Identifying an Indian apparel supplier or manufacturer: Best Practices

The Indian textile industry is extremely competitive and, in our experience, it is not advisable to go only by internet research to assess and identify local suppliers, and conduct business remotely via email and on the phone, after the initial meeting and sign off. In this article, we tell you why it is important to hire experts to facilitate this process.

Why hire an advisory firm to be your eyes and ears on the ground?

It can be overwhelming to do business with an Indian firm while stationed halfway across the globe. Time difference, language constraints, cultural sensitivities - all matter. It is therefore important to tie up with a facilitator who understands the needs of European firms and can liaise effectively with local Indian players - all of this while keeping conditions on ground and the high standards of European customers in mind.

Our in-house, expert consultants are native French, with years of experience working with Indians. Our team is thus able to juggle and balance the demands of our clients and vendors to deliver a 360-degree experience. Here is an introduction to the services we offer.

1. Right infrastructure and skilled labour

It is important to find a local Indian supplier with the right infrastructure and trained staff to be able to fulfill orders. If you are a European company looking to partner with a local Indian apparel manufacturer, you will need to ensure that they are located within a recognised industrial hub - in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat or West Bengal, for example - and be well-networked with smaller firms supplying buttons, zips, thread, raw material, speciality fabric and more.

We at Arsha Consulting have trusted networks in place, with years of experience working directly with factory owners located in the heart of the industrial hub in Tirupur in South India. Our personal relationships, and expertise working with both European clients and domestic vendors will enable us to make the best possible recommendations to suit your specific needs, and negotiate an agreement on your behalf.

2. Certifications and Compliances

Be it SEDEX certification or REACH restrictions, the OEKO-TEX Confidence in Textile certification, ISO or BSCI membership - your partner on the ground may need to fulfill a number of different criteria to be eligible as a supplier. These certifications are globally recognised, and industry standard, to ensure that finished goods are non-hazardous, safe, and created in an ethical, fair environment.

Additionally, some large international firms sometimes expect their domestic Indian partners to adhere to a very specific set of requirements. As your partner in India, Arsha Consulting ensures that the supplier’s paperwork is in order, conducts physical inspections to be completely sure that your partner is reliable, and documents the entire process for greatest transparency.

3. Pilot projects for proof of capabilities

In our experience, it is always advisable to work with vendors to create samples to ensure that the finished goods meet quality requirements. We recommend that you see a portfolio of past work and assess capabilities before you sign a contract, or enter into a long-term commitment.

Partnering with Arsha Consulting will allow you to outsource this process, end to end. We can anticipate challenges and ensure that there is no loss in translation while communicating your vision and designs. We can also help iteratively improve products during the sampling/pilot stage until the finished good meets your quality requirements.

4. Timely delivery

It is important to make sure that the Indian supplier will meet timelines and deliver the consignment to deadlines. Frequently, local suppliers may make unrealistic commitments they have no intention of honouring, or there could be a loss in translation, with missed phone calls, and emails that go unanswered. Time sensitivity is critical if you need a consignment of t-shirts, for example, for an event where even a delay of a day or two can be unacceptable. Hence, the most reliable, foolproof and efficient way to work with a local Indian supplier is to conduct due-diligence at the initial stages and follow up at regular intervals, so that finished goods are shipped on time.

As your local partner, Arsha Consulting will be in charge of this follow-up. Once we enter into a formal business arrangement with you, we will assign a project manager and resources dedicated to your account. These people will be in constant touch with the factory workers to ensure that work is getting done.

5. Fair and Ethical Labour Practices

With greater awareness and scrutiny around fair labour practices today, international firms need to be 100% sure that the factory is a safe space. This means following ethical guidelines, not employing underage workers, treating and paying local staff fairly, investigating cases of harassment, and supporting human rights.

As your partner on the ground, Arsha Consulting can ensure that cultural sensitivities are respected while adhering to fair labour practices. Many a time our personal relationships with factory owners and top management help us pick a partner who is transparent and ethical, and ease any cultural misunderstandings and conflicts.

We hope that this article helped you understand the full range of services we offer to international firms in Europe to enter the Indian market. Please feel free to get in touch with us for more information to suit your requirements.

Preeti Prakash | Journalist

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