Hula Global, a Noida-based company which is into manufacturing and distribution of personal protection equipment, was counting on the huge windfall opportunity post-COVID-19 outbreak.
During the initial weeks of COVID-19 outbreak in India, there was a huge shortage of coveralls, especially for frontline healthcare workers. A single piece of PPE coverall was being sold for Rs 1,300 - Rs 1,500.
Hula bought machines and expanded capacity to make 10,000 coveralls daily.
Sensing opportunity, many small and medium textile and apparel makers soon jumped into manufacturing coveralls. The problem is coverall making was highly unregulated, with hardly any quality standards. But the prices have started to crash. Now, coverall in bulk costs about Rs 300 - Rs 350 apiece, but quality remains a problem.
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Companies like Hula were irked by crash in prices and lack of clarity in terms of standardisation and quality.
"Currently, India follows a 'one-size-fits-all' criteria for coveralls in contrast to the category-wise standardisation followed in other countries," said Karan Bose, Managing Director, Hula Global.
Bose said the risk of infection varies depending on the profession. A medical worker is at highest risk of infection - he needs to get the coverall of different quality compared to people working in hair saloon, cab drivers, restaurant workers who are less at risk.
"The government hasn't come up with guidelines on this," Bose said.
Meanwhile hospital workers have started complaining about substandard coveralls that are supplied to them.
"We are currently staying away from coveralls as there is no lack clarity. We are shipping surgical gowns to Europe and other places," Bose said.
While government has given power to eight labs across India that includes the South India Textile Research Association (SITRA), Defence Research & Development Establishment (DRDO), Ordinance Factory Board and Textiles Committe among others to test and validate samples of coveralls and issue certificates.
Bose said it still remains a huge challenge to verify quality of the products supplied as some manufacturers send good quality product for sampling but end up supplying coveralls with inferior quality..
Bose said the a medical grade coverall of good quality would cost Rs 500 - Rs 700 per piece.
Meanwhile the government said HLL Lifecare Limited (HLL), the procuring agency of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is procuring PPE coveralls from manufacturers and suppliers only after getting their coveralls tested and approved by one of the eight labs nominated by the Ministry of Textiles (MoT) for testing the same. It is only after their products qualify in the test prescribed by the technical committee (JMG) of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, that they are procured.
India has significantly ramped up its domestic production capacity of coveralls, producing more than 3 lakh PPEs States as well as Central institutions have been provided with around 74.48 lakh coveralls so far.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here