Manufacturing must keep workers’ welfare in mind

Manufacturing must keep workers’ welfare in mind
AFP
TOP JOB: Manufacturing is the most vital element for a brand
It may be early days yet, but the labour reforms that the new government has recently announced are certainly encouraging for the economy, and more so for the fashion industry. Especially for those upcoming designers who have small manufacturing units.

If you ask any designer, big or small, he will tell you the biggest headache for them is not about thinking up new designs and ideas, but of manufacturing. This means running and maintaining a proper work unit. The existing labour laws make it tough for designers to run their units efficiently because of a variety of issues, so they prefer outsourcing their work rather than take the hassle of employing their own craftsmen. Sure, labour laws are in place to protect the interest of workers and craftsmen, and some designers do provide rather unfriendly work environments for their employees, reducing their factories to sweatshops. That, of course, should be checked, but then rules should not be so arbitrary as to discourage designers and fashion entrepreneurs from joining the industry.

For example, maintaining a register in a factory if the number of workers is more than 10 is a tough task as the attrition rate in our industry is very high. With the new reforms, this number will go up to 40, which will be a big relief. Any designer who starts his unit often begins with 5-8 workers, and 15-20 is the average number that they reach within a year. So with the figure going to 40, designers will be rid of the hassles of maintaining such a rota. Other good things that have been proposed are the increase in overtime limit for employees from 50 hours to 100 hours; relaxation on night work for women in factories and even amending the Child Labour and Minimum Wages Act.

According to researches on global manufacturing, with its pool of skilled talent, India is a key country in the sector. We, therefore, have a lot of potential to grow and if we integrate our marketing and manage financial resources with investments, then we will see a lot of brands developing from India. Already, there are some designer brands which have got international funding and are making their presence in global retail.

Every small step matters as it leads to the big picture. Being in this industry for more than a decade now, I can tell you that manufacturing is the most vital element for making a brand. Let us hope for some more balanced steps wherein manufacturing is encouraged without compromising on workers’ welfare.

(The writer is a Delhi-based fashion designer)

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