Government’s efforts to rope in new players to produce masks, protective gear see limited success

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani/Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 27, 2020 Published on March 27, 2020

Non-availability of machinery, raw materials and labour during lockdown proves a challenge

The Centre is making efforts to rope in new players for production of masks and gear to protect health workers against Covid-19, but it is proving to be difficult under the current lockdown. While some textile companies are keen to diversify into safety equipment to help bridge the domestic shortfall, many are being constrained by non-availability of machinery and raw materials.

Sanjay Jain, MD of a Delhi-based vertically integrated textiles company, said: “We need specific machines to make masks. We have checked with suppliers from China and it is not available at the moment. Even if we somehow import, it will be difficult to get them cleared and move them out of ports.”

Moreover, with no production taking place in factories due the lockdown , many workers have left for their home towns and villages and there is not enough labour to produce masks, he added.

Special committee formed

The Textiles Ministry has formed a special committee to enable textile producers switch over to production of masks and some like Welspun and Limerick have responded positively.

BK Goenka, Chairman, Welspun Group, said: “We have been making smart non-woven products and medium for diverse applications around safety clothing, filtration, personal hygiene and cosmetic segments. Manufacturing face masks and disinfectant wipes is a natural extension for us.”

Goenka said although the company was using technology and skill-set that are not optimised for the new products, it could manage to build a pipeline of a few hundred thousand masks in the coming weeks. “However, the current lockdown poses its own challenges for sourcing key ingredients and managing workforce. For this, we are working with the government and local authorities,” he said.

A premium fashion label Limerick, in India, has also chipped in and decided to donate 3,000 surgical masks to healthcare officials at Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai after March 31.

Special material

But, such success stories are limited in the current lock-down situation. There are industry players who have the equipment and machinery capacities that can be switched to making protective gear but they will require to import special material for making such products, which is difficult.

Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Aero Club, said: “We have experience in making adventure and outdoor specialty apparel products and this equipment and technology can be used to make protective gear apt for medical purposes. But we will need to import specialised material. This cannot be done overnight and will take time.”

Another textile producer in Delhi NCR pointed out that it was approached by Invest India, a non-profit agency to promote and facilitate investment under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, to look at the possibility of producing masks, but has not had much success yet.

“We have production capacities and would like to help the country in this time of need by manufacturing masks and other protective gear. But we don’t have either the machinery or the raw material to do so and don’t know where to procure it from in this time of lock-down. If the government provides us with the inputs we can start producing,” he said.

Published on March 27, 2020

A letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.