China, India, Vietnam, and Bangladesh are among the largest textile exporters in the world.
Each of the countries has its own culture and business environment and offers products that may be more or less suitable for your sourcing needs. Let’s have a closer look at each region, and some of the aspects you should consider when looking for a supplier.
In China, the textile industry is not a major focus for industrial development, and lower value-added manufacturing is progressively moving into southeast Asian countries. Global textile and apparel sourcing become more diversified. Yet this does not mean that China is no longer one of the leading players in this field, but emerging countries in South East Asia are increasingly challenging China's dominance.
China still has a lot going for it. It has well-established supply chains, as well as good infrastructure and expertise in making apparel and textile products; no single emerging country in South East Asia can yet hope to match China in all of these capabilities.
However, China is no longer the only option for textile and apparel sourcing, and it certainly is no longer the cheapest option. So taking advantage of this new landscape means being able to exercise a range of sourcing options focusing on a number of emerging Asian countries.
With the low-cost domestic supply of cotton and low labor costs, Pakistan has a good track record for pure cotton apparel production for items such as male T-shirts and cotton jerseys.
Bangladesh still has an underdeveloped apparel and fabric manufacturing industry, although it also has very low labor costs and cotton prices. Thus Bangladesh can be targeted for sourcing cotton garments of basic design and standard quality.
Sri Lanka has similar cost advantages as Pakistan and Bangladesh (although the cotton price and labor costs are slightly higher), but operating and capital costs are higher, and a lot more machinery needs to be imported. As a result, Sri Lanka could potentially only be a sourcing target for certain niche products such as women's underwear.
Cambodia's textile industry is still highly underdeveloped, but low costs and government support for the industry makes it attractive likewise for niche products such as basic design T-shirts.
Indonesia's cotton price is the lowest in the region, but operating costs are higher than most countries in the region and much of the machinery in the industry is largely outdated. Indonesia does, however, have substantial installed capacity across a range of textile segments, and hence can be targeted for a number of products such as synthetic fabrics, synthetic apparel, and high-end cotton shirts.
Vietnam has a lower cost base than China and India, although higher than Bangladesh and Pakistan. The textiles and apparel industry is actively supported by the government, and relatively significant currency depreciation makes the country's exports competitive. The local workforce is still largely of a low-end skill base, however, meaning that Vietnam's best sourcing opportunities are still in basic designs and standard types such as woven garments and children's products.
India has a diverse and integrated fabric and apparel industry, and it now has lower labor costs and cheaper cotton prices than China. These and other trends mean that India will likely gain a comprehensive competitive edge over China in the future. India can be targeted for sourcing fabrics and textiles across virtually all product categories.
Undoubtedly, China is still a major player in the sector, but other Asian countries also present great opportunities for importers.
A key factor in choosing the right supplier for manufacturing textile and fiber is the labor cost. But don’t discount other concerns that can affect your quality and deliverability, like labor productivity and infrastructure development.
Some factors to consider include:
Ultimately verifying a factory’s manufacturing capabilities and managing product quality with audits and inspections benefits all importers. Your customers will benefit too when they receive higher quality products from suppliers they can trust.