The move comes as Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Chandigarh make wearing masks mandatory for anyone venturing outside. And demand so far is outstripping supply.
Amazon and Flipkart have asked apparel brands and suppliers to up their production of masks. For apparel companies, this huge demand for masks comes as a boon as their core products may not see an uptick in demand anytime soon, two industry executives said.
Both marketplaces have also started to sell their own private brands of masks through sellers. Emails sent to Flipkart and Amazon remained unanswered.
Flipkart-owned Myntra, which had halted services due to the lockdown, has started delivery of masks this week. Amar Nagaram, CEO of Myntra, said the fashion etailer has partnered with outdoor gear brand Wildcraft. Discussions are now underway with some of its top brands for more supplies.
While Grofers is going to start selling masks, Reliance Retail is preparing to sell masks and other protective equipment. BigBasket has introduced disposable antipollution masks on its platform.
Multiple apparel exporters in the knitwear cluster of Tirupur, whose units were initially shut due to the lockdown, have also reopened now. The cluster that otherwise caters to international apparel brands from the US and Europe, has become a hub for mask-manufacturing in the last one week.
Surge in Sales of Hygiene Products
“Although we do not have the provision to disinfect the fabric, we have lent facilities to local manufacturers to make masks,” said Raja M Shanmugam, president of the Tirupur Exporters’ Association.
Market researcher Nielsen, in a recent report, said there has been a massive surge in sales of hygiene products such as masks, hand sanitisers and toilet cleaners in India in the one month period ending mid-March.
Denim consultant Sandeep Agarwal noted that as the consumer comes to terms with the pandemic, face masks will be embraced as an accessory. “We can roughly look at 5-6 billion masks being sold in the near future. While a significant percentage of that will be surgical masks, a new category of fashion masks will start and in part compensate losses made by the textile industry this year,” he said.