Oinam Nabakishore Singh
Second important factor of production in the Diamond Model of competitiveness by Michael E. Porter is human capital or labour. Skill, knowledge, talent, motivation, discipline, dedication, hard work, culture and work culture of the labour force, expressed otherwise as human capital of a place or state, contribute to its competitiveness. Let us look at the ecosystem of education, skill development, etc., of labour in Manipur. In non-technical education, curriculum largely covers subjects like language-Manipuri, English, Hindi, tribal dialects, social science, mathematics, physical science, arts, commerce, etc. They are of very little use in manufacturing industries, where machineries require a completely new set of skills and knowledge. Technical education of engineering, agriculture, forestry, environmental studies, etc. are much more relevant in terms of acquisition of skill and knowledge for manufacturing, service, research and development.
To illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of labour of Manipur in different areas of manufacturing, I will share some personal experience and knowledge. Manipuri women are adept at handloom weaving since time immemorial. Meitei women living in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Assam and Tripura are also well known for skills of weaving and workmanship. However, such weaving either inside or outside the state is on part time basis as no factory style weaving has been tried. Usually, womenfolk, engage themselves in weaving as part time job after other routine household chores are completed. Earning from weaving is also low due to use of traditional looms and low productivity. Improvement in productivity was achieved by switching over to fly shuttle loom, which is an upgradation of technology in weaving. In the hills and some pockets in the valley, loin loom weaving is still being practiced to weave traditional heavy clothes, which command good price. Because of preference of western wears by the young boys and girls, male-folks, the future of handloom weaving lies only in weaving of intricate silk traditional wears like silk saris and rani phees for women. We have introduced power loom weaving as done in other states in India, and in future handloom weaving of plain fabrics will be displaced. The skills of handloom and powerloom weaving are similar in many respects, and therefore many Manipur women easily learn the skills of power loom weaving. In view of higher productivity and competitiveness, and avoidance of drudgery of sitting on the loom for long hours, it is inevitable to switch over to power loom by upgrading the skills. Shift to power loom weaving will increase our competitiveness in fabric production.
Manipur tried its hand in spinning of yarns by setting up a spinning mill at Loitang Khunou in government sector. It could not sustain the higher cost of overstaffing, lack of work culture in industrial setting, high cost of transportation of cotton from far off places and limited market. Competitiveness was impacted due to government interference in recruitment and lack of professionalism in management. Ultimately, Manipur Spinning Mill was closed.
In order to introduce industrial garmenting in Manipur, Apparel and Design Training Centre(ATDC) under Apparel Export Promotion Council(AEPC) opened a training Centre at Imphal in the premises of District Industries Centre, Imphal East in 2012. First, we sent some boys and girls to Bangalore to get them trained in operation of industrial sewing machines, special machines and all aspects related to garmenting. Some of those trained for one year became trainers of the new training centre of ATDC at Imphal. While many of the girls trained as sewing machine operators got jobs in export houses in Gurgaon and other places, others preferred to remain at home in Manipur. Those who went out worked under the strict discipline and working hours of well-established garment factories, while those who remained in Manipur did not get job and became lethargic without work culture.
Department of Commerce and Industry, Manipur set up three units of apparel and garment making at Lamboi Khongnangkhong, Imphal West by providing workshed, water supply, electricity, industrial sewing machines and other special machines to allow working of about one hundred employees simultaneously. Because of weaknesses like low skill of workers, limited working hours, poor management, high cost of production, etc., none of the units was able to sustain. Competitiveness in textile industry is a big challenge on account of constraints listed here. Similar problems would have been faced in other parts of the country at the beginning. Gradually, both management and employees will improve in professionalism and productivity.
Training of labour force in different trades will not only make them employable, but it will also enhance the earning of the labour. There are different approaches to skill development. Germany combines study of theory in vocational institutes with practical training in actual businesses for about three and a half years. At the end of the course, a trainee has both theoretical and practical experience making him employable. We may adopt such vocational training across sectors-manufacturing and services.
Capital is another factor of production. It includes factories and machineries used in production. Manipur government, as in other states in India, constructed industrial estates to make ready-to-move in work sheds to start manufacturing. Some entrepreneurs have constructed their own worksheds to meet the requirement of space for business. However, there is still big gap between the demand and supply for worksheds and industrial estates rendering the state less competitive. It will be necessary to create a land bank to make industrial sites available on demand.
Machineries are the tools and equipments used in production of goods and services. They include the technology including information technology, automation and robotics. So far, the machineries used in the production and packaging in Manipur have a long way to go. However, in service industry of healthcare and diagnostics, state-of-the-art equipments are being used in the state. Easier access to latest technology for manufacturing like the ones used in China and other developed countries will help in improvement of productivity.
Entrepreneurship is the last factor of production. Entrepreneur is the one who puts all other factors of production together-land, labour and capital to produce goods and services to meet the potential demand of the market. Having as many entrepreneurs as possible to exploit opportunities by taking risks makes a state competitive. So far, Manipur has been lacking in entrepreneurship as most of the people have been engaged in agriculture and service sectors. However, of late, several youths are taking the path of entrepreneurs in the state. A centre for development of entrepreneurship in Manipur University has started imparting course on entrepreneurship. This centre and many other educational institutions should be the incubation centres for grooming successful entrepreneurs.
Apart from factors of production, there are many other parameters in the Diamond Model of Michael Porter to determine competitiveness of a nation or state. Government policy of incentivizing local firms by way of capital subsidy, interest subsidy, tax concessions, transport subsidy and favourable tariff barriers will promote competitiveness. It is necessary for policy makers to align policies and programmes to the requirements of competitiveness of our state.
Views are personal.
Oinam Nabakishore Singh