By Ravi Kishore
Telangana is the fourth largest producer of cotton in the country. Importantly, the cotton produced is the premium long staple variety. Currently, 17 lakh hectares is under cotton cultivation, yielding 70 lakh bales annually. However, only 7% of the cotton produced is ginned and spun in the 35 or so textile mills operating in the state. The rest of the cotton is shifted for processing and spinning to other states, including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat that have large mills.
This means that the state is unable to reap the benefits due to lack of modern processing and dyeing houses. Furthermore, inadequate water resources due to scanty rainfall and depleting groundwater coupled with irregular power supply are some of the other reasons.
Lack of infrastructure coupled with limited employment opportunities compelled Telangana’s youth to look outward for opportunities in neighbouring states in the country and outside. They seek employment in the textile and garment sectors in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, the UAE, Bangladesh, etc.
Not all is lost, as the state is seeking to improve the languishing textile and garment industry. During the past few years there has been an improvement in the groundwater levels, largely due to Mission Kakatiya, with many irrigation projects like Priyadarshini Jurala Project, Koilsagar, Kalwakurthy LIS and others. Many water bodies are created and old ones filled, resulting in increased surface water. At the same time, better management of power generation has made it possible to make electricity available without major interruptions.
Telangana state and specifically Hyderabad are strategically located. To further the advantage, the government has proposed to connect different districts to the capital through the “regional ring road”. This project will greatly improve connectivity, making accessibility by road and railway to the seaports on the west and east coasts easier.
Human factor is critical to the textile and garment industry, which is highly labour-intensive. It needs trained workforce. A sustained effort to develop human capital is essential for the industry to survive and thrive. Many schemes to encourage and support handlooms have been operating in the state such as Nethannaku Cheyutha, infrastructural support and Chenetha Mithra input subsidy scheme. These are aimed at the development of handloom clusters and weavers.
While handlooms help weavers directly, the weaving process is slow and the fabric output is small. As a result, handloom fabric is mostly used in traditional wear.
The readymade garment industry needs high quality and large quantity of fabric. For the readymade garment industry to thrive, mill-made fabric is essential. Barring a few mills like Sanghi Spinning Mills and Sanghi Textiles, and Suryalakshmi Mills, there are no major textile players in the state.
Encouraging investments in modern spinning and weaving mills by setting up textile clusters will multiply employment and also improve local consumption of high-quality cotton fibre. Textile clusters must include processing and dyeing houses as standalone units or composite mills. These clusters can be developed in and around districts that have sufficient water resources.
Thus the state can encourage handloom and powerloom sectors to offer greater choice to the readymade garment industry and this approach will complete the value chain, leading to increased employment, investment and state revenues. It is a fact that for every Rs 1 crore invested, nearly 100 jobs are created directly in sewing, finishing and packing; and indirectly support services such as printing, embroidery, washing, trims and accessories. Promotion of the manufacturing sector is vital for sustained growth and employment. Therefore, development of the textile sector will create employment in Telangana where nearly 30% of the population is unemployed.
Various skill development schemes have generated large pools of skilled manpower in different districts of the state. Many of the trained youth prefer to seek employment within their district and state. The state government needs to address this demand, which would improve both the garment industry and add value to the state’s economy.
The larger picture that emerges is lack of sustained campaign to promote the industry. It is observed that there is a lack of connect between the industry and the government. This needs to be addressed by the state government by engaging actively with local and national trade bodies. It is time the state shifts gears and works on a mission mode to promote garment manufacturing.
The author has lifetime experience in garments and textiles industry