India’s clarion call to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was so widely heeded that the country went from nowhere-on-the-scene to world No. 2 in a matter of months. And why not? PPE was the only thing being factory-produced at a mass scale in the past four months.

While the lockdown dealt a crushing blow to the industry with many workers returning home, the industry started working albeit at a very slow pace with unlock-1 being announced. Things have started looking up slightly after the partial opening up of the country.

Even as the lockdowns ease up now, supply chain disruption in processing of yarn has cast a shadow. Now, we have to get the migrant workers back. Though local workers are available in each state, the sector is heavily dependent on the migrant workers from Bihar, Odisha and UP. To get new workers, train them and get the production up and running is a time consuming process. Once activities pick up in the processing hubs such as Surat and Ahmedabad, things will improve.

In such a scenario, if there is one sector in the country that is ‘Atmanirbhar’ or ‘self-reliant’, it is textiles. Unlike Bangladesh and Vietnam or for that matter China, which are dominating the global textile market, India has abundant supply of raw material. It is the second largest producer of man-made fibres — polyester and viscose. Labour availability is plenty and, most importantly, a strong domestic market exists.

The larger vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is to build capacity for manufacturers in India to dominate the global market. While pursuing such a policy will, no doubt, boost the country’s manufacturing and exports, the government should not lose sight of sectors which are already self-reliant and can, with a little help, play a larger role in the global market.

It is about tapping the textile sector that is already self-sufficient and capable of dominating the global market. The anti-China sentiment will also benefit us. So, hopefully things will get better soon.

Dhirubhai Shah, Chairman,

Shahlon Silk Industries Ltd