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HKL Magu, Chair­man AEPC High­lights Big­gest Con­cerns For Ap­parel In­dus­try

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The newly elected Chair­man of AEPC, HKL Magu is not only sharp and fo­cussed, but also ag­gres­sive and clear as to what he wants to achieve for the in­dus­try and AEPC in the up­com­ing two years un­der his chair­man­ship. While his ex­pe­ri­ence of more than 40 years in the ap­parel in­dus­try is def­i­nitely a bonus, his hum­ble na­ture and net­work­ing is an as­set. In his first in­ter­view af­ter be­com­ing Chair­man, he shared a de­tailed road map of what and how things will change in due course of time. “At the out­set, I strongly be­lieve that we need to digi­tise all ac­tiv­i­ties in AEPC and in­dus­try as it is the short­est and most con­ve­nient source to progress rapidly,” he said.

He feels that the dig­i­tal phase can be highly use­ful for the ben­e­fit of AEPC, its mem­bers and the in­dus­try at large. “Faster in­for­ma­tion flow, bet­ter ac­cess to in­no­va­tions, mar­ket reach, prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, trans­parency, up­dates on new Gov­ern­ment poli­cies, ev­ery­thing is now just a click away and we want to at­tain all these by mov­ing to­wards digi­ti­sa­tion.”

AEPC, which hosts a huge net­work of gar­ment ex­porters, stores a lot of rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion, which, if used wisely, can turn the in­dus­try around. He shared that AEPC has al­ways be­lieved in sup­port­ing the trade and traders and that a lot of small is­sues and prob­lems can to­day be re­solved on­line.

“We need to cre­ate aware­ness as AEPC has a lot of schemes which are an­nounced mid –term; for in­stance, tex­tile poli­cies and for­eign poli­cies, and they do not reach ev­ery­one,” in­formed Magu. “The pack­age of Rs 6,000 cr which was given by the Gov­ern­ment could not be utilised fully as peo­ple were not com­pletely up­dated about it; we def­i­nitely need to work on this as­pect,” he con­tin­ued.

He quoted the ex­am­ple of Gu­jarat, which is one of the big­gest clus­ters for weav­ing and has mas­sive fab­ric pro­duc­tion; how­ever, it is not ex­port­ing gar­ments. “AEPC has re­cently started an of­fice in Ahmed­abad with a vi­sion to en­hance ex­ports; we will be keep­ing peo­ple there on a per­ma­nent ba­sis so that they can de­vote time and re­sources to in­crease ex­ports from Ahmed­abad,” re­vealed Magu.

The ap­parel in­dus­try is go­ing through a tough phase as the last two years, which went by saw some of the big­gest changes in In­dian trade. Post GST chal­lenges are still hov­er­ing over the in­dus­try as many ex­porters are wait­ing for due re­turns on paid GST which has blocked their cash flow. “The com­ing times could be even more dif­fi­cult as the Gov­ern­ment might take away the sub­si­dies also. They might come up with new poli­cies so we have to gear up for every sit­u­a­tion,” he cau­tioned.

Re­it­er­at­ing that the in­dus­try is go­ing through chal­leng­ing times and an­tic­i­pat­ing that it might get even tougher in the days ahead, the Chair­man has dis­cussed a few meth­ods with the Gov­ern­ment to tackle the sit­u­a­tion.

“One way is to tap new mar­kets like the South Amer­i­can mar­ket, which has a lot of po­ten­tial and is still un­ex­plored,” he high­lighted. He also men­tioned that AEPC has re­quested the Gov­ern­ment to in­crease Mer­chan­dise Ex­ports from In­dia Scheme (MEIS) funds so that more buyer seller meets in such coun­tries can be or­gan­ised and trade op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­plored. Magu in­formed that along with this strat­egy, AEPC is try­ing to in­volve buy­ing agents in In­dia to be­come part of the coun­cil as they can sup­port in­crease in busi­ness. A num­ber of is­sues can be dis­cussed to­gether and new al­ter­na­tives to prob­lems can be ex­plored and worked upon.

Shar­ing his views about the macro prob­lems which our in­dus­try has been suf­fer­ing for a long time, Magu stated, “The Gov­ern­ment has, no doubt, worked on many ar­eas like grow­ing trade from clus­ters like Jhark­hand, Ra­jasthan, Kolkata, Ma­ha­rash­tra and the re­cent en­trant UP, but in­fra­struc­ture, con­nec­tiv­ity by road and lo­gis­tics have been an is­sue of con­cern for many years.”

He ex­pressed that the in­dus­try can work with­out sub­sides and also go and set up fac­to­ries in any part of the coun­try but the prob­lems re­lated to in­fra­struc­ture and con­nec­tiv­ity has al­ways been a big chal­lenge and has­sle. High­ways, roads, trans­porta­tion of goods, cus­toms clear­ance, all these ar­eas need a lot of im­prove­ment as to­day also, every ex­porter faces huge losses if a ship­ment is de­layed. “Even though ports and air­ports have 24x7 cus­tom pro­vi­sion for clear­ance, it is not hap­pen­ing round the clock even af­ter mak­ing so many re­quests,” he di­vulged.

The Chair­man feels that the gar­ment in­dus­try is time driven and each and every sec­ond counts. “We need lib­eral Exim poli­cies wherein we can get re­funds or com­pen­sa­tion as early as pos­si­ble, and, more im­por­tantly, with­out the need to go to many doors for ap­proval,” he added.

In con­clu­sion, he em­pha­sised the fact that with sup­port and ben­e­fits go­ing out, the in­dus­try has to man­age and work in the best pos­si­ble man­ner to at­tain high qual­ity, in­no­va­tive prod­ucts and on time de­liv­er­ies. “We have to com­pete with coun­tries like Ger­many and Italy now, so our man­u­fac­tur­ing strengths and brand im­age of the coun­try has to be im­proved ac­cord­ingly and we, as a coun­cil, will not leave any stone un­touched to achieve the same.”

Gar­ment in­dus­try can be es­tab­lished in any clus­ter or the most re­mote part of the coun­try. This is the only sec­tor which can give em­ploy­ment to a large num­ber of peo­ple and em­ploy any new learner with just five days of train­ing; but lack of in­fra­struc­ture and con­nec­tiv­ity in the coun­try is the prob­lem we need to ad­dress.

Faster in­for­ma­tion flow, bet­ter ac­cess to in­no­va­tions, mar­ket reach, prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, trans­parency, up­dates on new Gov­ern­ment poli­cies, ev­ery­thing is now just a click away and we want to at­tain all these by mov­ing to­wards digi­ti­sa­tion.

HKL Magu, Chair­man, AEPC

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