Interview with Mr. Mayank Tiwari

Mr. Mayank Tiwari is the Founder and CEO of ReshaMandi, India's first and largest digital ecosystem for natural fibre supply chain, starting from farm to retail; aimed at creating definitive fashion trends.
In his present capacity, Mayank is responsible for leading effective teams, streamlining operations and strategy across the organisation, with the objective of enhancing market share and driving sustainable growth.
Mayank has featured in the Fortune India 40 under 40 lists of 2022.

Mr. Mayank has 13 years of cross-domain experience across user experience, retail, e-commerce, and lean manufacturing to drive continuous business improvement and help exceed the revenue and profitability objectives. Utilising his experience and expertise, Mr. Mayank aims to help rural India by providing sustainable livelihood, financial inclusion, and making them rural super consumers via ReshaMandi. This is aligned with his vision to build India as the natural fibre powerhouse that would streamline the apparel and textile industry and empower stakeholders in the ecosystem.

He is a gold medalist from the prestigious NIFT (Batch of 2007) with a specialisation in apparel technology. Beyond his corporate life, Mr. Mayank takes a keen interest in travelling, poetry, singing, and reading books in his leisure time.

Speaking with Publisher & Correspondent of JTA – Mr. J. B. Soma, Mr. Mayank Tiwari tells us about his business development and innovation at ReshaMandi.

Q.: How’s ReshaMandi changing the natural fibres space in India?

Ans.: The inspiration for ReshaMandi first occurred to me in early 2020 when I was wondering how I could help promote natural fibres. India is the world’s second-largest producer of silk, second only to China and even though silk is in short supply in India, demand exceeds supply. The current gap between supply and demand is being filled by imports, indicating both challenges and vast potential for improvement in the sector.

Today, ReshaMandi is India’s first and largest farm-to-fashion digital ecosystem for the natural fibres supply chain. The concept of ReshaMandi is unique and has never been tried before. Therefore, this is an industry-first initiative and a disruptor in the sector.

The natural fibre industry as an entity in itself provides livelihood to numerous farmers, artisans and weavers. Issues such as lack of standardization, poor database management and a diverse range of practices leading to fluctuations in production and quality are still plaguing the segment. For our stakeholders, we offer insights across the value chain. These include weather and soil quality updates and how they could impact cocoons, market linkages of input procurement (cocoon) and selling output (yarns), maintaining ledgers, information on best practices, purchasing machine tools, etc. Our application, ReshaMandi, is a 360-degree solution that engages all stakeholders in the natural fibres industry such as farmers, weavers, reelers and retailers, enabling them to buy raw material or sell their produce directly and with full transparency. We also have a huge network of Procurement Centres around the country where farmers can get in touch with our representatives, either through a phone call or by physically visiting the centre with a prior appointment.

At ReshaMandi, we are determined to standardize the industry starting from the grassroots level, i.e., the farmers, reelers, weavers, retailers and, finally, the consumers. Farmers have the option to pick up inputs directly or order through the app with the representative’s help. We have the flexibility to book an appointment with them to collect the cocoons from the farmer’s house to avoid a long journey to the mandis. For ease of usage, the application is available in various regional languages to give farmers access to an online marketplace where input products required for rearing silkworms and mulberry plantations are available.  We also enable the logistics aspect of the supply chain and reduce the burden on the farmer, helping with trust-building in the process.  Subsequently, it also allows weavers, reelers and retailers to place an order on the application for procuring cocoons or yarns.

We are focused on sustainability and reduction of wastage in the supply chain where by-products from the farmlands and reeling units can be reused in pharmaceutical, packaging and other industries. We aim to enable the ecosystem so that it will elevate, empower and build India into an Atmanirbhar powerhouse.

Q.: How do you promote sustainability at ReshaMandi/ across the textile value chain?

