Yesterday evening, when we first arrived at United Dry Goods (UDG), we met Gary, a friend of the sponsor of our trip. He told us a little bit about Mr. Khaitani's vision for UDG, and a big part of that vision was to provide their factory employees with a better way of life. Many of UDG's factory employees were bussed in to the city of Bangalore from up to 2 hours away on a daily basis to work their shifts. Mr. Khaitani decided to build a new production facility closer to where his employees lived so that they would no longer have such a difficult daily commute. Yesterday, we visited this facility on the outskirts of Bangalore. Named Master Rao's Temple of Hope, Opportunity, and Happiness (MRT) after a former employee, this factory is an incredible facility.
We first toured Amtek Industries, an embroidery factory that is located right next to MRT. Amtek utilizes computerized systems to add embroidery to pre-made fabrics. They create many beautiful, colorful patterns that vary in complexity.
In addition to approximately 50 embroidery machines, Amtek also has a unique machine that creates threads of sequins. These threads are later added to the embroidered fabrics by hand.
Using a computer, employees input a pattern that the embroidery machine then outputs on to the fabric. It takes about an hour for the machine to complete a simple pattern and up to four hours for more complex patterns. All of the patterns are created by in-house designers, and we got a behind-the-scenes look at these designers using a computer program to create patterns. The program is not as advanced as what we have access to in the US, however it's unlike anything I've ever seen before. One of the designers showed us a floral pattern he created, and the program allows you to designate which threads are embroidered in a particular order. It was really incredible!
Next, we headed upstairs to see workers add the finishing details to the fabrics. At this stage, workers sew sequins, cut edges, iron, fold, and package the colorful embroidery. One of the managers explained that these fabrics are sold mainly to Nigeria and Dubai. Nigeria is their largest market because colorful patterns are very much in fashion for women. Amtek sells their product from $70 to $120 for 5 yards. Before departing from Amtek, they fed us snacks and graciously presented each of us with a stunning embroidered shawl. Every day, I am surprised and delighted by the outpouring of hospitality in this country!
After our tour at Amtek, we headed back to MRT to take a tour of that facility. Of the factories we've toured so far on this trip, I thought MRT was hands down the nicest one. The workers looked genuinely happy. There was bright lighting, lots of air ventilation, and the ceilings were high. In terms of garment factories in a developing nation, MRT is a great place to work.
At MRT, fabric is purchased (mostly from India and some from China) and it is checked for any imperfections or shade variations. If it achieves the AQL, or acceptable quality limit, it is moved on to the cutting department, where it is cut on a mass scale into the proper shape and rolled into a bundle. Next, the fabric is brought to an assembly-line set up where each worker completes one step in the process of creating a garment. Some of these processes include sewing a collar, attaching sleeves and adding a label. At the end of the assembly line, the garments are thoroughly checked and a tag is added with the style number information.
We met with one of the factory managers, who explained how they decide how much of each product to create and she gave us an overview of the supply chain for their products. She told us that the clothing company specifies how many garments should be produced and sends information on what colors should be used and what the garment should look like. A sample garment is inspected by Buena Veritas prior to being massed produced to ensure that it meets quality standards.
There are many procedures and employee benefits present at MRT that I have not seen at the other garment factories I've toured. I found it interesting that all workers wear name tags with identification information. The workers are given 30 minute lunch breaks and the factory only operates between the hours of 9AM and 5:30PM, meaning there is only one daily shift (the consensus for other factories seems to be three sets of 8 hour shifts, allowing the factories to run 24 hours a day). The 650 people employed at MRT have access to health and medical care. MRT has also set up sports teams on which employees can play, and they have a day care center on site for employees with children! United Dry Goods goes above and beyond to ensure the happiness and safety of their workers, and as a consumer, I really appreciate that.
Following our tour, we were fed Dominos pizza, which is very spicy in India. Actually, everything is spicy in India, even the white rice. Every day, I am learning that I cannot handle spice. Fortunately, they also served these chocolate cookies called "Dark Fantasy." They are delicious!! The Fiber Science and Apparel Design India Trip is run every other year, so in 2014 when the last group came, they planted a tree in the driveway of MRT. We got to plant our own tree as the 2016 group, and it was so fun to be able to leave our mark on this facility!
We left MRT and headed to Jyothy Fabricare facility, our final factory visit for the day. Jyothy is a laundry service provider, and they are currently located solely in India. Their parent company is Jyothy Laboratories Limited, and while they began by selling fabric care products, they now also provide fabric care. In India, the norm is to wash clothing in the local waters, but this water is extremely polluted, so they want to help Indian people wash their clothing in clean facilities. They provide personalized fabric care and use their own scientific washing method to allow clothing to last longer.
In India, the laundry situation is not organized. People do not have enough knowledge on the proper ways to do laundry, and most launderers offer their services at incredibly high prices. Globally, India has a much weaker laundry system than other countries and they rarely take into account environmental impact. Jyothy Fabricare seeks to ameliorate this issue by providing one-of-a-kind professional and sustainable laundry service.
We toured one of 39 large-scale Jyothy laundry facilities. Jyothy also offers smaller in-store service as well as delivery services. Some of their biggest clients are major corporations such as airlines and hotels. They wash the sheets and uniforms for these companies. Another major client of Jyothy is the Commonwealth Games of India. Jyothy has about 95 corporate clients, and in a month, their company does 460 tons of laundry. They launched in 2009 and since than, they have increased their annual revenue to about 32.3 Crores, which translates to $5.2 million (USD). They have plans to expand out of India and they hope to be in the United States by 2020!
We took a tour of the facility, and we were able to see the laundering process from start to finish. Jyothy has chemists who are in charge of developing washes and stain removers to be used by the company. Ironically, I stained my new scarf earlier this morning, so I asked if they would try to get the stain out, and they did! They even ironed and folded it for me... It was so sweet!
The Jyothy laundry facilities use zero electricity in their washing process. All of the steam used is generated by a boiler located next to the factory. In this boiler, they burn brigettes, which are logs of compressed agriculture waste. This is truly incredible, because it means that they are conserving electricity as well as incorporating recycling into their laundry process. Additionally, they use water that undergoes reverse osmosis treatment and they have a water treatment plant that allows them to reuse water. Clearly, Jyothy prioritized sustainability, which is so important for a large corporation in a developing nation to do because it sets an example for other companies.
All of the Jyothy employees are from nearby, and the second floor of the facility is dedicated to training new employees. There, they are taught about the different kinds of fabrics, how they should be washed, and more. Employees work 8 hour shifts and the facilities is open 24 hours a day for 7 days a week. The people at Jyothy were fantastic and again, so hospitable. I'm looking forward to when they eventually come to the US! Next, we had some time to do more shopping!! We went to a street in Bangalore that was filled with beautiful clothing stores, and I found a traditional lenga as well as a cute Western-style dress! We ended our day with a delicious and fun American dinner at T.G.I. Friday's. Although I've been enjoying the unique Indian food, eating at Friday's felt like home. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings! Xo! Sloane