Bengaluru: The readymade garment industry in Bengaluru goes back over four decades and in the seventies was recognised as the readymade clothing hub of South India. Garment factories mushroomed all over the city due to the easy availability of lower middle class workers in both urban and rural Bengaluru. Until this time there was no concept of a garment industry as textile merchants delivered material to tailors in their houses to get them stitched.
But around 1975, they began to bring several tailors under the same roof, giving birth to the garment factories. Initially, the workforce was made up largely of men, but women were later increasingly recruited as they provided cheaper labour. In just a few years Bengaluru’s garment industry emerged as the clothing major of the whole of south India.
Today the city has around 2,000 garment factories employing around five lakh people, of whom 85 per cent are women. Industry insiders say 40 to 50 companies control the entire industry, with each running over 50 or 75 factories. Most of the readymade garments made are exported to Europe, the United States, UAE, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and other countries. “Even international brands are tailored here and exported,” says a manager of a garment factory.
In fact, Bengaluru is the third largest readymade garment exporter of the country, next only to the National Capital Region (NCR) and Mumbai, which are in first and second place respectively. Now the industry is growing beyond the city, with hundreds of factories coming up in other districts as well. Though the official number of factories in the state is around 1,700, industry experts say there are over 2,500 in reality, and of them around 2,000 are located in Bengaluru alone.
Though the industry has empowered rural women by providing them jobs, they are not treated well, they reveal. “Starting from gender bias to sexual harassment, women employees face several problems. Though they are supposed to work for only eight hours, they put in at least ten hours,” complains Ms Pratibha R, president of the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union....