Ans.: Our Company has only been around for two years and we have been advocating sustainable fashion from the beginning of our journey. Earlier, waste generated during the various stages of silk production was being discarded by farmers (mulberry twigs) and reelers (dead pupae). This waste contained Sericin a silk protein that is used in various industries such as FMCG, pharmaceuticals, packaging, etc. Today, we work closely with farmers and reelers to reutilize silk waste and waste cocoons (waste generated at reeling units and farmlands respectively). In line with our Sustainability goals, we recently invested in Bangalore-based skincare brand Healios Wound Solutions, which is an industry disruptor and manufactures or formulates skin care products utilizing silk protein Sericin as the base ingredient. Sericin has unique antioxidants, anti-ageing, moisture retention and de-pigmentation properties that are ideal for effective skincare. Also, pupae (waste generated at reeling units) can be used in fish feeding and poultry feeding. We are working towards educating the farmers to utilize the farmland’s waste in other industries as well.

On the industry front, the government is already taking steps to ensure that reelers utilize power-driven reeling equipment rather than crude methods that waste a lot of firewood, coal and hot water. They are making it easier for reelers by offering big discounts on these machines.

There are recycling systems in place to ensure that the water table is not depleted. The Internet of Things (IoT) technology aids farmers in controlling water usage for mulberry plantations by advising them about the soil conditions so that plants are not over or under-watered. There is a soil moisture sensor buried underground, which relays data to the cloud, where intelligent algorithms identify primary and secondary soil moisture as well as other relevant parameters. This information is then used to advise farmers on irrigation schedules.

Q.: What are the initiatives ReshaMandi is taking to ensure stability and transparency in the traditional weaving industry?

Ans.: The textile industry is highly unorganized with many problems, including price fluctuations, the absence of proper markets and logistics, no definitive advisory, minimal quality testing and no transparency in the processes. Therefore, ReshaMandi works as a grassroots-level technology enabler, digitizing the entire supply chain, working directly with farmers (60,000+), fabric weavers (10,000+), reelers (6,600) and retailers (4,400+), enabling them to procure the best quality products at a fair price, reducing the time to market and making sure they are supplied with the best raw materials. We aim to eliminate uncertainties by presenting a transparent process across the entire value chain. With our growing network, we are facilitating a smooth procurement of natural fibres for reelers, which in turn help weavers to acquire quality assured yarns, thereby providing market linkages at every stage of the process. We also offer weavers the option of buying back their produce (fabrics or finished products). The transparency guaranteed under this process allows for fair pricing and better output, due to which farmers, reelers and weavers have increased their earnings. 

Q.: In which states ReshaMandi is working?

Ans.: We run 20 to 25 Mandis (big markets) across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. We are present in four weaving clusters in some of India’s silk capitals – Varanasi, Dharmavaram, Salem and Kanchipuram, with offices in all four regions. 

Q.: What is the role of the ReshaMandi Super app?

Ans.: The ReshaMandi Super app connects different stakeholders across the supply chain. The platform is a single-stop solution providing linkages across verticals as well as integrations with fintech partners and marketplaces. Through mobile app, IoT devices and tech-enabled grading systems, we are enabling farmers to increase production, lower wastage, improve quality and get access to better pricing. ReshaMandi’s technology intervention and people-first approach have helped farmers to improve their productivity by 20% and boosted incomes by nearly 30% enabling them to afford better quality raw materials, higher quality labour, fertilizers and other essential inputs, which in turn are pushing yields even higher.  With the help of AI and IoT technologies, the farmers who were struggling with six crops are now producing 18 crops a year by crop rotation. The engagement that the app has witnessed in the last two years is immense. Today we have almost 100% app adoption among the farmer community that works with us regularly.

Q.: What is your strategy for expansion?

Ans.: We have ventured into global markets, intending to become a one-stop sourcing solution for all natural and recycled fabrics. We are entering various countries, including the Middle East, Europe, North and South America and South East Asia to replicate our successful Indian model and to take India’s natural fibres to the world.

Q.: Do you have any new products in the line that is to be launched in the near future?

Ans.: We have launched ReshaMandi’s Fintech arm, ReshaMudra, which will offer personalized credit solutions to the stakeholders of the textiles industry. ReshaMudra will give business partners across the ecosystem access to working capital solutions as well as long-term loans, enabling them to secure crucial funding to help grow their businesses or tide over challenging times.

