Government has sought help from India Inc. in production of Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) frontline medical personnel need in wake of coronavirus outbreak.
Business Today reached out to Arvind Mills, one of India's largest apparel manufacturer and a $1.7 billion conglomerate, which has been approached by the government.
"We have to do whatever we can in this effort," says Punit Lalbhai, executive director at Arvind Mills, who leads Arvind's Advanced Materials and Engineering unit.
"We will be making protective coveralls - protective gowns that protect the body. We are also making some masks, which are not N-95. We do not have the appropriate machinery for N-95 masks. But these will be masks that can be used by essential service workers and not the frontline workers. For frontline workers we are only making the coveralls," he adds.
Arvind Mills will be starting the production as early as next week.
"There will be small supplies and it will take two to three weeks to ramp up to the fullest capacity of the machines that we have. These require specialised machines and there are not many such machines available. We have procured as many as were available and the raw material is just starting to come in. It was taking time but the government is moving mountains to facilitate this. By next week we should be able to do 1,000 per day and hopefully with the new machinery coming in we might be able to go to 2,000 per day and we are working with the health ministry to adopt design changes or alternatives that can help ramp up the production even further."
The company was keen to help in whatever way possible, so it took up the government's offer to produce these items, according to Lalbhai.
"Raw material has started coming as have some of the machines required for this," he adds.
Even though he is not sure of the total demand, he feels it could be huge and "run in into lakhs." However, there are constraints to the production process as machines are not easily available.
"Right now the focus is on making these body suits that will protect the frontline workers from exposure. There are a lot of constraints as this is not a regular product category for us and we are adapting our existing infrastructure to try and do this," he says.
He adds: "In normal times the challenge could be easily overcome but in this scenario those machines are not easily available."
In fact, this is a product category where India was dependent upon China, he reveals.
China was supplying in such a cost-effective manner that very few saw any incentive in manufacturing it in India, he says.