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Textile Is The Silent Tiger Which Doesn’t Roar, But Can Lead The Way: Smriti Irani, Textiles Minister

Textile production in India contributes 4 per cent of GDP and 15 per cent of exports and is one of the largest generators of employment, yet Indian textiles lack export competitiveness

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In a session called Weaving a Better Future at the India Economic Summit 2017 organized by the World Economic Forum and the Confederation of Indian Industry, the textiles industry and its various dimensions were discussed.

“Textile production in India contributes 4 per cent of GDP and 15 per cent of exports and is one of the largest generators of employment, yet Indian textiles lack export competitiveness,” said Daniel Moss, Global Economics Writer, Bloomberg View, the moderator of the session.

The dimensions addressed were facilitating access to global markets and supply chains, preserving and protecting Indian traditions and legacy, skilling, reskilling and up-skilling the workforce and innovative solutions which could unlock global opportunities for Indian products.

Neelam Chhiber, Managing Director, Industree/Mother Earth, said, “Building an ecosystem for inclusive growth in the country is integral. Scale in this country is essential, we cannot do anything with scalability. In the next 3-5 years, we are going to see a major transformation. India cannot look to any other country for a model.”

She also added, “It is very heartening to see large corporates and senior officials in the government is looking at this labor force and sector. India needs to build big plants and large businesses, at the same time we are going to need decentralized distributed models. The future is going to be India’s ability to build its global brand.”

Speaking about China, she said, “China has been tearing its hair about why it is not creating global brands. It’s because it has killed its culture during the Cultural Revolution, and now there is a big effort to revive it.”

“Amul is owned by farmers, 84 per cent of its revenues and profits go to farmers. And it’s one of the best managed companies. That’s a great example of how textiles should go,” said Chhiber, speaking about how co-operatives which involve the textile labour force should be made.

“Textiles is the second largest employer in the country after agriculture. We have a structure which not only generates employment, but creates entrepreneurs,” said Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister of Textiles, Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Textiles of India.

“I have seen how much of a difference a huge investment in the composite structure makes in a region which needs it. The ownership of a composite mill can revive culture, generate employment, create entrepreneurs and empower women,” said Irani adding that textiles story is “not a story which can be said in one particular silo, but in various silos. Expansion of textile entails expansion of retail services”.

She also added, “I am proud to say that the towels used in Wimbledon are made in Gujarat. I think the strength of textiles is that it is the silent tiger which doesn’t roar, but can the lead the way when it requires. We have a legacy we can leverage in the world market.”

Speaking about initiatives of the textile ministry, she said, “From 7th to 17th, we have about 800 clusters of weavers, and the government is going to go to 401 of them and offer them financial aid and support through national banks.”

“We have a power-loom sector which employs millions of people, and is at the loggerhead with the handloom sector, but we are providing them with support. If we want to have sustainable growth, it is important to support them, whether power-loom or handloom and we provide them with capital subsidies for renewable energy,” added Irani about the power-loom sector.

Dipali Goenka, Chief Executive Officer and Joint Managing Director, Welspun India Ltd, said, “How do we talk about skilling from the bottom of the pyramid. Textiles,-we see a thread from the communities where we work to the market that we supply to, it’s a very integrated chain. Adult literacy is the key in the work we do. Textiles is the thread that will employ the people. We weave the social thread together.”

She also added, “India has an opportunity to play in the median scale to the upper scale price points. If farmers have a crop-app which can support, what is the crop they have to grow, what seed support they need, that is the help and boost which is needed, cutting out the middleman. It’s about whether we can bring farmers to the centre of the stage.”

Speaking about the role of businesses, Goenka added, “We recycle 13 million liters of water every day, so that the farmer can get irrigation. We can tell the government what to do, but businesses too have to do their part. Businesses have to become the agent of change.”

William Bissell, Managing Director, FabIndia Overseas Pvt Ltd, said, “We are at a exciting point in our journey. The PM has a vision of creating 5 crore jobs in the next 4 years which is really what is the needed.”

He also added, “We have as a small gesture towards that, we have decided to take the number of people from 55,000 to 200,000. Textiles is the driver of growth to create sustainable employment.”

Speaking about India’s cultural heritage, he said, “India’s cultural assets are the most underleveraged out of any country in the world. We have tens of thousands of cultural assets in our country. The best place in the world is India for this transformation.”

Commending the government’s initiatives to support start-ups in the textile sector, Bissell added, “I think there is a very proactive approach from the government to support businesses. Every start up needs to be given a chance in the last 2 years there has been a lot of support given by the government for start-ups. They need an ecosystem which rewards them, protects them, nurtures them and I think that ecosystem has come.”

 He also went on to say, “We should export things which create man-days and wages for those who use their hands and skills, especially in textiles. We have some of the greatest talent here, and they can rival some of the best Italian and French brands.”

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