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Rising Re Ties Textile Cos in Knots

Rising Re Ties Textile Cos in Knots

THREE weeks ago, in a New York office, S Kumars’ international business president Vijay Bakshi was trying hard to convince his South American customer to place orders with him. The order was for 3 lakh metres of cloth worth Rs 9 crore—a sizeable catch for a company that sells 20 lakh metres annually. The deal, however, came undone overprice.

The customer offered an upward price revision of 1 -1.5 %, too little for the Indian exporter whose currency— the Indian rupee—has appreciated over6% in the past two months. “We lost him. He told me he was diverting the order to China. I know he will not come back to us,” says Bakshi, ruing how the hardening rupee ended an eight-year-old relationship with his customer. S Kumars has not been able to book a single order for the past one month. Result: a loss of Rs 15 crore for the company.

Cut to another office in the same city for a repeat performance. Faridabad-based exporter PMS Uppal of Pee-Empro Exports was trying to convince his customer of five years to renew an order. A Rs 80-crore company, Pee-Em-pro, did business worth Rs 10 crore with this New York-based client last year. But this time round, after spending an hour trying to persuade him to accept the new price, Mr Uppal gave up in the hope that others would find his argument convincing. So far that has not been the case. His order book has seen an 85 % drop in the past six weeks, compared to the same period last year.

These two companies are not exceptions. The rupee’s appreciation— an increase of over 9% against the US dollar in the last six months—has started hurting most textile and apparel exporters. Several small and medium exporters have been forced to refuse orders as they can’t negotiate a favorable price for their products.

Century Textiles and Industries, a BK Birla Group company with an annual turnover of $95 million, says its order book position has been hit by 10-15% in the past six weeks. Company president RK Dalmia says, “It’s become very difficult to negotiate prices with customers in the new scenario. Our competitiveness has gone down and orders are likely to move to our rivals in other countries.”

Knitwear hub Tirupur is doing no better. Last year, the region notched up Rs 11,000 crore in revenues. But this year, says Tirupur Exporters’ Association president A Sakthivel, there would be a decline of 10-15 %. Mr Sakthivel’s company, Poppy Knitwear, has not inked a single order in the past one month.

Small companies based in the north seem to be the worst-hit. The Rs 2 5-crore MM Exports claims its export orders have come down 70%. Its MD Mandeep Vasu says his company may be wiped out if things don’t improve.

Unlike north Indian exporters who use domestic fibres, south Indian manufacturers are better off as they import raw materials. The weakening dollar has reduced their raw material cost, making the currency pinch hurt a bit less.

The situation is better for bigger players such as Bangalore-based Gokaldas Exports and Mumbai-based Welspun. While margins may have come down, their order book positions remain strong.

“Traders or small manufacturers can refuse orders, but big players can’t. Keeping in mind long-term interests, they have to continue doing business, even if it means taking a hit on the margins,” says Welspun executive director Rajesh R Mandawewala.
In the current scenario, negotiations have turned into a long-drawn process requiring patience.

“Negotiation depends on customers and products. On some, we can have an agreement over higher prices; on others, we may not,” says Gokaldas executive director Rajendra Hinduja.

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