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Accelerating Competitiveness In Post-COVID World

ICAHT 2021: Accelerating Competitiveness In Post-COVID World

By Nitish Varshney, Apparel Resources



ICAHT 2021The 16th International Conference on Apparel & Home Textiles (ICAHT-2021) of Okhla Garment & Textile Cluster (OGTC) was held in virtual mode on 12th November 2021. Mr. R.C. Kesar, Director General, OGTC welcomed the delegates and speakers by stating that competitiveness in the post covid scenario necessitated different solutions. He further highlighted that new opportunities provide a window to OGTC Members to explore further growth in which HR will play a crucial role.

ICAHT 2021Mr. PMS Uppal, President, OGTC while delivering his keynote address highlighted the strengths of OGTC brought about through the resolve of co-operation and coordination amongst the members to grow together. Presently the market share of China is declining but while viewing it in the context of India it is seen that the advantage of their declining market share is being taken by Bangladesh, Cambodia & Vietnam; this needs to be evaluated. We need to not only strengthen our supply chain but also address the importance of HR to value add.

Challenges, he added, need to be faced by handholding and expressed confidence that the members can build a better future by co-operation and coordination. He stated that the subjects for the conference and speakers have been very carefully selected and expressed hope that all delegates will highly benefit from the quality of presentations during the conference.

ICAHT 2021Mr. Prashant Agarwal, Jt. Managing Director, Wazir Advisors presented the Theme of the conference “Accelerating Competitiveness in Post Covid World”. Mr. Agarwal analysed the impact of covid on global apparel market and predicted that India and China will be the best performing markets in the next 5 years. The global apparel consumption which fell to US $1.31 trillion in 2020 from 1.6 trillion in 2019 is expected to recover and touch US $2 trillion by 2025.

There were major aberrations in the apparel supply chain like disruptions due to the border closure and resultant container shortages causing abnormal increase in freight, increase in prices of raw material etc.; these caused uncertainties in the ecosystem which will take some more time to recover. The post covid has seen a fast growth in casual wear category; there was a discernible increaseof nearly 28% in 2020 in US clothing & accessories e-commerce sales; we can thus assume that in future both online and offline sales in retail will exist.

China global exports share is reducing; in the last 5 years it has reduced from 39% to 34%. The recent Xinjiang cotton ban by USA has caused buyers migration but manufacturers in China are preferring imported cotton fibre and yarn to circumvent the problem.

Mr. Prashant shared that sustainability is taking the centre stage and becoming more relevant and therefore brands and manufacturers are complying; it is an opportunity for industry to take lead and emerge as a winner in this field.

Digitisation is gaining its due importance in the current environment. The HUGO Boss production facility has networked machines, extended data analysis and flexible process which makes them the largest and most advanced high-tech factory in Turkey. Robotics and Automation have led to Techno labs. Industry needs to identify key levers like IoT, AI, Virtual Sampling etc. which will shape the textile industry in the future. Mr. Agarwal highlighted how to accelerate competitiveness through manufacturing excellence, skill upgradation and smart factory. He concluded by stating that the delegates will experience a flow of knowledge sharing on these topics in the sessions throughout the day.

Mr. Gunish Jain, MD, BlueKaktus chaired the first two sessions of the day. In the first session there were two presentations; the first presentation on “Mechanics for Future Ready Apparel Manufacturing” was made by Mr. Anuj George, Global Head of Zfactory, Zilingo.

ICAHT 2021During the presentation Mr. George analysed the basics of a factory of the future and how to identify the same. Identifying root cause of issues, strongly connected tools with stricter rules, real time insights on a single platform and production systems psyche anchored with the digital infrastructure are pointers to a factory of the future. Mr. Anuj further explained the road to fast track the journey with first analysing and gathering right data on management performance, machine utilisation, motion and cycle time measurement and thereafter identifying and narrowing the skill gaps while retaining the right people.

ICAHT 2021The next presentation was on “Sustainable Development Goals with focus on Circular Economy and Climate Change” by Ms. Dina Mehta, Consultant: Materials and Sustainability. The theme of the presentation centred on reducing carbon footprint and reinforcing sustainability; as per an estimate the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global emissions.

She recommended an approach to combine own efforts with others to achieve greater success, a commitment to reduce 2000 tons of carbon equivalent in next 3 years can be made. Most of the branded apparel customers like Nike are propagating ‘Zero Carbon & Zero Waste’ to help protect the future of sport. There is growing focus on Circular Economy in the European Union. There is a need for members to have a data driven approach to address impact of carbon footprint. Ms. Dina Mehta urged OGTC to collaborate on reduction of carbon footprint by making a sustainable target and commitment by member industry and thereafter sharing within the group for accelerated cumulative results.

