GAF: Please tell us about yourself?
Navdeep: After completing my MBA from Punjab School of Economics and Business,GND University, in 1987, in my career spanning three decades, I have had the privilege of working in three exceptionally great organisations under visionary leaders. I joined Vardhman- India’s largest cotton-textile company as a management trainee. My role as head of export department gave me international exposure as Vardhman was a leading exporter of yarn and fabrics to over 40 countries.From 1994 to 2002 I was a general manager in the textile division of Kewalram Chanrai Group in Nigeria where I gained familiarity with the African textile & clothing industry. As a Partner at Gherzi Textil Organisation, Switzerland, last fifteen years of management consulting practice have given me fulfillment and tremendous opportunity to find solutions for our customers.
GAF: Tell us the primary problem that Gherzi is trying to solve?
Navdeep: Gherzi offers integrated solutions across textile and apparel value chain from fibres to fashion. Our customers rely on us for identifying attractive opportunities and solving problems covering a wide spectrum including long terms strategy for growth and diversification, restructuring, operational issues relating to efficiency and productivity, training, engineering & logistics and corporate finance. Gherzi is helping its customers to navigate contemporary issues of sustainability and digitization and comprehend their impact on new business models.
GAF: There are several players in the consultancy domain for apparel industry, how does Gherzi stand out?
Navdeep: The USP of Gherzi lies in being international, integrated and independent. Clients in textiles and apparel industry seek a matured global perspective. And of course we bring our hallmark ‘Swissness’ into services offered to our customers worldwide.
GAF: Can you tell us about some of your major clients and describe the problems you have solved for them?
Navdeep: Gherzi serves renowned textile & apparel companies and OEM’s worldwide and so it may be difficult to single out a few. However to provide a glimpse of our eclectic portfolio, we are currently planning large textile industrial projects and parks in India, Bangladesh and Africa; Capacity building programmes to put in place systems & procedures for training of thousands of operators and supervisors in textile and apparel factories in India, Bangladesh and Kenya; A state of the art fully automated warehouse was successfully implemented for India’s largest apparel fabric mill; In the rarefied sphere of technical textiles, Gherzi is helping its clients to evaluate attractive opportunities for investment in high growth segments of composites and non wovens; Under the aegis of ITMF, Gherzi is working with international home textile brands and retailers towards harmonization of standards; Gherzi is well known for its policy advisory services to government and institutional clients. Recently, we developed a perspective plan for the Brazilian textile & apparel industry.
GAF: Which are the key markets for Gherzi? Which markets is Gherzi planning to explore in the near future?
Navdeep: As a consultant to the industry since 1929, Gherzi has provided advisory services in over 80 countries. Key markets for us are wherever there is a significant textile & apparel related activity. Our major territories of focus are the Indian sub-continent, ASEAN, EU, Turkey, sub Saharan Africa and Americas.
GAF: Africa is now seen as one of the emerging markets in the apparel industry. It’s been referred to as the ‘future of fashion’ or ‘next factory of the world’. What is Gherzi’s/your expectation from this market?
Navdeep: It is in the nature of our peripatetic industry to ever seek new frontiers. Africa is indeed perceived as an emerging apparel supplier in future. With a population of 1 billion, the continent has abundant manpower. There is also an opportunity to add value to 1.4 mn tons of cotton only 15% of which is currently processed. Sub Saharan Africa enjoys duty free access to the US under AGOA and several African LDC’s such as Ethiopia and Madagascar also benefit from duty free export of apparels to EU. Africa exported $ 10 bn worth of apparels in 2016 however it is concentrated in three countries in North Africa viz Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt (75%). While Africa offers tremendous opportunities, several challenges must be overcome before apparel industry can start to flourish. These include infrastructure and logistics, skills development, reducing the cost of doing business and policy consistency as part of an enabling environment.
GAF: What are the common challenges that you have faced while working in the textile and garment factories?
Navdeep: Often while working on operational consulting projects with our clients, it is observed that the supervisors are the weakest link in organisational chain and thus their capacity building and empowerment is the biggest challenge. Lack of digital literacy among workforce to efficiently operate modern equipment is also a major challenge. Frankly speaking as a consulting firm it is always an uphill task to convince the owners to invest in capacity building and process improvement where tangible outcomes will become visible only in mid to long term! Therefore, we always strive to add value to our clients’ business.
GAF: We hear a lot on sustainable textiles these days. What is your take on the current sustainability level in the textile industry? Is there any room for improvement? How is Gherzi involved?
Navdeep: Indeed, sustainability is a burning topic for the fashion industry due to its vast environmental and socioeconomic footprint. Our industry uses vast amount of natural resources such as land, water and energy and is also a source of livelihood to over 300 million people. What we have seen is that the organized segment of the industry consisting of international brands and retailers, textile mills and garment manufacturers recognize the impact and have taken steps to comply with regulations. However there is still a huge supply chain which is in the decentralized sector and where there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve compliance.
Gherzi view is that sustainability cannot be pursued in isolation but rather in a holistic manner as fashion industry’s new business model. It should encompass product design, manufacturing, distribution as well as consumption. Gherzi was instrumental in the recent creation of the Sustainable Textile School in collaboration with Technische Universitat, Chemnitz, Germany- a pioneer initiative to bring all stakeholders together. We are encouraging renowned textile institutes to join this movement to foster the practice of sustainability in India.