The greatest world spend is probably on personal products. The Indian garment is no longer cheap sweat shop produce. Indian companies are buying brands or even better, creating them. And they, label their garments for the discerning buyer. Salman Noorani's 'Zodiac', is probably the first Indian company [--since the 1960s] that realised the value of branding. Its garments command an average of $60 a piece. Zodiac has three design centres worldwide.
New York Times mused in May, 03: "Considering that India is historically credited with giving the world paisley, seer sucker, calico, chintz, cashmere, crewel and the entire technique of printing on cloth, it is anybody's guess why India barely registers on the global map of fashion." It went on to report what Jaqueline Lundquist, wife of a former US Ambassador is doing about it. She says,"Western designers have been coming to India and 'borrowing' for 50 years. It's not fair that all these American designers should get the glory for Indian design." She is actively redressing this style-piracy.
Indian fashion was said to be *in*, a few years ago; it is now clear it will probably to stay in. Take in this typical news: Europe's leading jewellery company Hammer & Sohne commissioned Sadhak Shivanand Saraswati, 'a spiritual artist' to design a series for them. Such news is commonplace these days.
In the 'hard' sector:
You may dismiss fashion as 'soft' sector. But how about this: Dilip Chhabria designs an Aston Martin, the car deemed worthy of James Bond. Or the now routine pieces on A R Rahman: that he teams up with Andrew Lloyd Webber or that he has just finished scoring for a Chinese opus, predicted to rival 'Crouching Tigers...' Or that Samsonite is to locate its 'Global Design' centre in India. Or that Srinivasa Fine Arts, Chennai designs and distributes upmarket stationery like diaries, calenders, planners, albums etc through Neale Dataday, UK and retailed through the likes of Harrods. The point is, India is climbing steadily up the value chain on all fronts.
The 'hard' sector is not visible to most Indians. Out there, small and medium businesses are staking new territories with products that range from bone china to car batteries. They succeed because, companies like Tata Motors with their Indica, Mahindra and Mahindra with their Scorpio and TVS Motors with their series of bikes have shown that Indians can design from scratch and meet world's quality requirements. Because, Indian companies are beginning to win prizes for quality, like the Deming and TQM -- a domain that seemed reserved exclusively for Japan.