India’s textile and apparel industry is vital to the developing nation’s economy, with Indian exporters shipping more $37 billion worth of textile and clothing products each year, accounting for 13 percent of all export earnings, according to the Confederation of Indian Textiles and Imports, as well as 25 percent of all foreign exchange earnings recorded by its inhabitants. Meanwhile, the sector is the country’s second-largest employer behind agriculture.
Yet, 40 years ago, the largely decentralized makeup of India’s textile and apparel industry hampered its growth potential and especially its ability to do business with large, developed countries like the United States—which today takes in nearly $6 billion worth of apparel and textiles from India, according to the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). India is the second largest supplier of apparel and textiles to the United States.
In an effort to become a more attractive trading partner and a key player on the world stage, leaders from within India’s textile and apparel industry felt an official governing body was needed to standardize exports and promote the value of India’s industry around the world, thus creating the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC).
Incorporated in 1978, the AEPC now has nine offices around the country and is led by industry executives like its current chairman, HKL Magu, considered “a veteran and patriarch” of India’s apparel and textiles industry. Magu is a founding member of the council and managing partner of the large, family-owned readymade garments manufacturer Jyoti Apparels.
The AEPC’s current primary focus is to promote Indian exports globally, which it accomplishes by identifying emerging and existing markets that would potentially be profitable for Indian exports, as well as by dispatching trade delegations to represent its textile and garment industry.
As one of the leading industry organizations for a sector that directly employs more than 45 million people, the AEPC is well respected and maintains a close relationship with India’s central government. The council reports to the Ministry of Textiles and works alongside government officials to ensure that, among other things, India’s textile and apparel exports are in line with domestic and international compliance requirements. The council’s responsibilities in this area are numerous, ranging from ensuring child labor is not involved in the making of exported garments, to simply defending the industry from allegations of misconduct.
For example, according to a Clinton-era executive order, any organization tied to the federal government must make a “good faith” effort to avoid purchasing goods made with forced or child labor. Indian textiles and garments were added to the list in response to reports of indentured servitude of both children and adults taking place in the industry.
To combat this sudden loss of revenue and reputation, the AEPC created a report and delivered it to the Labor Department in which it criticized the inclusion of Indian garments and textiles in the executive order. The council defended its industry on the grounds that it had in place ample governmental oversight and stiff penalties for textile and apparel manufacturers employing banned sources of labor—although its efforts to change the U.S. policy were not successful.
Today, the AEPC uses its resources to provide training and assistance to Indian entrepreneurs seeking to get involved with exporting garments and textiles to avoid losses due to non-compliance. The council provides starter kits for prospective business owners to help explain the complicated world of international exports. The kits include information on how to register their businesses through the proper channels and the standards to which their businesses will be required to conform to be successful.
To maintain full awareness of its industry, the AEPC collects updated import/export statistics from India’s textile and apparel sector and keeps tabs on domestic production. The organization also creates regular reports on the latest industry trends using the best available market data and provides that information to businesses through a membership to its website. It also publishes the semi-monthly periodical Apparel, which offers the same information, along with insights from experts and industry leaders.
The AEPC’s efforts at home include aims to fully integrate the industry by using its influence to promote further training of manual laborers and technical workers in the apparel and textiles. One of the council’s primary initiatives is the biannual India International Garment Fair (IIGF), which brings together hundreds of buyers, agents and exhibitors. AEPC officials estimate a typical IIGF is responsible for generating an average of $184 million in business. The IIGF website maintains the event is one of the largest apparel fairs in all of Asia.
For all of the individual aspects of the AEPC, its members focus on showcasing the value of buying Indian exports and facilitating that value across as many avenues as would be profitable. With textiles and garments holding such an important place in India’s culture, economy and future, the actions of the industry’s strongest organization can have a large sway on public sentiment. The AEPC is often involved in policy discussions with the central government and actively supports free trade agreements between India and other nations. Even now, as India matures into a global economic powerhouse, the AEPC will have a large role in determining exactly how that plays out.