The Covid-19 pandemic has cut the Indian textile and fashion industry into bits and pieces. While the export orders from the key markets- the US and UK started to dwindle since the beginning of the year, domestic sales were also badly hit by demand sluggishness and closure of retail showrooms across the country due to the lockdown.
But disruption is not something new to the fashion industry which needs to keep itself abreast with ever changing consumers tastes and preferences. With face masks becoming an inseparable accessory, the textile industry is crafting a special place for itself in the global fashion mask industry.
“Suddenly this (mask manufacturing) has come as a great opportunity for the industry, as a different product line, at this moment of crisis,” Ram Bhatnagar, Vice President and Head – Sales, Raymond Ltd. said adding, “nobody could have ever imagined about this segment from a fashion perspective.”
Raymond, known for its world-class suiting and fabrics, is producing a suite of safety products which includes disposable and reusable masks, PPEs and gloves under its ‘Complete Care’ initiative.
Estimating the market size for masks at around ₹10,000-12,000 crore, Bhatnagar said a bulk of this market is going to be for ‘fashion masks’ while the remaining will comprise of medical/surgical masks.
Creative minds never stop
Leading textile and fashion brands such as Shoppers Stop, Fabindia, VIP Clothing, Zodiac, and Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail brands such as Peter England, Allen Solly, Louis Phillipe and Van Heusen have all come up with creative designer masks to match with their collections.
The textile industry is gearing up and making variety of masks as people are increasingly becoming safety conscious and are seen wearing face masks as they step out, Prabhu Damodaran, Convenor of Indian Texpreneurs Federation (ITF) said adding that, “already around 75 of our member companies have started mask manufacturing.”
He also added that selling through retail stores and online channels are the two big opportunities for the industry in the domestic market.
Akhil Duggar Jain, Executive Director of Ludhiana-based fashion brand ‘Madame’, said that, while the production has been down by 30 to 35 per cent, the company is scaling up mask production and intends to produce and sell 40,000 masks in the next one quarter.
With mask consumption becoming a new normal across the world, the industry is seeing an even big opportunity in the exports market. A recent amendment to the mask export policy by the Centre, allowing export of non-surgical/non-medical masks, also came as a short in the arm for the industry, which lost close to ₹2,400 crore of summer exports due to the lockdown.
“We have 1,500 companies doing direct exports. All the companies, which have foreign contracts, are now required to produce masks because the buyer will ask for masks along with the garment order and this is the new normal,” Raja Shanmugam, President, Tirupur Exporters’ Association (TEA) said.
Tirupur, which is one of the largest textile manufacturing clusters in India, was worst hit by the pandemic as overseas orders came down crashing ever since the virus outbreak.
“In the first instance there will be a huge surge in mask requirement across the world and If India was able to grab a major share of mask requirements then that would be additional revenue,” Shanmugam said.
He also added that if India was able to export 300 crore masks then it would fetch and export revenue of $1 billion.
ITF’s Damodaran also said that, if things are going in the same way and all exporters in India gear up on this particular front, the country could see an export revenue of ₹2,000-3,000 crore within this year.
Not just textile manufacturers, even home tailors, lifestyle brands and fashion designers are cashing on the rising demand for fashionable face masks.
“There is going to be a huge market size. A large number of fashion companies will be involved in mask manufacturing and of course a huge play is going to be from the unorganised sector because every common man is going to wear that,” Raymond’s Bhatnagar said.
“Brands have to prioritise which segment they have to play depending on the distribution they have and how the brands are perceived in the market,” he added.