A section of textile entrepreneurs in Tamil Nadu’s Western belt are making a concerted effort to tap into the domestic market, especially into the widening e-commerce market, as a hedge against the vagaries of the exports market that they have been faced with for the past few decades.

Traditionally evolved as an export-oriented ecosystem, the manufacturers of Tirupur and Coimbatore have had to decode currency undulations, deal with rising labour costs and make do with a lighter incentive basket from the Tamil Nadu Government even as States such as Gujarat and Telengana gave periodic boosts to manufacturers. On top of that remains the heightening competition from Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia, countries that enjoy export expressways – duty-free access into the European market.

“We have seen reports that the online fashion market in India is projected to grow nearly 3.5 times, from the current size to about $14 bn,” said Prabhu Damodharan, a textile mill owner and Secretary of Entrepreneur Association Indian Texpreneurs Federation. “Our entrepreneurs should not miss the wave; secondly, considering the kind of growth we see in the exports industry, it is imperative that textile businesses should look at tapping the home market. We can easily create over a dozen clothing brands that can rake in Rs. 500 cr in revenue in the domestic market, if we focus on it.”

According to a report by ratings agency Icra, the global apparel trade has been seeing sustained sluggish growth. According to data by the agency, Indian apparel exports declined to $16.7 bn during 2017-18 from $17.3 bn on sharp reduction in exports to the UAE at $2.8 bn. In the absence of free trade agreements or similar arrangements enjoyed by competing nations, Indian entrepreneurs have begun to look at the domestic market. Conscious of the need to get deeper into the domestic market, a few manufacturers have come up with new brands and marketing campaigns to woo local buyers. One of the forerunners in Tamil Nadu who had gone domestic was Anugraha Fashion in Tirupur, dubbed ‘Dollar City’ for its export-oriented units.