By  on June 16, 1994

BANGALORE, India (FNS) -- As developed Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea move away from labor-intensive garment production, industrialist-minded Indian garment manufacturers are preparing to pick up the extra business.

India's total exports, $600 million in 1983, this year are expected to top $3.5 billion, making the country a serious player on the world garment scene. India's apparel exports to the U.S. alone last year came to $890 million -- excluding silks and most leather garments, according to figures compiled by the American Apparel Manufacturers Association. In comparison, China -- the number one foreign apparel supplier to the U.S. -- shipped $3.45 billion worth of apparel to the U.S. last year.

Despite India's long-held reputation for inconsistent quality, lack of responsible management, quota problems and increasingly high prices, a visit to any of the following operations might convince buyers to give the country another shot, or a first try.

Richa & Co., established in 1976 and based in an unmarked factory on the outskirts of New Delhi, possesses one of most impressive showrooms in town. The $23 million firm specializes in printed rayon, embroidery and beadwork, and lists Carole Little, Dillard's and Spiegel as clients.

"We can do 300,000 pieces monthly," said director Virender Uppal, "with a three-month lead time." Like many northern factories that grew haphazardly according to need, Richa's operations aren't under one roof; sampling, washing, pressing and packing are done at the main plant while cutting and stitching are done elsewhere. There are 1,700 workers.

Fabrics are almost all locally sourced to buyer-supplied designs. An embroidered rayon gypsy blouse costs $9 f.o.b. India, including quota. "We have so much past performance that we don't upcharge for quota," said Uppal. Minimums are generally 1,000 pieces in a style and color, although they can be negotiated down.

He admits to a lot of price competition from Indonesian rayon, but sees a very bright future. Foreign collaborators offering technical and management expertise, especially from the Far East, are particularly welcome. Bombay's Creative Garments, also established in 1976, has another impressive track record. "My first big client was Willi Smith," remembered president Vijay Agarwal, "who ordered $2,000 of Bombay policemen flared shorts." By the time Smith died in 1987, orders were up to $1 million a season.

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