Apr 28, 2016
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India promising destination for HK apparel companies

Apr 28, 2016

India offers not only an increasingly maturing environment for garment production for Hong Kong companies considering relocation of their factories from Southern China, but also the opportunity of selling into a huge potential domestic market of 1.2 billion people, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Research.

India promising destination for HK apparel companies

In its latest article, the fourth of HKTDC Research’s India series, it looks at the drivers of India’s garment market, including the ongoing reforms to indirect tax, which have a clear bearing on domestic sales and the wider economy.

The articles highlights the fact that India sells more garments inland than in overseas markets.

India’s textiles and apparel industry is valued at more than $100 billion. Domestic demand is the major contributor and accounts for more than 60 per cent of the industry’s total output, which is expected to increase by 6 per cent during the fiscal year ending March 2016 (FY2015-16) and estimated to reach $100 billion by 2017, up from $67 billion in FY2013-2014.

The growth of India’s retail market, of which apparel sales are an important part, has been driven by the country’s phenomenal economic growth over the past decade or so amid a surge in business processing outsourcing (BPO) activity, which has quickly fueled a growing middle-class in India. For the apparel market, there has been an increasing penetration of apparel brands, both local and international, through traditional as well as e-commerce channels, with strong domestic sales during major Indian festivals.

During an HKTDC Research trip to India, interviews with local garment manufacturers and associations invariably pointed to the importance of the domestic market in India. Meanwhile, less than one-tenth of India’s retail sales are in the organised sector, which includes department and chain stores selling a lot of branded apparel from local and international fashion houses, including Raymonds, Gap and H&M. Rather, it is the thousands of micro, small and midsize enterprises (MSMEs) that have come to supply the lion’s share of India’s unorganised retail market with garment products.

The article says Indian apparel makers are more focused on the domestic market.

For a long time, Indian garment manufacturers have predominantly placed their attention on the domestic market, as most of the country’s MSME suppliers have not acquired the sophistication and supply chain management capability to produce export-grade garments. Further, they are situated close to the small-scale weaving entities scattered over various Indian states, which makes it easier and more expedient to target local rather than export markets.

Among the apparel exporters, many of them produce within India’s special textile parks and export processing zones (EPZs), which offer tax incentives for exports including 100 per cent VAT rebates on exports made of Indian-originating materials.

In its third article, HKTDC had noted that Indian apparel exports are subject to relatively high tariffs compared to some developing economies in Asia. Nonetheless, these import duties by themselves have not turned out to be a big deterrent to the surge in exports of textile and apparel products from India during FY2012-2014. India is among the top five apparel exporters in Asia, ranking second in the world in terms of its combined textile and apparel exports.

Thanks to such arrangements as GSP and free trade agreements (FTAs), India enjoys a higher proportion of preferential exports than China to major markets including the US. Nonetheless, India had been seen as being relatively sluggish in forging preferential trade and tax treaties, maintaining a stronger focus on steering its own textiles and apparel production to serve the domestic market. The most dramatic change came in September 2014, when the Narendra Modi government launched the ‘Make In India Initiative’ with the clear goal of turning India into a global manufacturing hub, creating jobs and boosting exports.

The textiles and apparel sector is one of 25 target sectors under the MIII. Under the automatic route, 100 per cent FDI is allowed for garment manufacturing in India.

Overall, Indian merchandise imported into major markets is not subject to especially high tariffs. However, textile and apparel products are considered sensitive items in a country’s import tariff lines, and are thus excluded from GSP. Also in the event of an FTA being concluded, there will normally be a fairly long phase-in tariff reduction schedule. Currently, most Indian textiles and apparel are subject to import tariffs of about 10 per cent, which are similar to those applying to Chinese exports. This in part explains the keen interest of the Modi government in enhancing India’s export competitiveness through securing an FTA with the EU, upgrading the FTA with ASEAN, and partaking in negotiations with Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). India is also not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) arrangement.

The article also noted that India operates a complex indirect tax system affecting many sectors and that Indian garments continue to face excise levies prior to GST implementation.

According to HKTDC Research, apparel sales are expanding in India’s booming retail market.

Estimated at $600 billion currently, the Indian retail market is projected to grow at an average annual growth rate of 12 per cent to reach $1,000 billion by 2020, with readymade garments (RMG) accounting for about 8 per cent of the retail market. The article also noted changing lifestyles and the influx of foreign brands.

The HKTDC article also highlighted challenges in tapping India’s RMG market. Companies preparing to sell into the domestic RMG market will require a strong handle on consumer preferences, while also striking a proper balance between achieving lower average production costs through mass production and producing more customised products to suit different tastes. It also warned of rampant counterfeiting of products.

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