Feb 11, 2013 at 09:43am IST

Budget yatra: Tirupur, the knitwear capital of India, loses its sheen

Tirupur: CNN-IBN's Budget yatra is travelling across the country to states which are pillars of India's growth. CNN-IBN travels to Tirupur - the knitwear capital of India. From its peak in 2005 Tirupur has lost its sheen. From Rs 12,000 crore, it was expected to touch exports of over Rs 20,000 crore, but that never happened.

Shuttered factories, rusting vats, silent generators is all that's left of Tirupur which was once the knitwear capital, not just of India but the world. There's a fresh coat of paint to attract buyers, who don't come any more. Powered by entrepreneurs who promised quality at competitive prices, top brands rushed in. But the slowdown in US and Europe, competition from countries like Bangladesh and pollution issues has brought the industry to its knees.

Millions of such companies drive the economy of the nation. Some are fighting their way back. They kept their heads up during recession and are seeing orders return and that is the silver lining.

CNN-IBN met second generation industrialist R Raj Kumar, one of the lucky ones. His company, Best Corporation, survived the downturn. But it has been a struggle and critical issues continue to challenge the industry. "Starting with reducing orders from EU and US and other global issues, we hav issues here in terms of price fluctuation," Raj Kumar said.

The last few years have been particularly tough for the cities dyeing units. Pulled up for polluting, all the 700 odd units were ordered shut by the Madras High Court in 2011. Today the units have cleaned up their act. Machinery has been modernised and effluent treatment plants set up. CNN-IBN met Somu, a factory owner who even gave a practical demonstration of his commitment.

It is people like Somu who are fighting to regain India's position. Orders are slowly trickling back. Beyond the shop floor the government needs to urgently sign the free trade agreement with the European Union to bring Tirupur at par Bangladesh. On the bright side many top brands have stayed with the city because of quality and many are heading south out of China.