In conclusion, she added that each industry should approach the need for sustainability by appreciating the importance it has for customers, one’s dependents and the legacy one wishes to leave behind.

Mr. PMS Uppal, President, OGTC and MD, M/s Pee Empro Exports chaired the next session of a panel discussion on “Growing Importance of role of Middle Management in Today’s Competitive Era”. The discussion was moderated by Mr. Prashant Agarwal, M/s Wazir Advisors with eminent panellists to include Prof. Chandan Chowdhury, Senior Associate Dean, ISB, Ms. Vasanthi Srinivasan, Professor, IIM, Bangalore, Mr. Sarbajit Ghose, Managing Director, Laguna Clothing LLP and Mr. Surender Jain, Business Director, Wazir Advisors.

Mr. Uppal highlighted the importance of the middle management as a vital link for the growth of the industry. Mr. Prashant moderated the discussion and welcomed the eminent panellists. He opined that a solution is still to come on how to resolve the ideal role, challenges, training needed to have a right mix of an ideal middle management.

ICAHT 2021Prof. Chandan Chowdhury outlined that the role of middle managers needs to change, the perception that they are only implementers will need to see a significant change wherein they should be seen to shoulder more responsibility along with the authority. As per his appreciation of future job roles in textile industry, 34% will be machine centric, 29.1% of jobs will be human centric while the remaining of 36.9% jobs will be hybrid mix of human and machine. Mr. Chandan categorised the generation as Baby Boomer (those born between 1946 & 1964), Gen X (born before the 80s), Gen Y (born between 1984 & 1996) and Gen Z (born after 1997); he added that managers need to change their strategy of engagement while interacting with each of the generation people.

The role of middle level managers will remain even more critical during the contactless environment. He concluded by stating that digital continuity across the value chain will be critical and digital knowledge will be a must for being globally competitive and therefore in such an environment the middle level manager role will be beyond just implementation.

ICAHT 2021Mr. Sarbajit focused on the ground realities related to management. The traditional supply chain has been fairly unreliable. However, majority of the industry is now looking forward to digitalization, quality control, efficient supply chain etc. to remain competitive. He cited an example of growth of his own factory wherein he had hired students from NIFT and developed a balanced middle level workforce of thinkers and leaders along with those experienced from the ranks.

Ownership and empowerment were stressed upon and special focus on Gen Y and Gen Z employees were nurtured which led to less attrition. In the changing world there is a need for talent which will work together. He concluded by stating that entrepreneurs should create a culture which helps fast growth in a professional atmosphere; a good mix of Gen Y & Gen Z with experienced talent is desirable.

ICAHT 2021Ms. Vasanthi felt that there is distinct categorisation even amongst middle managers with one playing a role of coordinator and the other as ‘link pins’ between the workers and top management. She opined that the entrepreneurs are now seeing people as assets instead of cost; this is more important in the labour-intensive garment industry. She analysed that skill shortage will continue to be a reality in the coming decades. With changes in technology and changed customer satisfaction, it needs to be seen as to what kind of people are needed in the organization and the processes we need to create along with aspirations of the people.

She concluded by stating that a study of the garment industry revealed that the large workforce at the lower & middle level do not visualise their growth to a senior manager level. We need to question whether our roles are created in a manner which can meet the aspirations of the people. In order to create a blend between technology and people, it is the middle manager who can play the pivotal role of identifying which jobs can be automated since they work closely with the processes.

ICAHT 2021Mr. Surender Jain stated that the importance to be given to training has declined over the years which has affected the skilling of the workforce. In any organization the role at each level needs to be clearly defined; the senior management should set up processes etc. while the floor / middle management should deliver. However, in this scenario we need to understand that expectations can be met only when due support by higher management is provided at the ground level. He opined that training is a specific process in which there is crying need to train middle managers across all streams both in technical and soft skills.

Mr. Jain concluded by stating that in the garment industry which has evolved over the decades, changing of mindsets of worker, supervisor and junior manager through training has to remain in focus to ensure a viable growth. During the discussion it also emerged that a cultural change in respecting each other’s jobs will be able to change the rigid mindsets of the worker.

Post lunch, the conference was divided into three parallel sessions on Finance, HR and Production, Merchandising & Sourcing.

