M. Gunasekaran

As the knitwear industry grows by leaps and bounds, the focus is on workers' amenities

TIRUPUR: Except for a few dyers who got caught in an environmental tangle, all others in this hosiery town are on expansion mode. As the knitwear industry grew by leaps and bounds in the quota-free textiles era, it is exactly a time of transition for all from one stage to the next with technological advancement.

Though expansions are not a new thing for Tirupur, the striking difference from the past is the attention given to amenities to the workforce at the work place. Another important feature is the vertical integration to have all production facilities under one roof by putting up huge factories.

``This small town saw construction of more than 40 factories with each one having a lakh sq ft built-up area in all directions of Tirupur in the last couple of years. And another 20-30 factories in this scale are coming up fast,'' said a leading civil engineer.

He attributes the change of mindset among the exporters to European buyers.

They, before placing orders, audit factories and personally verify facilities offered to the workers. A creche, dining hall, parking place and hostel for women have become the salient features for any garment factory here. State Bank of India, overseas branch, assistant general manager, R. Suresh Johnson, says all the 135 exporters whom the bank deals with are on expansion mode either on garmenting or backward integration.

M. Ravi, Managing Director of Network Clothing Company, who put up a massive factory recently, says having all operations under one roof was helping them in cutting transaction cost.

``Besides helping us to handle multiple customers and production planning, management has also become easier. With delivery schedules getting reduced sharply, having all the processes in one complex is good to adhere to the deadline and helps to control over production. Our buyers are all the more happy at seeing the scale of operation and their confidence level is increasing. Thus we get more customers and more orders,'' says Mr. Ravi.

Though Tirupur witnesses rapid expansion, the Tirupur Exporters' Association President, A. Sakthivel, felt this alone would not help them to take on China in a big way. Soon after his China visit, he said unless there was flexibility in labour laws, increased productivity and better infrastructure, Indian garment industry's survival would be at stake. Compelled by the problem of labour shortage and scarce land availability in this congested town, those who want to expand their base are putting up their garment factories outside the town, even 30 to 40 km away.

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