Noida's apparel exporters are seeing lost orders from the US and Europe trickle in again with the western nations slowly opening up after bringing the pandemic under control and international buyers gaining confidence with some restrictions easing in India as well.
"Multinational clothing retailers such as Sweden's H&M, Britain's Marks & Spencer, Spain's Zara and a lot of US apparel importers have placed orders again. International buyers had moved 10-15% of the orders to other countries. Now, orders are coming back," said Noida Apparel Exporters Cluster president (NAEC) Lalit Thukral.
Noida, which has around 3,000 apparel manufacturing units, is one of the most prominent apparel centres in the country with the tag of 'town of export excellence' given to it by the Centre. Of the over Rs 1.13 lakh crore garments exported from India, Noida accounted for about Rs 25,000 crore pre-pandemic.
"Europe and the US have opened to an extent now. Their citizens are getting vaccinated, and sales are going up. So, they need stocks. Besides, with things improving in India, too, the buyers are also confident that we can meet the order targets," said Thukral.
Europe and the US are India's biggest markets for India's garment exports. The pandemic swallowed up several jobs in the multi-million dollar garment manufacturing industry, which employs at least 12 million people, as several factories fell silent last year.
Unlike other apparel export hubs like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, factories were allowed to function in Uttar Pradesh (of which Noida is a part of). But NAEC had flagged that they were facing a labour shortage because many workers had gone back to their villages due to the Covid crisis and a local panchayat election. This also meant that buyers from the US and Europe were shifting orders from India to Bangladesh and Vietnam over concern that Indian units won't be able to meet targets.
"Now, some of the workers have started returning and we are ready to complete orders and supply to our buyers. There are still some hassles in sourcing accessories, but that should improve in another 10 days or so, too," said Thukral.
Although India doesn't offer the cheapest labour compared to Bangladesh, Vietnam or China, we still have a competitive edge in terms of embroideries, fabrics and a lot of different prints, he added. "Besides, we have our own textile and yarn manufacturing hubs here. Other exporters buy fabrics from other countries to make their garments," said Thukral.
He said the cluster was working with Apollo, Metro, Kailash and Fortis hospitals to organise Covid vaccination for its workers.
The industry, which is largely made up of MSMEs, has been one of the worst hit due to the pandemic. Industry insiders say they have got no benefits in the Rs 24.35 lakh crore stimulus package announced by the government last year to revive the economy.