Ram Sareen, Founder, Tukatech, who recently won a prestigious award for “Technology Innovation at the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 2017 Fashion Awards talks with Team Perfect Sourcing in a face to face interaction and shares interesting insights about his journey.
PS: What is your view about the
current scenario of garment and
textile industry of India?
RS: “Labour, energy, and materials continue to go up, yet the selling prices of finished goods are being forced down. Technology/robots/automation have been proven to reduce time and cost, and that is what is needed.
PS: How is India’s garment industry showing strain?
RS: “India, like most of the apparel exporting countries (exceptions like Sri Lanka, China, etc.) is reactive. When a problem is staring them at their face, then they start looking for solutions and by the time designers and manufacturers feel the pain, it may be too late. “Just because labour is cheap they haven’t really utilised technology or felt the need for engineering the processes. Barring the younger generation that is just taking training from their family to take the businesses further, most of the original owners don’t understand what technology can do.
PS: What should the USP of India as an apparel sector in the coming years be?
RS: “I think India should focus on two fronts and it’s is the fusion of what they have mixed with what importing countries need, offering a unique product that is designed/developed and manufactured only in India but worn all over the world. There are so many amazingly talented designers in India but rather than making the clothing which fits only into Indian lifestyle, merge that skill or those embroideries and those colourways that sells somewhere else, outside. That’s when we can become a global player.”
PS: There must be some ups and some downs what were those crucial moments during this journey?
RS: “At 45 years of age, a heart attack and a declaration from the doctors that ‘we can’t find a pulse’ changed my life. I realised I am going to die, but before I really die, I wanted to make some difference. I saw how the demand for more and more styles was growing annually, quarterly, monthly. But there was no workforce available to make all those designs. Fashion schools were not training PATTERN MAKERS to meet the demand as quickly as the industry hungered for fresh looks. While designers struggled to meet demand for new ideas, pattern making was the only place where designs were carried towards reality. Without a pattern, you can’t make a garment. But the skill required for pattern making was not available to the masses.
PS: How did your association with apparel industry start, and how has the journey changed, evolved and developed in India’s apparel sector?
RS: “My formative years started with training in mechanical, industrial, and production engineering. Being a mechanical engineer, I still remember when I went to college we had to use drafting boards, T squares, set squares and different pencils to make engineering drawings, same as a paper pattern. But today, doesn’t matter which poor country you’re studying engineering in, it’s all done in auto Computer Aided Design (CAD) or some derivative of the CAD system. I started planning CAD for fashion design in 1995 as I could see that eventually, everybody will be making patterns on computers and almost all my advisors suggested if someone could make a complete station with Pattern Making, Grading, Marker Making, Computer, desk, unlimited training and made sure that we get results at $10,000, they will install and get all their pattern makers on the CAD. That was the start of CAD at reasonable cost that produced results while all other CAD companies were selling the same at $40,000 or up.
PS: What about Tukatech, what was the aim when you started and what is the aim and vision for the company now?
RS: “My total focus was to make pattern makers into computer pattern makers rather than manual pattern makers. At Tukatech, we have not lost that focus for the past 23 years. We have been credited for bringing digital pattern making to India in 1995, and many other countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and many Central American countries.
PS: What is your biggest inspiration and what attributes to the success of Tukatech?
RS: “I see people all over the world who want to be fashion designers. I see the demand from the millennials who want to do things their own way, to express their individuality. Everybody wants to have their own personal fitting garments regardless to the measurements or shape. We call it ‘mass customisation’. In 2012, we developed a process and systems for a California Company, Voler.com where every product you see on their site is a 3D render (no photo shoot), the customer chooses design, colourway, size from 7 different sizes (it is just a grading algorithm) and once they pay, the company starts the automatic process of pulling that size pattern, related graphics and a marker with patterns and graphics is generated to print and cut ONE garment so there is no inventory, no markdown, no risk. That process has taken off faster than we can imagine. We now have customers in India, Pakistan and many other countries besides just USA. With 3D virtual design, Made to Measure software, digital and 3D printer technologies, the GAP is being reduced very fast. Demand manufacturing will not replace the conventional brick and mortar stores but it sure will make the difference.
PS: Tukatech has already expanded and changed the way things are done in apparel factories. What’s next, what will the journey aim at over the next few years?
RS: “The whole industry is changing. The supply chain is becoming a big, big, big challenge for the garment industry because all middle men are being eliminated. It’s really from factory to the consumer with very few people in between. As far as journey ahead, we have already started with subscription programs. People whom we’ve never met from Australia to Zimbabwe subscribe to our software. Hundreds of universities and thousands of students are now using Tukatech to learn the skills and then use the same software to develop their own clothing or offer services.