winter including structured garments etc.  Similarly, we need to have highly skilled workforce with multi-tasking capabilities and higher productivity and efficiency levels.

In China, as reported in International Herald Tribune in January 2013, one of the largest factories in Yantai, a coastal city in Northeastern China called on the local government with a problem i.e. a shortage of 19,000 workers as the deadline for execution of an order approached.  The ‘Yantai’ officials came to the rescue, ordering all vocational high schools to send students undergoing training to the plants.  This is a lesson for India’s Vocational Training Providers and the officialdom to work with urgency in a collaborative mode to fill atleast the peak season requirements of Indian Apparel industry which in fact deals with perishable “fashion products”.  Apparel industry at the moment is facing similar acute shortage of labour force.  Many factories are now working MUCH less than their installed capacity despite favourable inflow of orders because of shortage of labour.

In any given year at least 8 million vocational students work on China Assembly Lines, with the minimum legal working age now at 16 years.  The concerned ministry in China have ordered vocational schools to fill any shortages in the workforce in China’s manufacturing plants.  India has to draw many lessons from this example if it has to protect and progress an industry like Apparel which create massive employment to rural folks especially women and youth aged between 18 to 45 i.e. really, no other manufacturing industry has the potential to create so many jobs.  With every Rs. 1 Cr. investment in plant and machinery, apparel industry creates about 400 jobs to the most needy sections of society.  Unfortunately, the policy makers have not been paying adequate attention to the potential of the apparel industry in mitigating unemployment and even anti-national movements like Naxalism etc. in certain pockets of the country.

With ATDC’s proactive efforts in the past 3 years through SMART FastTrack shopfloor workforce training programmes under the Integrated Skill Development Scheme (ISDS) of Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India, there has been visible improvement on the ground.  In 2010, when ATDC took the ambitious challenge of training 1,72,000 candidates in 5 years it looked a daunting task and there were many sceptics around.  Now having successfully trained over 52,000 candidates in the 2 year period of the pilot project of ISDS contributing to over 50% of entire Ministry of Textiles’ target, ATDC network has turned a new leaf in the journey of “Skilling India” and making the “mission” a movement by the involvement of many State Governments / Agencies / NGOs and leading political and other personalities.  This has catalysed investments in new apparel manufacturing facilities apart from rejuvenating languishing crafts in which over 10000 women have been trained.  If the Apparel industry decongests from metros and moves to where the workforce is available, there is huge opportunity to create “Apparel Economy” at work in many parts of India especially in the existing and new textile – apparel clusters. Going forward “skilling India” has been made that much more possible and achievable through the efforts of TEAM ATDC.

Many thanks to all those who have directly or indirectly contributed and continue to support this exciting and challenging journey.  The 2,50,000 target for training in next 4-5 years beckon the TEAM ATDC to put even more efforts with dedication and commitment.

(Dr. Darlie Koshy)

DG&CEO, IAM & ATDC (under the aegis of AEPC) (2009-Continuing)

Former Director, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad (2000-2009)