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COVID-19-hit Tirupur clothes cluster sees alternative in PPEs, masks

Currently 100 items are engaged in making PPEs, masks of various nature to fulfill state governments’ necessities. (Representative picture)

Amid lack of export orders as a result of COVID-19 lockdown globally, cancellation of a number of the current orders by main consumers within the US and Europe coupled with liquidity disaster, Tirupur’s knitwear/readymade clothes cluster, the biggest in India, sees big alternative in making PPEs (private protecting tools) and face masks of various varieties, as its member items began getting big orders from quite a lot of state governments which are going by Coronavirus challenges.

Having decades-old expertise and experience in making clothes for each home and export markets, the items have seized this rising alternative in not solely capitalising on the home demand but in addition sees orders pouring in from the US and Europe as soon as they’re again to regular put up the COVID-19 imbroglio.

“Though it is too early for us to quantify the size of orders and the revenue we generate over the a period of time, given the nature of the current calamity and the emergence of a ‘new normal’ across the globe, there seems to be billions of dollars opportunity emerging for us to tap in a big way,” stated Tirupur Exporters’ Association (TEA) president Raja M Shanmugham.

“We are much competitive vis-a-vis China as we have the capacity and capability to make PPE kits at one-third of the cost. These PPE kits can be produced at a cost between Rs 200 and Rs 600 or little more (from ordinary to advanced kits) as compared to China’s Rs 1,500 a kit,” he stated.

“Started with a small order from a local district in Tamil Nadu, the cluster is now getting increasing orders for both PPEs and masks from not only Tamil Nadu government but also from neighbouring states such as Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Kerala, and even now from Assam and Meghalaya governments to supply in lakhs of such units,” he stated, including the orders they’re getting are by brokers who received the biddings of respective state governments.

Speaking to FE, he stated: “Currently 100 units are engaged in making PPEs, masks of different nature to meet state governments’ requirements. So far they have supplied over 2 million pieces of masks and 500,000 units of PPEs, which are given to healthcare workers, hospitals staff, surgeons/senior doctors, frontline workers apart from other people who are involved in fighting COVID-19 in their respective states. With more and more orders pouring in, we see more units getting into making these medical needs.” All these items are making unusual face masks to N95 respirators to N95 consumer guide and full disposable full-cover PPE kits, that are utterly sterilised and with antimicrobial remedy. Fabrics utilized in making these kits make sure that the virus can’t penetrate.

“This is the finest moment for us as the COVID-19 pandemic gave an opportunity to enter into technical textiles in a big way as has been advised by the Union government, but also enabling us to earn additional income as we see demand for PPE kits, masks will be on the lines of garments as we have exported to global majors over the years. Our member units are getting enquiries from our buyers (including brands such as Marks & Spencer) from the US, Europe on supplying these medical kits. Since the government has banned export of these kits and masks, we are unable to tap at this point of time. We hope once exports been allowed, Tirupur units will see orders coming from across the globe,” Shanmugham identified. Since these kits can be utilized just for a couple of hours (as these are disposable in nature), orders for such kits can be in hundreds of thousands going ahead, notably from the abroad markets, he added.

To a query, he stated: “All these PPEs and masks have been made of non-woven fabric of different nature — an ordinary non-woven fabric to three-layer fabric to laminated non-woven fabric to five-layer non-woven fabric material, which is approved by the government accredited national laboratory in Tirupur called – South India Textile Research Association (SITRA), one of the four labs in India — allowed to test the quality of fabrics used for making these kits by the government. These kits are certified by SITRA. Moreover, all these units have been given permission to make as PPEs, masks now come under essential commodities list.”

One of the principle problem is to acquire the materials, as at the moment the motion of transportation is restricted. Departments like DRDO, Ordinance Factory ought to guarantee them getting materials as desired, he stated.

According to AA Rajkumar, managing director, Best Corporation, one of many garment items now engaged in making these medical objects, stated: “We have received a major order of 50,000 PPE kits from a public sector company, which has been asked by the union government to procure such kits. It is for high-end multi-layer PPE kits and we have started supply to them. In addition, we have been making kits and masks of different nature to Tamil Nadu government. We see huge potential from the global markets as we have received enquiries from our US and Europe customers. We are waiting for the government to allow export of such kits. Its not only a big opportunity for us but also enable us to get into technical textile segment in a big way.”

Says TD Bharani Daran, managing director, Shaaraa Clothing Company, “We have started off with 50 machines and has now increased to 100. We have supplied 25,000 PPE kits and 400,000 masks as of now since the demand for the same begun two weeks ago. We see demand for these kits will be that of garments as the world will undergo ‘new normal’ post COVID-19. Unlike earlier, every other department in the healthcare sector will start prescribing usage of these kits as a basic need going forward as fear psychosis caught the people globally. The demand for these kits could well become a permanent one, particularly from the buyers of the US and Europe.”

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