ICAHT 2021The Finance session chaired by Mr. Amit Agarwal, MD, M/s Genus Apparels Ltd. had two presentations. He introduced the speaker and added that it is important for us to have knowledge about various schemes / subsidies being provided by respective governments so that the industry can take advantage of the same.

ICAHT 2021In the first presentation, Mr. Digvijay Singh, Jt. Dir, District MSME Centre, Faridabad outlined various financial schemes being promoted by Govt. of Haryana. The focus was on financial benefits / incentives schemes for MSMEs. The Freight Assistance Scheme, Market Development Assistance Scheme, Energy Conservation Scheme, Water Conservation Scheme, Assistance under ECGC Scheme and Employment Generation Subsidy Scheme were particularly relevant for the Textile & Apparel industry.

ICAHT 2021The second presentation was by Dr. Prabhu Aggarwal, Vice Chancellor, Bennett University, Greater Noida on “TOC Planning – It’s growing relevance”. Theory of Constraints (TOC) is about leveraging constraints in the system to cover lead time to increase capacity and make supply chain more efficient. Mr. Aggarwal explained that constraints are in our control and can be influenced upon since all complex systems are inherently simple, all problems have a win-win solution and all conflicts can be resolved. In an organisation it is almost impossible for an average employee to see the effect of any of his given action on ROI or net profit.

Dr. Aggarwal recommend use of Throughput, Investment and Operating Expenses as operational measures which could be used for measuring achievement of goals under the TOC framework. Throughput is rate at which contribution Rupees are coming into the organisation while Investment includes all money tied up.

The core idea in TOC is that every real system must have atleast one constraint that limits the system from achieving its goal. One needs to identify the weakest link in the organisation and strengthen it. In the TOC world, optimizing a subsystem would sub optimise the whole system. In conclusion, Dr. Prabhu outlined five steps for the process of ongoing improvement as Identifying the constraints, Deciding how to explore the constraint, Subordinating all decisions and procedure to exploit the constraint, Elevating the constraint and finally Avoiding inertia.

The second parallel session on HR was chaired by Mr. Anil Peshawari, MD, Meenu Creation LLP. He highlighted the growing importance of HR in the post covid environment. He stated that the apparel industry is set to grow particularly in the light of internal as well economic slowdown in China. The customers are looking towards India to fill the gap, our strength lies in Fibre to Garment availability. Thus, it is important that our HR assumes a bigger role wherein upskilling of workers and middle management is given due importance.  

The first presentation in this session on “Future of Skills: Role of HR in Industry 4.0” was made by Prof. Chandan Chowdhury, Senior Associate Dean, ISB, Hyderabad. He stated that today one is faced with a very demanding customer who is committed to sustainability, respects laws of the land as well as international norms and expects visibility in manufacturing & compliance processes. Over the last four decades, the employers are focusing on high value tasks while the repetitive tasks are reducing and therefore HR has to play a critical role for upskilling and creating awareness on digital technologies. An Industry 4.0 in the apparel segment needs to have a stronger customer centricity, more efficient production process and new marketing and business models.

The major takeaways from the presentation were: -

  • Digital continuity across the value chain will be critical in the contactless world.
  • Jobs should involve creativity / innovation lest we are replaced by robots.
  • Our factories and products will be increasingly smart leveraging IIOT and Cloud.
  • HR Heads need to prepare their employees for the future of skills in the apparel industry.

The second presentation titled “Contemporary HR in Post Covid Scenario” was made by Ms. Vasanthi Srinivasan, Professor, IIM, Bangalore.

ICAHT 2021Mr. Anil Peshawari, Session Chairman in his introductory remarks spoke of the highly uncertain period experienced by all during the covid; the gap between demand and supply chain has widened making it more difficult for the industry. He felt that in such times, the role of HR assumed greater relevance to be able to control the internal environment in the apparel industry where the largest raw material is human source.

Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan felt that the entrepreneur should seek more clarity rather than certainty in these uncertain times. She explained two perspectives about HR, one in people management by Line Managers and second in HRM done by HR Managers. Organisations need to prepare themselves on ways to function in the recovery mode after the pandemic is completely over. Today is an ideal time to shed the policies, practices and mindsets which could not be done in the pre pandemic era.

