Building Relationships with India's Suppliers: Exploring Perceptions of U.S. Apparel Industry Buyers

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kamlesh Singh (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Nancy Hodges

Abstract: India is emerging as one of the major players in global apparel sourcing to the U.S. in the post-quota era. There has been a steady year-to-year rise of approximately 13.3% in exports of garments from India (Goel, 2007). In 2005, India ranked third in apparel exports to the U.S., increasing its total exports to 34%. Tariff and trade data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission (2007) shows that total apparel imported into the United States from India was $2.9 billion in 1997, increasing to $6.4 billion in 2006, and that the percentage change from 2005 to 2006 was an increase of 18.40%. This market growth suggests the importance of the buyer-supplier relationship throughout the supply chain. Effectively managing relationships with suppliers is an important concern for maintaining high profits as well as competitive advantage (Wuyts, 2007). Although several studies have been conducted on supply chain relationships, the particular importance of the U.S.-India relationship in the apparel sector has been overlooked. The purpose of this study is to explore U.S. apparel buyers' relationships with their Indian suppliers, including the supplier selection process, and to specifically investigate the role of buyer-supplier relationship attributes. Using a qualitative methodology, in-depth interviews were conducted with twenty three U.S. apparel industry buyers located in New York, North Carolina, and California who are engaged in buying apparel products from Indian suppliers. Interviews lasted approximately 45 to 90 minutes per participant, and were audio-taped with participant consent. Interviews were transcribed and interpreted thematically. Six themes - Expertise, Convenience, Price, Functionality, Service, and Partnership - surfaced within the interview data and were used to structure the interpretation. Based on the interpretation, four relationship types were developed: Convenience Driven, Price Sensitive, Functionality Driven, and Service Driven. The majority of participants seek to develop Service Driven relationships with their suppliers. In building this type of relationship, the most important attributes were found to be trust, communication, and commitment. Because there is a limited amount of research that explores relationships being developed between U.S. apparel companies and Indian suppliers, and no studies that explore them from the perspective of buyers, the results of this study provide an in-depth understanding of the issues and challenges involved in working together on a global platform. Strong relationships with India are critical for U.S. apparel companies, not only to increase profits, but to bring a quality product to market that will satisfy the final consumer. This study contributes to both U.S. apparel industry buyers' and Indian suppliers' knowledge of how to build strong buyer-supplier relationships in global apparel production. Future empirical research is needed to further investigate buyer-supplier relationships and thereby enrich our understanding of them.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
Global sourcing, India, Apparel
Business logistics $z United States.
Industrial procurement $z United States.
Purchasing $z United States.
Strategic alliances (Business).
United States $x Commerce $z India.
India $x Commerce $z United States.
International trade.
Clothing trade $z United States.
Textile industry $z India.
Clothing trade $z India.

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