The year 2020 has ushered in drastic changes in every aspect of life as we used to know it. Popularly labelled as the “Year of the Pandemic”, the world reeled under shock as normal life came to a complete halt and people were compelled to stay within the confines of their own homes. All business sectors including textiles initially suffered large losses as both retail and wholesale market places were shut down completely for the larger part of the year. However, necessity is the mother of invention and SMEs, which were earlier restricted to local market areas decided to jump on the digital bandwagon to keep up with the changing times. This has led to a revolution in retail and distribution alike as Indian markets have now gone digital as part of the “New Normal”.
Reports like CRISIL have further verified this fact. Data taken across numerous surveys clearly show that with the prospect of failing to reach their buyers looming large over their heads, SMEs in textiles adapted themselves to the changing times to network via the internet. Approximately 566 companies with a turnover of less than Rs 25 crore were polled and it was deduced that more than 60% of these were manufacturers. India has always thrived on a personal touch market where people have passed down family businesses, and client relations between retail and wholesalers usually carry across generations. Most wholesalers and suppliers are not tech-savvy and rely completely on physical market areas. The shutting down of these areas due to the lockdown hence led to a complete shutdown of business. However, people have sprung up to adapt to the changing times. Online marketplaces on mediums like facebook, whatsapp as well as larger retail platforms like Amazon and Flipkart saw a sharp acceleration in new entrants. Infact e-commerce giants like Amazon developed many new offers to boost partnerships with this sector of late bloomers.
Textiles MSEs have confirmed a large bounce of 38 share factors in adoption of digital channels in contrast with 20 per cent prior to the pandemic. The rise was extra for small enterprises (44 per cent, up from 13 per cent) than micro ones (14 per cent, up from 7 per cent). About 29 per cent of the MSEs surveyed had been utilizing digital gross sales channels equivalent to on-line aggregators/ market locations, social media, and cellular advertising and marketing earlier than the pandemic struck. That quantity has accelerated as much as 53 per cent amongst small enterprises and 47 per cent amongst micro enterprises as of November. Around 60 per cent of the respondents that transitioned to selling via digital platforms said it helped them survive, while the remaining said it provided growth.These respondents had been additionally extra optimistic about their near-term enterprise scenario in contrast with people who didn’t take the digital route.
Tuli Kupferberg has rightly said, “When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” The pandemic ensured that the normal life as we know it was shattered. However, humans are a resilient race and we know how to adapt with changing times. Apparel and textile manufacturers, amongst other sectors sprung to the challenge and learnt to use the world of web to reach out to their customers. Not only did this provide them with a direct link with their customers, it also helped them network and attract new customers who were earlier unable to access them due to geographical restraints. The wave of change impacted buyers as well. Millennials helped their parents and even grandparents learn the digital way to shop. Be it texting platforms like whatsapp groups, networking platforms like facebook and instagram or e-commerce websites like Amazon and Flipkart- a whole new world of retail as well as wholesale has opened up to generations who were earlier restricted to physical shopping. The internet has transformed the entire world into a single marketplace. Indian SMEs in textiles and apparel have not only entered this world with a bang but they are relishing the benefits of it too. From reaching out to new buyers to seeking funding via various channels-it is a whole new market full of opportunities for them. One can only hope that this new wave of digitalization will help India textile industry reach greater heights and claim the coveted title of being the world leader in textiles.