Interestingly, most of the products are passed off as top Italian brands.

Anna Peter

Mumbai, June 29

INDIAN worsted suiting manufacturers are facing a threat from cheaper, and what the industry claims as spurious, Chinese variety. A good quality woollen and cashmere suit length by an Indian brand may cost about Rs 10,000 while the Chinese import would sell for about Rs 6,000 .

The situation is grave, says Mr Mahesh N. Sanil, Secretary-General, Indian Woollen Mills Federation. Indian players import very high quality wool from Australia for their products and employ a large number of people. With sales of local players being impacted by cheaper Chinese and South Asian products, the industry is likely to suffer in the long-term, he said.

While most of these products claim to be made of the high-quality Super 140S and Super 120S grades of wool, this is far from the truth. When analysed, a suit length that bore the legend `Super 140 S wool made in Italy by Giorgio Armani' on its selvedge was found to be 49.6 per cent polyester and 50.4 per cent wool. Selvedge is the edge of the suit length that bears information about the products origin, blend and brand name.

Similarly, one carrying a `Super 120 S wool and Cashmere Made in Italy by Gianni Versace' tag was actually a 70 S product that was 47.2 per cent polyester and 52.8 per cent wool. The Federation had made a representation to the Government regarding the entry of such products.

Mainly from China, the products enter through the Kandla and Mumbai ports. These are usually bought by wholesalers and direct distributors and sold to retailers. These products often evade local taxes and retailers and big shop owners notch up an "almost 100 per cent mark-up against 40-45 per cent on what we (local branded players) offer", said an industry source.

In addition, prices of these products are substantially lower spreading the perception among consumers that Indian-made woollen suit lengths are overpriced and require very high-maintenance, while the imported fabric is premium and versatile enough to be washed.

Interestingly, most of the products are passed off as top Italian brands or even well known perfume manufacturers as Nina Ricci. Ironically, Gianni Versace and Giorgio Armani produce suits but not fabric. While recognising the industry's problems, this year the Government issued Notification 26/2004-09, which says that consignments will have to carry "a pre-shipment certificate from a textile testing laboratory accredited to the National Accreditation Agency of the Country of Origin".

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 30, 2005)
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