India positioned as leading PPE exporter

India positioned as leading exporter of PPE

When COVID-19 hit India in early January, the country initiated a move to self-sufficient manufacturing by strengthening its domestic supply chain for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing swabs. 

At a webinar titled “A Movement Towards Atma nirbhar Bharat,” industry stakeholders and officials across India reviewed the initiative to fast-track PPE production in India.

Union Minister of Textiles, Smriti Irani, addressed India’s transition from being overly dependent on imported protective wear, to developing a self-sufficient domestic manufacturing industry. 

“The concerted efforts of the government, businesses and multiple stakeholders turned the PPE crisis into an opportunity for India. This successful journey has become an inspiration for other indigenous manufacturers, and the Atma Nirbhar Bharat mission is there to support these manufacturers to act on their aspirations.

The way forward is for other sectors to replicate this success story. Even though the thrust on Aatma Nirbhar Bharat was necessitated by the health crisis, the success of PPE manufacturing has opened new doors for indigenous manufacturers in other industries as well.” 

A study by the Insitute for Competitiveness – from the Microeconomic of Competitiveness, an affiliate of Harvard Business School – declared that the Ministry of Textiles effectively transformed the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to remodel India into a global exporter of high-quality PPE kits. When the pandemic first hit the large South Asian nation, PPE kits including full-body coveralls were not domestically manufactured, as many of the world’s nations found. 

The demand was vast for a nation of over 1 billion inhabitants; it was estimated that India required over 20 million PPE kits and 40 million N-95 Masks by July 2020. India gradually developed its own indigenous network of PPE fabrics and garment manufacturers in under 60 days, going on to export crucial PPE items across the world, from the U.S., all the way to UAE.  

The study further explains that Indian is set to become a leading global exporter of PPE if it continues to adhere to strict quality standards. 

By October 2020, India had proceeded to manufacture 60 million PPE items, with over 150 million N-95 maks, becoming the largest expoter of protective face masks in the world. 

India has continued to attract attention around the world for its vastly improved scale and scope of PPE production, elevating its standing int he global market. 

In February 2020, the Indian Ministry of Textiles had initiated a “Go Local” campaign to develop the domestic supply chain for manufacturing class-3 PPE and testing swabs. The Ministry jointly worked with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to conduct a study analysing the textile and healthcare industries, including industry experts and manufacturers. 

The South Indian Textile Research Association was the first to lead the testing programme for domestically manufactured PPE kits in the pilot run from March to April 2020. It was followed by seven more government entities, which were approved as testing and certification laboratories for PPE coveralls. These were strategically spread across the country to enforce compliance of health and safety standards and to reduce the post-production process of testing, clearance, and dispatch. 

The Ministries sought to scale up the initiative whilst India was still in the midst of a national lockdown. The launch of “Operation PPE Coverall” provided support for regulatory clearances and operational problems in the supply chain, developing international coordination, logistics, and customs. 

The Ministry distributed PPE Manufacturing sites in small and medium clusters across India,  optimising the process of capacity building. 

Smriti Irani illuminated the degree of cooperation between the Indian government and the textile and manufacturing industry, recognising the industry for trusting the government whilst meeting a challenging demand. 

Ravi Capoor, Secretary of the Ministry of Textiles, deatiled the government’s efforts to strengthen the industry: “We are deliberately pushing the industry out of its comfort zone, and pushing them into man-made fibre and technical textile. 

We are creating an entire ecosystem through different schemes and removal of barriers in the supply of raw material, through a very facilitative textile policy, through setting up of a world-class lab in technical textile, and so on. So, a whole new textile ecosystem is starting to get implemented. If all goes well, India’s textile industry will hugely be kicking in a new direction in one to two years’ time.”

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