Vivek Ramachandran is the Chief Executive Officer of Serai, the digital B2B platform by HSBC that makes global trade easier for apparel businesses. Before Serai, Vivek was the Global Head of Growth & Innovation for HSBC Commercial Banking. He was responsible for coordinating key strategic growth initiatives, exploring new business models and driving the adoption of new technologies. He was also the Global Head of Product for HSBC’s Trade & Receivables Finance business.
In an era where insights are crucial at every stage of a business’ journey, real-time data is what gives buyers and sellers an edge when it comes to making key business decisions.
For instance, companies can leverage data to build more efficient supply chains that can not only help them reduce cost and enhance productivity, but also respond more quickly to changes in the market.
To make full use of all this data, companies need to capture, analyse, and break it down into actionable insights. However, the textile and apparel industry is traditionally complex and cumbersome, with a low rate of digital adoption. Whatever data they do have is often fragmented and difficult to act upon.
The Indian apparel industry needs to embrace technology to successfully transition to a data-driven era and experience the myriad of benefits it can provide.
Building efficient and resilient supply chains
Apparel supply chains are notoriously complex. A large brand could have several thousand suppliers across various tiers, resulting in an abundance of data. Unfortunately, most of this data is maintained in a manual and inconsistent format. Technology can help fix this. Supply chain transparency tools, for instance, allow brands and manufacturers to digitise vast amounts of supply chain data such as shipment and order details. Consolidating all this fragmented data provides companies with a holistic view of their extended supply chain, helping them identify inefficiencies or gaps.
Companies can also integrate various third party data sources to get financial information on their partners, alerts around possible disruptions in their supply chain or stay up-to-date with relevant news. All this data can empower companies to make more informed decisions. For example, if a natural disaster shuts one shipping port down, companies can re-route products through another. As we’ve seen this year, a single disruption can have a massive domino effect globally so it is important that companies be as flexible and prepared as possible.
Building sustainable businesses
Scaling up is a top priority for India’s textile sector. However, they must balance growth with rising demands for sustainability from various stakeholders such as consumers, activists and regulators. In order to achieve and be able to demonstrate its sustainability practices, businesses need access to the right data.
For example, data around energy or water usage can help a manufacturing facility identify ways to be more efficient. In the long run, having this information can help companies fulfill their ESG goals. They can also share this data publicly or with select stakeholders to showcase sustainable practices.
Supply chain traceability or visibility tools can help companies track these various metrics, not just for themselves but their entire supply chain. By having their suppliers and manufacturers upload their data onto the platform, companies can easily see the ESG credentials of their extended supply chain.
With COP26 bringing green business practices to the forefront, we imagine it to be a huge priority for the apparel industry in the next few years.
Building standardised and compliant trade practices
Being sustainable is not just good business, it can be good for business. Companies have had shipments blocked in the US and more recently Canada, for not being fully compliant with trade regulations. Negative publicity around unethical practices can damage a company’s reputation and ultimately affect their bottom line. The lack of transparency along their supply chains is a major challenge for apparel players. In fact, a recent report by Serai and KPMG found that only 15% of apparel companies globally are able to trace their entire supply chain.
We’ve also seen the emergence of various types of technology that can help make supply chain traceability easier. Platform-based solutions such as Serai’s allow companies to upload, track and manage their vast amount of supply chain data. There are also technical tools that allow the monitoring of physical goods as they transition through the supply chain.
Way forward for India
India’s textile space contributes 7% to the country’s total industrial output. Its highly branched out ecosystem must utilise the power of technology and data to achieve higher national and global growth. This will only help strengthen India’s position as an innovative textile hub in the global landscape.