The Lankan Apparel Odyssey
A lowdown on the Lankan apparel scene
While browsing the high streets of Colombo, you are bound to come across the top names of global fashion playing level field with the high priests and priestesses of Sri Lankan fashion and apparel such as Odel, Barefoot, Dilly and Carlo and so on and the journey to this stage has surely been an interesting one.
A BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF THE JOURNEY OF THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY
The 1980s witnessed the gradual growth of Sri Lankan shores as an alternative avenue to India. This was primarily on account of its trade and investment friendly policies, as also the open economic policy that the country adopted. In 1985, the breakthrough came in the form of Martin Trust, a pioneer in ‘speed sourcing’ for the American Fashion retail sector forging relations with Sri Lankan companies. In the years 1986-87, the Trust formed partnerships with the Omar Group and the Amalean Group to import knowledge and technology into the Sri Lankan textile space, thereby taking the calibre of production in the country considerably higher.The Multi-Fibre Agreement proved to be the perfect foil for Sri Lanka to position itself as the Asian garment hub of the 90s.With the end of Multi-fibre Agreement regime in 2004, however, the textile industry began to lag behind China and Bangladesh. By then, the strife was at its peak. With the end of the strife in 2009 and the new government coming to power, the sector is once again witnessing a boom. *Source : 2013 report by Chelina Capital Corporation, Sri Lanka
THE 1980s WITNESSED THE GRADUAL GROWTH OF SRI LANKAN SHORES AS AN ALTERNATE AVENUE TO INDIA.
David Trust’s role in maximising the opportunities held forth in Sri Lanka in the garment industry is widely recognised in the moniker he earned as ‘Father of Lanka’s Apparel Industry.’ In 1994, he was conferred with the title of ‘Ranjana’ by the Government of Sri Lanka. His interest in the country was clearly one of the milestones for the industry and this story of leadership, despite several twists and turns in the tale, continues. According to the data provided by the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters’ Association, the value of exports for the month of August 2014 alone is US$ 244.1 million, and for the duration of January – August has been US$ 1,701.2 million. MAS Holdings, Brandix, Hirdaramani Group and Jay Jay Mills Groups are some of the key players of this segment who have been at the top in this highly competitive sector.
COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES ENJOYED BY SRI LANKA
Mohan Perera of Chelina Capital Corporation, an investment advisory company based in Sri Lanka, recently published a report on the apparel industry of the country. At the base are some natural advantages such as Colombo being ranked the best port in South Asia by Lloyd’s register and now experienced cargo and courier operators such as DHL and Evergreen have set up operations here too. The country also boasts of well-developed and fully serviced industrial estates at competitive costs within 30-50 kms distance from the port/airport. Thus, the cargo can be sent to the port and shipped within 24 hours.
Sri Lanka is a source of ready supply of raw materials with an expanding resource base. The country is seeing investments in state-of-the-art technology equipped textile mills, finishing plants and accessory manufacturing industries to cater to an ever-increasing demand. In spite of being a labourintensive industry traditionally, modern technology is being infused to enhance efficiency.
Sri Lanka also enjoys the distinct advantage of a young and educated workforce. With 50 per cent of the 19.6 million population being under the age of 25 years and with high proficiency in English (second best in Asia), human capital is evidently a huge benefit the industry enjoys.