With 2000 machines, 5000 employees, four production units, the production output of nine million units per year, Paragon Apparel is India’s biggest polyester sportswear manufacturer. In this Skill Story, we present the entrepreneurial journey of Mr. Roshan Baid, Managing Director, Paragon Apparel Pvt. Ltd. to know more about the importance of skills and training in the apparel sector and about how they are coping with the current challenge of COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s read on…
Journey to becoming India’s biggest polyester sportswear manufacturer
I started with 10 machines in Tughlakabad Extn, New Delhi. We started to manufacture sportswear in the year 2001. One of our first clients was Reebok, in whose collaboration we started making polyester sportswear. It was the first sportswear collection in India. we used to get the fabric from Taiwan and manufacture the product here. In 2003, we collaborated with Adidas for the polyester sportswear manufacturing.
In 2004, after the removal of the quota system, it was open for all to get into the export business. We started exporting to Reebok across the world. Our turnover jumped from Rs. 10 crores to Rs. 100 crores by 2010.
Whatever profits we were getting, we kept investing them in infrastructure building. We set up a printing factory and our own embroidery factory. We also set up a lean manufacturing unit, which completely employed women.
We started an in-house training school, where we trained about 2000 women in manufacturing sportswear apparel. In the year 2012-2013, we started a fabric mill and started making our own fabric. Then, we launched India’s very own sportswear brand called Alcis.
Today, we have a complete value chain from yarn to retail in sportswear. We have 22 exclusive retail stores alongside a wide presence across a commendable number of Multi-Brand Outlet (MBO) and Large Format stores and also sell through all the leading e-commerce portals in the country.
Training of women workforce
Unlike South India, North India did not have factories that employed women. But we wanted to train and employ women in our lean manufacturing unit. It was initially difficult to bring them on board, as this kind of apparel manufacturing was new. The fabric used in manufacturing this sportswear is synthetic and slippery material which is difficult to handle. However, all the women underwent a four-week-long training session under a training supervisor. Back then, I had many professionals from Sri Lanka, who trained the women in my company. They were experienced in training this kind of manpower in Sri Lanka too.
Coping with COVID-19 pandemic
Soon after the lockdown was announced, we started making PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits. However, this was not by choice but by force, to meet the current need.
It opened up a whole new opportunity for us in manufacturing medical textiles. There is a great opportunity for India in manufacturing medical textiles around the globe. Honestly, India did not have any of these medical textiles prior to the pandemic.
Many manufacturers have come into play while it comes to PPE production. Therefore, it did not grow as I expected. Exports will start soon, which might change the scenario. However, sportswear is one such apparel product that bounced back quickly. This is so because, when you are working from home, you do not wear a shirt but wear a T-shirt and a track pant. Thanks to this, we are back almost at 70-80% of our usual capacity.
Making the switch
Sealing of seams is the most important part of making the PPE kits. We had two sealing machines, which meant we had basic manufacturing in place, which made it easier for us to make the shift. Though not for mass production, we could still manage it. Also, since the fabric used for making PPE kits is heavier than the fabric our workers used to use for sportswear, it was easier for them to handle it. All the workers knew how to handle the machine therefore, machine speed remained the same.
Partnership with ATDC
There is a lot of emphasis on skilled people and new job roles are emerging. We have been partnering with ATDC (Apparel Training and Design Centre) for a very long time now and have been taking in their students from all their branches in and around Noida. We have had supervisors, checkers, operators, and many others who catered to various job roles in the organisation. We would take them as interns, train them, and provide them employment.
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Following the safety norms
Social distancing is easy for us, as we have been doing only 70-80% of the business. But we follow all the COVID-19 safety measures and precautions and are taking absolute precautions.
Entrepreneurship is the most difficult thing but also the most satisfying thing. For the first three years, I thought I could not do anything. There would always be some or the other trouble, but once you get the taste of success, it is not found in any job. It is very satisfying to look back to have trained 2000-3000 women and providing jobs to more than 5000 people.