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Indian textile Industry’s contribution to healthcare supplies during COVID-19

Apr 14, 2020

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has got the world in a frenzy. A rise in the number of causalities, countries going in semi and complete lockdowns and a growing need for personal protection equipment (PPE) likegoggles, face-shield, mask, gloves, coveralls/gowns (with or without aprons), head cover and shoe coversto combat the disease has been the need of the hour.

India, which went into lockdown too, has been preparing to treat and curb the spread of the coronavirus by increasing the usage of PPEs like hazmat suits and N95 masks. It is estimated that India needs at least 38 million masks and 6.2 million pieces of personal protective equipment as it confronts the spread of the disease.

As the number of cases rose in Indi, the pandemic also spurred many frontline healthcare professionals in a “panic mode” with leading newspapers only talking about the lack of supply. Until a week ago, there was no sign of Indian manufacturers making these PPEs. With the spread of this information, there were more than 15 manufacturers who have come forward and qualified to produce the PPEs. These include Arvind Mills, JCT Mills Phagwara, Amare Safety, Mumbai based Sure Safety, Delhi-based Sai Synergy, Manchanda, Shree Healthcare, Chennai amongst many others. With adding only 15 new vendors, 21 lakhs PPE orders were placed which would help the ever-growing demand.

This definitely indicates, with the right direction, India can produce healthcare equipment on its own, thus giving support to our doctors and other medical professionals.

At this point, the question of raw materials to help with this mammoth production also arises.

Apart from China, India is touted as one of the major fabric producers in the world which means we definitely have the raw material capacity to fulfil this requirement.

Taking cues from our international counterparts like non-textile companies like Nike, Apple to small business entities like Chantilly-based First Line Technology, LLC have geared up their efforts to deliver preventive countermeasures. A few governments led companies and conglomerates in the private sector in has vouched their manufacturing units to help deliver these essentials. Some of the examples worth talking about like,

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) developed body suits to protect health workers in pandemics like COVID-19. They have also identified a vendor (Scanray Tech Pvt Ltd, Mysore) to produce ventilators. Also, the research organisation also developed 4,000 litres of hand sanitizer to be supplied to the Indian Armed forces

Maruti Suzuki, a leading car manufacturer, tied up with ventilator manufacturer AgVa Healthcare to scale up production up to 10,000 units a month. As part of the arrangement, AgVa Healthcare will be responsible for the technology and performance of the ventilators, while Maruti Suzuki will use suppliers to produce the required volume of components, upgrade systems and check quality

Apart from these, educational institutions too have attempted to contribute to stop this global crisis. Case in point, Fabiosys Innovations", a start-up incubated at IIT-Delhi developed infection-proof fabric" to be used at hospitals to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) which can be contacted during outbreaks like coronavirus. The product doesn’t even lose its functionality after numerous washes and researchers at Chennai’s Anna University has developed a reusable mask which is affordable and has better filtration efficiency.

Around this time, another question to really think about, “How can local and regional enterprises help its community in times like these?”

Small and medium manufacturers help India provide for its citizens. In fact, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and Ministry of Textiles are on the lookout for potential producer suppliers of body coveralls, hospital beddings, N95 masks etc.

Indian manufacturers can learn from local manufacturers in China who managed to increase their production capacity from 10,000, n95 masks to 200,000 units in a matter of just ten days.

Businesses operating in India can use this opportunity to fill in the missing gaps in the supply chain in India thereby proving their expertise in this domain whilst also opening up future prospects for them. In fact, even technical textile and nonwoven manufacturers who cater to non-medical applications too, can repurpose their production facilities to make large scale PPEs

What’s the bigger picture here?

Shortage of supply from international markets will enable India to look at domestic players who will supply in present and future times too. A significant reduction is production cost will also mean; these products can be sold to third parties at even lower cost. Everyone can afford PPEs without much strain on their pockets.

Another prospect, entrepreneurs wanting to enter the technical textile and nonwoven space, can use this to display their knowledge and domain expertise.

Moreover, businesses who cater to non-essential industries like automotive that have come to a standstill during this pandemic, can also repurpose their units. This will ensure that they do not entail complete losses and while putting their business to a greater good.

In these crucial times, technical textile and nonwoven manufacturers need to be collaborative and use its resourcefulness in coming up with supplies that are needed to save lives

Indeed, local is the word and the need of the hour.

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