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Cover Story | August 2016

India's nonwoven market is still in its infancy

Founded in 2012, AUTOTECH Nonwovens is a leading manufacturer of nonwoven fabrics for the automotive industry in India. AUTOTECH Nonwovens was set up recognising the need for a focused high quality nonwovens producer in India. AUTOTECH has carved a niche for itself as a manufacturer of choice for needlepunched nonwovens in India.

Ankit Desai, Director, AUTOTECH Nonwovens, speaks to ITJ’s Sr Sub Editor Karthik Muthuveeran about the market for nonwovens in India, and its prospects and problems.

Since its inception, how has your company fared all along its growth phase and what was the turning point when it took off?

AUTOTECH Nonwovens was set up to venture into the know-how driven technical textiles business. We recognised the need for a focused high quality pure-play nonwovens producer in India. AUTOTECH Nonwovens aims to meet stringent quality standards of nonwovens users globally within automotive, filtration, as well as other industrial users.

It has been a tough journey to convince final users of nonwovens, in particular the automotive sector, to trust a new entrant. The turning point for us was when we received our first trial lot order in H1-2013. There was no looking back from that. We have been well supported by our customers faith in our team, which has allowed us to meet and exceed their expectations.

How is the market for nonwovens in India? What are its prospects & problems?

India’s nonwoven market is still in its infancy. Several application industry users are yet unaware or ignore the benefits of the usage of nonwovens, e.g. geotextiles.

There are no global standards in place for geotextiles usage in India. As the industry and final users understand the benefits of nonwovens usage, we will see an uptick in consumption.

Majority of the volume players are not final converters, which is a big drawback to exports for e.g. those who produce PP spunbond nonwovens, don’t invest in conversion of the finished product.

One of the major bottlenecks for growth of India’s automotive industry is the lack of good roads. We have the world’s leading car manufacturers here offering the latest models, but we have nowhere to drive them! The current government is actively working to build new roads, but these projects take time.

India being a developing country, nonwovens will find usage in several applications in the times to come. Most of India’s landmark infrastructure projects are still ahead of us. As major infrastructure projects like high speed rail, expressways, inter-connectivity of India’s major rivers/canals, new ports, highways, bridges, dams, etc., get underway, we will be forced to use materials as per global standards.

What are the latest product offerings of AUTOTECH for the Indian and global markets?

AUTOTECH Nonwovens is in process of setting up a complete brand new European line with peripheral machinery to provide products which are in line with global standards. This will help the Indian industry to localise high-quality nonwovens and stop being dependent on imports. We are primarily focused on automotive (face fabrics), filtration (bag-house) and coated substrates.

What differentiates your products from that of your competitors? What are its unique advantages?

AUTOTECH Nonwovens’ strength has been to provide high quality materials at competitive prices. As far as Automotive industry is concerned, we realised there was a need for a good quality supplier and we are happy to be meeting the current needs and investing in new product development to meet future needs of the market.

What are the challenges faced in the industry that you are in?

Presently, we cater majorly to the automotive sector. The most important aspect in automotive industry is product development and vendor approval timeline.

It is long and only an individual with patience can succeed. Secondly, it is extremely competitive as you are playing with thin margins and trying to win orders against well-entrenched players. However, the customers also assure volumes and stability to those who are in the market for the long haul.

An additional issue faced by technical textiles in general is lack of high quality raw materials locally. Whether it is polyester staple fibre for automotive or high temperature resistant fibres like aramids, polyimides, PTFE, etc. for filtration and industrial usage, the industry does not have a domestic source for high quality raw material. This leaves the industry with little choice but importing these raw materials and paying high duties. For fibres which are not available locally, one has to import and thereby increasing the final cost to the domestic customers. This is a major challenge in introducing new products to the local market.

Is the technology being used imported or indigenous?

AUTOTECH Nonwovens has in place a new imported line already and is in process of setting up another new European machinery. This plan is in sync with our objective of providing the best-in-class products to the Indian industry.

How do you think is R&D important for Indian technical textile sector in the current scenario? What are AUTOTECH Nonwovens’ contributions in this?

We understand there is strong need for R&D in this industry to meet the demanding requirement of users.

We at AUTOTECH Nonwovens are highly focused and constantly engaged in developing products on day-to-day basis while meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Is your company exporting? If so, to which countries. Tell us some of the breakthroughs achieved.

We have not begun exports yet. Our primary focus has been meeting the need of the Indian industry so far. However, with the expansion in process, we are keenly focusing on export requirement.

Our high quality European line shall allow us to compete with global nonwovens producers. We have started discussions with key customers globally in this regard and also recently participated with a booth in our first exhibition in Boston in May 2016 (IDEA 2016, organised by INDA).

How do you look at the future of technical textile in India, with particular reference to nonwovens? What are your suggestions for a vibrant technical textile industry in India?

Indian technical textile industry has a bright future in the coming years. With several Government initiatives announced, for e.g. A-TUFS, we foresee that nonwovens market will grow in size. Such government initiatives motivate entrepreneurs to invest in latest technology and increase capacity. In order to compete in technical textiles, players must have in place state-of-the-art technology. This requires heavy investment with long gestation periods. In most cases, leading global players in technical textiles/nonwovens are based in developed markets with low interest rates and are aided by stability in their respective currency. In order for Indian technical textile companies to compete globally, we first must have ready access to high quality raw materials duty free (both imported and local). We should also have access to low cost capital and continued government initiatives specifically designed for technical textiles. These initiatives will definitely make our industry competitive globally and result in state-of-the-art technology.

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