Exclusive Interview with Dr. Roopak Vashistha CEO & DG AMH SSC
The Corona epidemic is currently prevalent in the country and the world. There is a cloud of crisis on livelihood. At such a time, enhancing the skills among the youth and then making them employable is nothing less than a challenge during pandemic. The government is striving to give a boost to the apparel sector manufacturing in India and has developed a comprehensive plan to realize the vision of making the country self- reliant through 'Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan'. Apparel Made-Ups & Home Furnishing Sector Skill Council (AMH SSC) is a not‐for‐profit Organization, registered under the Indian Companies Act, 1956. AMH SSC envisions to enable a world class apparel, made-ups and home furnishing manufacturing industry with an ecosystem for skill development and enhance employability of the large number of Indian human resource.
Q1. What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry in terms of jobs and skill development?
Ans.: Apparel industry has been adversely hit by Pandemic situation. Most of the initial orders from international buyers had got either cancelled or the buyers insisted on heavy discounting, which resulted in a real difficult situation for Apparel manufacturers.
To add to the worries, the skilled workers from the Apparel factories returned to their native places due to Covid-19. This aggravated the woes of the Factories and the manufacturers bore doubled edged brunt by first losing orders and second by losing workers.
However, thanks to the improving situations of the Pandemic as well as the efforts of the Central and State governments, the migrants have slowly started returning to cities. The Govt are also certifying these migrant workers under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) scheme of the Govt of India. This would make them ready to receive various kinds of loan, as well as opportunity to join Apparel units in their areas.
Q2. Due to Covid-19, US & European firms are looking at India as an alternative to China. How would it create an opportunity for the apparel sector?
Ans. This is indeed a very good opportunity for India and other countries to grab the business which would get transferred from China. However, let's all also realise that post abolition of Quota regime in 2005, the entire world has become competitive and the Export houses of India have stiff competition with various other countries which have similar capabilities in Apparel production, like Vietnam, Bangladesh etc. However, having said so, there would be tremendous opportunities for Indian Apparel industry to increase their footfall in countries which used to mainly depend on China.
Q3. What should be the roadmap for creating India into a very strong apparel hub as well as "Aatm Nirbhar Bharat"?
Ans. India, in any case, used to make apparel for the various international brands, especially the T Shirts being produced in Tirupur, Tamilnadu. We now need to increase the capacity in our existing facilities. By increasing capacity, we mean increasing more machines and skilled manpower so as to enable the organisations produce more. Instead of importing the PPE kits and masks for fighting Covid-19, we have already started producing these items nationally, thus, becoming 'Atmanirbhar'.
Q4. This is a tough time for every leader. What are some of the leadership lessons that have guided you in the current times of crisis?
Ans.: The first and foremost leadership lesson in this Pandemic situation which guided us is the fact that we have respected the dignity of workforce by not firing a single person from the organisation. In many organisations myopic decisions have been taken firing the skilled and trusted team members. Temporary adverse situations should not lead to exodus of trusted and skilled employees. Those with foresightedness have retained their people, despite adverse situations but those with short vision have dispensed with the services of their team members.
Second, leadership lesson which all, including ourselves, have learnt, is the adoption of lean management. This Pandemic situation has taught us as to how to optimise productivity.
Q5. How is the job market going to change post COVID-19 and does it need new QP-NOS, job roles, etc.?
Ans.: This is a temporary disruption and I feel that in the long run it will not make any significant change and the business will soon be, as usual. Accordingly, we feel that there is no need to go for developing any new QP/NOSs. The only small change which can, perhaps, be implemented is partially digitising the training delivery mechanism, which can be useful during the period the students are not being able to attend Off line classes. In longer run, however, it would be worthwhile continuing with the Off line mechanism.
Q6. How are you ensuring continuous skill development in the present scenario? And, what are the challenges in that?
Ans.: The biggest challenge is the inability of students to reach out to classes for training. Hence, we are somewhat switching over to On line delivery of training, as well as assessment.
In addition to this, we are conducting a number of Management Development Programmes (MDPs) and Student Development Programmes (SDPs) thru online mode so that even during this Pandemic situation we are able to reach out to the students both at national, as well as international levels.
In this situation, it's also difficult for the Assessors to reach out to the remote areas due to Pandemic restrictions and, hence, assessments are not taking place. We are switching over to online assessment mechanism for the time being.
Q7. Any information you would like to share with our readers?
Ans. AMH SSC has come forward to help the various state governments where more migrant workers have returned by offering short term trainings of these workers and certifying them, thus, enabling them to start their own shops or join Organised sector as worker. We are also trying to form Self Help Groups (SHG) of these workers and connecting them with the Apparel manufacturers or the State Govt organisations for Job work.