Manpower shortage a challenge to ramp up textile production: Gokaldas MD

The company has most of its facilities in Karnataka and the state allowed to operate with capacity capped at 50 per cent
Getting adequate manpower to ramp up production to meet the demand is one of the major challenges the textile industry is facing, said Sivaramakrishnan Ganapathi, managing director of India’s largest apparel exporter, Gokaldas.

More than 50 per cent of the first quarter is lost from a production standpoint, but the company is hoping that it would be able to resume 100 per cent operations by June.

"The challenge started even before the nation-wide lockdown, as the textiles and apparels got impacted when coronavirus affected China, and the availability of a lot of raw materials coming from China was disrupted," he said.

The industry managed the issue in January and February, but then global markets started shutting down, and from raw material uncertainty it went to demand uncertainty. 

"We are now struggling to serve the orders we have. We are struggling to get workers, as there is no public transport. If we don't deliver the orders people may shift back to Indonesia or Vietnam, wherever there is capacity. We want to start operating more and get back to normal production", he said.

The company has most of its facilities in Karnataka and the state allowed to operate with capacity capped at 50 per cent. 

For the first quarter, the company could not operate in April and has been operating at half or less than half the capacity since then as it has only 40 per cent of the workforce. More than 50 per cent of the first quarter is lost from a production standpoint, while order book has suffered 25-30 per cent hit. 

The company is dependent mostly on local labour, but even then it is facing challenges to bring the required number of workers back to work. The local labourers might have gone back to their villages, and getting them back to work is a challenge. The company is working with the Karnataka government for passes to bring them back to Bengaluru.

"We are in the assumption that we will be able to operate at 100 per cent capacity in June", he added.

The company has worked with the Government of Karnataka to develop a detailed protocol for safety, sanitisation and people protection in the factory. From the biometric attendance registry, now it has moved to manual entry and is currently working on a QR Code on the employees' ID card. 

Temperature checks and hands sanitisation have been made mandatory at the entry of the factory. The work stations are swapped every few hours; bathrooms are being cleaned every two hours; even the canteen has social distancing norms in place.

Internally, in the factory it has set up a committee which has overriding power over the operations, if there is some violation in the protocol. 

In apparel, countries like Vietnam and Indonesia never stopped production despite the Covid-19 outbreak, while Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka went through a lockdown situation.

While India has the potential to develop backward integrated high-quality fabric raw material as well by either attracting international players to set up shop in India or through Indian investors, it is a capital intensive business and there is a lot of work required to be done by the government and the industry. For the company, about 30 per cent is the import content now.


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