Mr. Premal Udani, a well-known name in the field of apparel & textiles in India, holds the prestigious position as a Chairman of Apparel Made-ups & Home Furnishing Sector Skill Council (AMH SSC), Government of India. He is often consulted by government of India on various matters of trade policies.
Mr. Premal Udani is an Expert in the Apparel and Textiles industry. He is the Managing Director of Kaytee Corporation Pvt. Ltd, one of the oldest and amongst the topmost Garment Manufacturing Companies in the country. Kaytee Corporation Pvt. Ltd. has been the winner of over 50 awards for outstanding work in both Exports and Domestic segments of the industry.
Mr. Udani comes at the helm of AMHSSC, as Chairman, with over 38 years of vast experience in the Apparel & Textile Industry. He is currently also Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Clothing Manufacturers of India (CMAI) and Member of the Board of Directors, Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) since 1987. He is the founding member of the India Knit fair Association and was appointed by the Government of Gujarat for special projects pertaining to Apparel Industries. He has been on the Board of major trade associations such as the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI), to name a few. Currently, Mr. Udani is also the President of Cricket Club of India, Mumbai (CCI) – a Premier Sporting Institution in the country.
Q How and when did you commence your journey in the Apparel Sector?
I started my journey in the Apparel Sector about 40 years ago. My family was involved in yarn and fabric manufacturing and export. By way of expansion, I decided to branch out into apparel manufacturing more particularly knitted garments.
Q How has the industry and level of competition changed over the past decades?
The Apparel exports were governed by multifibreAgreement[ MFA] from the mid 1970’s all the way up to 2005. Thus the principle markets of Exports i.e US, Canada and the European Union were tightly regulated by quota’s. Competition was less, as quota was king. This went on all the way up to 1st Jan 2005, when the quota regime finally disappeared.
During the Post Quota regime, competition has been cut throat and intense. Only those Exporters who either have necessary scale and skill sets have managed to survive and many of them have done very well. Unit value realisation per garment has steadily declined, as not only internal competition between Exporters, but external competition between countries has been intense.
In the past 15 years of the quota regime, India’s growth in apparel exports has not lived up to the expectations. Smaller countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia are today ahead of India in apparel exports. Government has announced various policies from time to time to boost apparel exports.
Q As a part of the apparel industry of India for almost 40 years now, which government policies do you think have worked best for boosting production and exports?
In order to promote apparel industry, Government has announced various policies from time to time . I believe the policies with regard to refund of all taxes in the system i.e dynamic rates of duty drawback as well as ROCTL/MIES, etc have helped the industry. Skill India initiatives is also a major policy pronouncement. This initiative will train millions of workers in the skill sets required for garment manufacturing.
Q What are the challenges that the industry today is facing from abroad as well as internally?
Challenges faced by the Industry.
- Lack of availability of skilled labour (This is being addressed by the Skill India initiative).
- Non-refund of all taxes paid while exporting garments.
- Export of raw materials such as Cotton and Yarn. This needs to be discouraged and Job creating and value-added products such as apparel and made-ups should be encouraged.
- Favourable terms of trade granted to countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, etc.
- Low cost of production in those countries.
- Economies of scale as many of these countries have very large factories.on-conclusion of FTA’s with EU and other such blocks.
Q What kind of higher education courses are available for students, desirous of joining this industry?
Earlier the skilling ecosystem was limited to a few bigger institutions, like NIFT and Pearl Academy etc which had limited capacity. Moreover, for the middle level supervisory roles literally no courses used to be available. This was creating double problems for the ecosystem, whereby on one hand lesser youth could get educated and employed and on the other hand the industry was also deprived of getting skilled middle management personnel.
With the spread of ‘Skill India’ mission of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, this void could be filled to a great extent. Now, many Short Term Training (STT) trainings are available under the Apparel, Made-Ups and Home Furnishing Sector Skill Council, like Fashion Designer, Asst Fashion Designer, Merchandiser, Compliance Manager, Boutique Manager etc where the urban youth can undergo skill courses which are connected with sure jobs. This way, while the urban youth can undergo aspirational courses, the industry also has started getting skilled manpower at the Managerial and Supervisory level. Students also have choice to undergo B.Voc and M.Voc courses in the universities. This is a sea change in the higher education in Apparel sector.
Q Are Research and Entrepreneurship imbibed as a part of education and training?
In all the Training under STT stream of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), entrepreneurship model is imbibed. In fact there are some courses for rural, as well as urban youth, such as Boutique Manager for the urban youth and Self Employed Tailor for the rural youth which actually promote Entrepreneurship. Lacs of youth, after undergoing these courses, have started their own boutiques or Tailoring shops in the country. AMH SSC continuously thrives to boast entrepreneurship in the country by offering these courses to the urban, as well as the rural youth of the country.
Q Could you please throw light on the qualities which recruiters look for during campus selections for various roles in the apparel industry?
The apparel industry, unlike many other industries, like IT or Telecom etc, has not yet got institutionalized and around 90% of it still gets operated by the Unorganised sector. However, in the past two decades, the number of organized players also has grown tremendously. The main traits in the candidates which are seen by the recruiters remain related past experience, knowledge of apparel industry and its processes, better communication abilities so as to supervise the manpower and above all knowledge of technicalities of apparel production. Many big export houses have started conducting Campus interviews in institutions, like NIFT, Pearl, ATDC etc.
Q You assist many government boards for the apparel industry. What steps do you think has the government taken to boost the traditional techniques in apparel?
India’s traditional apparel sector/ handicraft sector is unique. Government plays a very active role in supporting the artisans involved in the traditional apparel-making process. Challenge is to scale them so that they can become an important resource of fabric to the apparel exporting community.
Q How has the pandemic impacted apparel manufacturers and traders?
The Pandemic has brought its own set of challenges for the apparel manufacturers and traders. Initially the 1st lockdown in India was severe. This led to massive cancellation of overseas orders resulting in great hardships for the small entrepreneurs and the workers.
The Industry retooled in manufacturing of PPE kits, masks and other apparel used in the medical field. Post-September 2020 when the lockdown eased down, many countries in Europe went through second lockdown. This further impacted market. Just when Europe and USA reopened, situation in India with the 2nd wave of the pandemic is getting extremely worrisome. We hope that this crisis will be managed and that there will be no major lockdown which will once again affect both lives and livelihood, etc.
Q Lastly, what’s your message to students at large for building a lucrative career?
My message to the students of India is simple. They must realise that while the Education era was and is important for the country, it’s now Skilling Era. Education alone doesn’t guarantee a job in India, whereas, Skilling courses do guarantee a steady job immediately on completion of the courses. Moreover, scores of Self-employment opportunities await our youth. We recently came across two female students from Lucknow. We had met them in a Job Fair in Kanpur, when they were asked that whether they had got job after completion of STT course under AMH SSC. Both smiled and told us that instead of they doing Job, they have opened respective Boutiques and both employ 6-7 persons each. This is my message to the Indian youth. Skilling is no more an alternative stream which is to be followed, if we don’t get admission in Education Stream. Lacs of youth are attaining skilling trainings and are getting employed or starting their own businesses.