ReshaWeaves e-commerce platform, a consumer division of ReshaMandi, aims at offering responsibly sourced natural fibre products that are exclusive and sustainable. Each product is a curated effort of our farmers, whose cocoons are utilized to derive the yarn, which is then used to create the fabric and our weavers, whose designs create one-of-a-kind masterpieces. ReshaWeaves connects all stakeholders of the natural fibres supply chain whilst empowering them. We also plan to become a one-stop natural and recycled fibres sourcing platform globally.

Q.: What will be the export opportunities for MSME’s textile & apparel sector?

Ans.: The Indian textile and apparel industry is highly diversified with a wide range of segments ranging from products of traditional handloom, handicrafts, wool and silk products. India is the sixth-largest exporter of textiles and apparel and the textile industry contributes around 4% of the country’s GDP. The market for textiles is presently valued at US$138 billion and is expected to grow to US$195 billion by 2025. There is tremendous potential for MSMEs in the textile segment because of the rising demand for apparel and textiles.

Q.: What are your views on technology gaps and how to attract foreign technology into India through R&D & other activities?

Ans.: Textile is a look and feels sector, digital adoption is expected to be slower. It is horizontally spread, which means the cost of using sophisticated AI-based systems is relatively much higher. Open source availability of learning datasets for use by various ML algorithms can solve one of the biggest issues for digital adoption. If we take our example, the initial days were difficult because we had to convince stakeholders about our platform and the value we bring to them. We are attempting to mitigate this problem by educating them on the most recent technological solutions, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Our technological interventions have revolutionised the natural fibre supply chain since its inception, helping to regulate this unorganised segment.  

We have managed to reduce crop failure risk by 80% by using AI-enabled crop tracking and providing IoT-led advisories directly to app users, providing the stakeholders with increased production capacity and, ultimately, higher revenue. The quality of the cocoons has greatly improved, and as a result, the farmer’s rates have increased by more than 35%. Since the launch of the app in 2020, the app has witnessed growing engagement from farmers, reelers, weavers, and retailers. The engagement seen on the app in terms of procurement and sourcing is immense. We have done around 570 mega tonnes of transactions of cocoons since the time we started. 4 mega tonnes of yarns and about 1 mega tonne of raw cotton have been purchased using the app.

Q.: What are your views on the increase in GST on textiles and apparel products?

Ans.: The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs proposed a 7% increase in GST to address the issue of inverted duty structures, which affect only a small portion of the textile value chain. However, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this imposition. The proposed move will have an impact on the cotton value chain in the textile industry and put a strain on manufacturers’ working capital needs, particularly micro, small, and medium enterprises. Fluctuating prices force the industry to reduce capacity in the hope of achieving long-term stability.

A wholesome benefit from the introduction of GST would be:

a) Break in input credit chain: A significant portion of the textile industry in India operates under the unorganised sector or composition scheme, thereby creating a gap in the flow of input tax credit (ITC). GST would enable a smoother input credit system, shifting the balance towards the organized sector.

b) Reduction in manufacturing costs: GST is also likely to subsume the various fringe taxes such as octroi, entry tax, luxury tax, etc. which will help reduce costs for manufacturers.

c) ITC allowed on capital goods: Currently, the import cost of procuring the latest technology for manufacturing textile goods is expensive as the excise duty paid is not allowed as ITC. Whereas under GST, ITC will be available for the tax paid on capital goods.

d) Export of textile products to get a boost: GST would streamline the process of claiming ITC, allowing the textile industry to be more competitive in the export market.

e) Opportunity for long-term growth: This will help the industry in the long run by getting more registered taxpayers under a well-regulated system. GST could also help the textile industry become more competitive in global and domestic markets, creating opportunities for sustainable, long-term growth.

Q.: How the increased prices of cotton and yarn will affect the textile value chain?

Ans.: Lately, with cotton prices breaching the Rs.100,000 per candy mark, the entire textile value chain, including the smaller and bigger players are facing a challenge. There is a limitation on the production and companies are finding it difficult to match retail rates in proportion to high cotton prices. Procurement of cotton from spinning mills has gone down by 50% in the last quarter.  The industry is currently waiting for the new harvest anticipating it will cool down prices. If we work on the pointers given above, we should be able to create some relief for the textile industry.

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