FACE TO FACE
HKL Magu, Chairman AEPC Highlights Biggest Concerns For Apparel Industry
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