HR Managers need to add value to business otherwise they will become redundant soon. At the same time an entrepreneur should analyse the manner in which his organisation is able to emerge with resilience after the pandemic, if he so does, he could be termed as an Owner Entrepreneur. HR will need to reboot particularly since the large workforce which returned after a gap of year or so of no work is a workforce with a different drive and motivation. We need to reflect that the contemporary HR needs to shed some past practices and take bold decisions for a growth in mindsets in the post covid scenario. The four key areas which will need to be addressed are: -

  • Rethink on jobs / positions
  • Talent planning
  • Talent management
  • Talent development

In this scenario, career development is also the responsibility of the employee irrespective of the size of the organisation; an employee needs to self-manage by completing assigned work in given time frame, broadening personal skills, working on planning, punctuality, quality and reliability. As Managers we should define / assign work for others, coach, obtain feedback and problem solving as well as building social networks. In conclusion, she stated that as HR professionals we need to be innovative, have the urge to continuously learn from other organisations and regularly study why things are being done the way they are being done.

ICAHT 2021The third parallel session on Production, Merchandising and Sourcing was chaired by Mr. Animesh Saxena, MD, Neetee Apparel LLP. The session comprised of three presentations.

ICAHT 2021The first presentation by Mr. Ranjiv Kapur, COO, Triburg was on “Planning Criticality- Growing Relevance in the New Era”. He commenced by highlighting the reasons of growing criticality of planning in the new era. Planning improves profitability and deliverables; it also leads to becoming partners of choice of the Customers, Suppliers, Employees and Stakeholders. Mr. Kapur outlined factors that the planning helps like breaking the challenges / goals into smaller pieces, reveals strengths / weakness, reducing risk and improving decision making. In any planning process, operational goals need to be set followed by planning for Competitive Strategies which includes operational excellence, customer intimacy and product leadership.

Every planning needs to have measurable metrics to be spelt out on aspects like adding customers every month, On Time Delivery, Customer satisfaction, PAT, Customer retention and Quality. In conclusion he explained the five stages while designing a work system for planning to include Initial stage, Planning stage, Execution stage, Limitation stage and Relationship management.

ICAHT 2021The second presentation was on “Growing relevance of Technology in improving business in Post Covid Scenario” by Mr. Umesh Gaur, President-Asia, Tukatech. He stated that the traditional methods still adopted in pattern room, sewing room, cutting room etc. are not only inefficient but costly; he added that there is a need to adopt modern technology in competitive market. Use of CAD system for pattern making minimises processes.

A proper plan needs to be made at costing stage, fabric booking stage as well as production stage. The CAD technology helps in Pattern Making, Grading Marker making & 3D Sample making. Another module available is Design Editor where the garment need not be created, it can be visualised on a 3D from virtual assets. He concluded by recommending that technology should be used as an alternative which will fix many problems across all floors.

ICAHT 2021The third presentation was on “Sharing of Improvement / Achievement in respective factories”. Mr. Yogendra Kumar Shakya, AGM Industrial Engineering, M/s Pee Empro Exports Pvt. Ltd. presented best practices of his organisation in the fields of Real time info system, Training & Skill development, Process Validation and Tech evaluation, Centralised R&D, Centralised planning system, On time systems in cutting, sewing, finishing & packaging.

ICAHT 2021Mr. Ravi Prakash of M/s Wazir Advisors discussed a case study on Quick Change Over (QCO) model; the model aims to reduce style change over time by process re-engineering. Once implemented in a factory size of 750 machines with 24 changeovers per month it achieved an average efficiency by 42% in the first week resulting in saving of Rs. 28 lakhs in a month.

In the final session of the Conference, Mr. PMS Uppal, President, OGTC gave his concluding remarks by thanking the speakers for the immense knowledge shared with the delegates and also thanked the Conference Chairman as well as Team OGTC for conducting the conference in a very efficient manner. The subjects covered were all encompassing; today the need is to find solutions which has been effectively done by the speakers during the conference.

He added that it is now time to ‘walk the talk’ and assured that each subject will be appropriately taken forward at OGTC after discussion with the members so as to draw a road map for the next five years. He once again thanked all the speakers and the attendees for making the conference a huge success.

Mr. R.C. Kesar, Director General in his vote of thanks, thanked the speakers and the Session Chairmen for their professional contribution to the conference. He also thanked M/s Wazir Advisors and the faculty of Lady Irwin College for their support for the conduct of the conference. Thanks was also extended to OGTC Secretariat and Hubilo team for their support. Lastly, he thanked all delegates who attended the conference. A special gratitude was extended to M/s Radnik Exports for all the administrative help provided which made the conduct of the conference possible.



Date - To be Announced
Theme - To be Announced