A childhood fascination with the seemingly magical way fabric was transformed into finished garments on visits to the factory floor with his father and grandfather, makes Rakhil Hirdaramani well placed to handle manufacturing and IT at the $900 million family-owned multinational apparel conglomerate. Hirdaramani believes the fashion industry is entering a new era of customers who will consume less than ever before, with a renewed focus on sustainability by international brands.
The mantra of reduce, reuse or recycle also applies to clothing with the industry possibly seeing the end of fast and cheap fashion. “We’re focusing our investments and strategy on being one of the most sustainable manufacturers in the world,” he says.
“We’re focusing our investments and strategy on being one of the most sustainable manufacturers in the world.”
“We are working with customers to figure out what that means from a product perspective, in terms of raw material, and where manufacturing takes place.” The company is also broadening its markets, having begun supplying brands in Japan and India—two regions with a increasing middle class—where it sees massive opportunity.
With his experience in a group working as a contract manufacturer for some of the world’s top fashion brands, in 2017 Hirdaramani was selected as Chairman of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry Manufacturers Committee. Made up of manufacturers and brands working together to improve the industry as a whole, it looks at new sourcing destinations, new methods of manufacturing, and at the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“We look at the challenges we, as an industry face, from new and more agile entrants—both in manufacturing and from new brands— disruption from technology, and also a growing skills gap.” Hirdaramani group itself is readying for the technological transformation that will see manual processes automated in factories. It is committed to re-skilling workers and pushing for required education reforms to ensure future generations of workers fit into the new world of work.
“Five years from now, we may not need sewing operators, but IT literate mechatronics engineers to handle sophisticated equipment,” Hirdaramani says, referring to systems that merge mechanics, electronics, and computing, such as industrial robots. Hirdaramani’s foray into IT services, with its subsidiary H One, helps it make the shift to a smart factory, relying on real-time information and data-driven insights using the group’s apparel know-how. Its proprietary software, the Res.Q quality management system has reduced wastage significantly in apparel manufacturing already.