New Delhi: A day after he unveiled a 100-day agenda for the ailing Indian textile industry, textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran spoke on the agenda and the way forward. Edited excerpts:
Your first stint was as the high-profile information technology and telecom minister (in the previous United Progressive Alliance government). Now it is the textiles ministry. Is it a different ball game?
I would say that both are equally challenging. In fact, telecom was more a sunrise sector when I took over but this one is a 200-year-old legacy and we have been doing well.
Still optimistic: Maran says lack of orders from overseas and stagnant domestic consumption have affected the textile sector. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
However, since I have taken over, I have realized that it is a challenging time for the Indian textile industry and they are going through a tough time because from last September, the industry is not seeing good news. When I look ahead, I can say that this is the time to take (on) some challenges and we have taken them. The industry seems to be united at this moment as they are facing trouble. Let us see how the future pans out.
You have spoken about challenging times and that textiles have been particularly hit by a global economic downturn. However, commerce ministry officials feel that there is a slight pickup. What are the indications you are getting? Are you sure that you will be able to achieve the 7-8% growth target set for the textile industry for this fiscal?
I think everyone wants to be optimistic. Even I want to be optimistic. But the bad news is that since September, exports have been suffering. This is basically because of factors that cannot be controlled by us—the US and European slowdown. My friends in the US tell me that they can walk into any mall and buy a shirt at a 50-60% discount, but still there are no buyers. This has had a tremendous impact on exports this year. The reports we have got say exports are down 10%, whereas domestic consumption is stagnant.
Have the previously announced stimulus packages for the textile sector had any impact?
See, the stimulus package was there for them but at this moment you can give any stimulus to exports, but if there are no orders, how can you expect that the package will help?
We are waiting for September, which is when orders get placed. There are no positive signs as yet. We are closely monitoring (the situation) and we feel that if this repeats, we will really have to look at something else.
Recently, when I spoke to the industry, I said, let us look eastwards—to the Japanese and Australian markets. Basically, the recession has not affected the East as much as it has the West.
Given this context, are you going to be pushing for more fiscal relief for the textile sector in the upcoming budget?
Yes, certainly. We have made our requests when we met with the finance minister. In fact, the first question he threw at me was: “Mr Maran, we need to get 7-8%, what are we going to do?” That was the first question he asked me and I said this is what the industry wants.