While the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in India has spelt disaster for the economy, with many industries registering a sharp decline in their numbers, the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) industry has posted a steep gain amidst the raging pandemic, as PPEs have become indispensable in the war against Coronavirus.
The coronavirus crisis has transformed once a moribund PPE industry and catapulted it on an unprecedented growth trajectory. According to a report published on the Hindu Business Line, a staggering Rs 10,000 crore PPE industry has conjured up in just two months out of nowhere after the pandemic’s devastating hit to the country. The fact that India became a frontrunner in the production of PPE kits in such a short period was also highlighted by PM Modi who noted in his address to the nation that from being producing next to none coveralls, Indian organisations quickly scaled the productions to several lakhs within a matter of 2 months.
The article, which quotes a report by Invest India, says that the PPE industry in India grew a stunning 56 times in the last couple of months. As many as 600 companies in India are registered to manufacture the protective gears which have become a scarcity across the world as countries shore up their depleting stocks for the healthcare workers in the fight against the lethal contagion. The report says that India manufactures 4.5 lakh pieces of PPE per day and stands poised to capture a sizeable chunk of the global market which is estimated to be $60 billion by 2025. Indian textile stalwarts have realised the potential of this latent market and have taken the plunge into manufacturing of the PPE kits. These include Arvind, JCT Mills, The Trident Group, Welspun and Shahi Exports.
Industry bigwigs redeploying their resources to manufacture PPE units
The industry biggies credit swift action from the government as a reason for the turnaround of the PPE industry. According to Harish Ahuja, Chairman and Managing Director of Shahi Exports, he received a call from the textile secretary in early April, asking him if he could take up the manufacturing of coveralls- protective gowns, gloves, made of special, non-woven fabric.
Shashi Exports hit the ground running and started churning out the coveralls in 5 of its 58 factories which were shut down due to the coronavirus lockdown. A total of 750 of its total 1.2 lakh employees were pressed into service and the company now manufactures 20,000 PPEs units a day. About 9 lakh units have been supplied by the organisation to HLL Lifecare of Kerala, the Central government’s agency for medical procurement.
The story is consistent throughout the industry. An appeal from the government to help the country tide over the coronavirus pandemic and the detection of a business opportunity amidst adversity prompted many organisations to marshal their resources in the production of the PPE kits. The Executive Director of Arvind Ltd, Kulin Lalbhai said the textile industry’s cooperation with the government of India help spawned an entire industry from scratch. Arvind Ltd churns out 15,000 PPE units a day from its plants in Ahmedabad, Ranchi and Bengaluru.
Another business behemoth, Reliance Industries, redeployed the manufacturing capacities of Alok Industries, a textile manufacturer it acquired last year, to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical professionals treating those infected by the coronavirus. The production of the coveralls started in mid-April in its Silvassa plant in Gujarat has been ramped up to produce 100,000 PPEs per day.
Small players too partake into the growing PPE business.
Industry behemoths are not the only ones who have turned the adversity of a pandemic into a business opportunity. Scores of small players eyeing the lucrative growth of the PPE industry have also started fresh into this business. Out of over 275 companies certified to make medical coveralls by Defence Research and Development Organization, about ninety-five manufacturers are supplying coveralls to HLL Lifecare. Many of them have started new into the business. An organisation named Grassroot Marken of Delhi is one such fledgeling organisation which said that it will soon manufacture 3,000 coveralls a day.
Organisations eyeing exports
PPE manufacturing organisations claim that once the domestic demand is satisfied, they would eye foreign markets for the sale of the coveralls. India is manufacturing about 50 lakh coveralls as of now, which will be increased to 2 crores by the end of June. Ahuja draws attention to the fact that the country is advantageously placed to dominate the export markets as all the raw materials except the sealing tapes required to manufacture the PPEs are sourced from within the country, thereby reducing the dependence on the unreliable global supply chain.
“Once our domestic needs are fulfilled,” says Lalbhai, “there will be vast opportunities to tap the global market.” Similarly, Ashok Naik of Grassroot Markmen said he foresees a huge potential in exports.