It’s an irony of sorts. Enough Orders but not enough Manpower. The gems and jewellery industry, which is witnessing an increase in export orders, is facing challenging times due to lack of skilled manpower as workers are either unable to come back due to transportation restrictions or reluctant to leave their families in times of crisis, the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).
Even though the times are tough, the demand for jewellery exports is seeing an upsurge, and that is a huge positive. Similar to every other sector in India, the jewellery industry, too, saw a massive exodus of its workforce amid the nationwide lockdown.
GJEPC chairman Colib Shah said-Exporters need to reassure their staff that they will be safe in the factories. Today there is enough work, but not enough manpower. It’s a tricky situation. While they would all like to see the worker attendance number raised, they may have to temper expectations given the situation,”
At present, an official government order allows for only 25 per cent of employees to attend work.
Rahul Dholakia, Managing Director, Shree Ramakrishna Exports, said his company runs only one shift. While there is good demand for their products mainly from the US and China as well as other destinations, he adds that “they cannot carry out even 50 per cent of the demand as the output is only 25 per cent due to the skeletal staff.”
Even skeletal staff in the Customs division, consignments are being dispatched at a slower pace.
Each and every worker hailing from Mumbai or Surat has been paid since the lockdown was declared in March. The rest of them, who are unable to come to work, are being paid enough to run their households on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, the world is in the grip of the pandemic and it would be inhuman to pressure the workers to come back to factories. They have to come back willingly.
Priority Jewels Founder Shailesh Sangani opined that the Indian jewellery export sector, especially Mumbai, is facing a tremendous shortage of manpower, specifically in the SEEPZ area.
He said “they are coaxing workers to return by offering more money, and even air tickets for a few highly skilled workers. But they are hesitant to leave their families after having been at home for such a long time. Then there is the constant fear of the ongoing pandemic and its proliferation across Mumbai, plus their family pressure. At the moment, working 2-3 shifts is the only answer to bridging the gap between increasing orders and the lack of workers.
GJEPC further said that there is a fear that if exporters are unable to fulfil orders, they may lose business to other countries such as Thailand, Vietnam or China, all of which are working with a larger capacity at much closer to normal than factories in India.
Export demand is picking up faster than expected, especially from western markets like Europe and the US. Most exporters reveal that they are asking for longer lead times from clients and orders that normally took 4-5 weeks are now being delivered in 6-7 weeks.
The jewellers’ apex body further stated that the Christmas and Holiday Season demand from western countries accounts for half of a jewellery exporter’s annual business, making September-November the busiest period of the year.
The current export demand is about 50-60 per cent of the same period last year, but most factories are operating at a quarter of their total capacity, thus creating a huge gap between demand and production.
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