FACE2FACE | February 2019
Pratibha Syntex gears up sustainability, eco drive
Pratibha Syntex is a vertically integrated sustainability-oriented textile conglomerate, which was incepted in the year 1995 as a spinning unit. Today, the company has state-of-the-art spinning, modern knitting, resource efficient dye house and printing, and world-class garment manufacturing facilities.
“We need to see farmers as farmers, not just cotton producers. Focus needs to shift from organic cotton to organic farming as a whole. There is a paradigm shift of industry, they are investing in holistic farming and livelihood of farming community. If farming becomes sustainable, cotton shall be a natural outcome of this. We have been working in a big way on reducing cost of cultivation for farmers,” says Atul Mittal, Executive Director, Pratibha Syntex Ltd, while speaking with Karthik Muthuveeran, ITJ Senior Sub Editor. Excerpts…
Please give us some background information on Pratibha Syntex – its inception, growth and present-day status.
Pratibha Syntex is a vertically integrated sustainability-oriented textile conglomerate, which was incepted in the year 1995 as a spinning unit. While the company began with 25,000 spindle spinning unit, it has gone from strength-to-strength with forward and backward integration. Today, the company has state-of-the-art spinning, modern knitting, resource efficient dye house and printing, and world-class garment manufacturing facilities. The production facilities produce 20,000 tonnes of yarn, 10,000 tonnes of fabric and 60 million pieces of knitted garments in a year.
Recently, the company has established a garment manufacturing facility in Gurgaon. We had a humble beginning with just 250 employees, which count has today grown to 8,000. Our agriculture arm, Vasudha is very close to everyone’s heart at Pratibha. We are associated with 35,000 farmers, who are growing organic, Fairtrade and BCI cotton for us over 1,70,000 acres of land. We are currently at an annual business of $118 million and poised to move northwards with double-digit growth in 2019.
Organic farming has still not completely gained ground in India. Why is this so? What is the current scenario of organic farming in India?
There are three major reasons, which can change the whole dynamics in India in respect to organic farming.
First how much resources are invested – for the last many years, organic farming in India has been promoted by mostly NGOs and brands. The government too started promoting organic farming from the last few years. But, most of the government budget in agriculture is earmarked for giving subsidies on chemical fertilizers and extension teams are also working towards promotion of conventional farming. As compared to conventional farming, a very limited resources go into the promotion of organic farming.
Second is how much research has been done in the area: In last more than four decades, agriculture universities too have promoted research on conventional farming methodologies and all graduates coming out of these universities are trained to promote conventional farming. There is huge scope of doing research in organic farming. We still need to develop organic package of practices for various crops, need to train extension force to promote organic farming.
Third is how much trained task force available to promoting organic: As said earlier, our universities are training graduates to promote conventional farming. We still have very limited manpower who has belief in organic and have developed organic processes out of their own training and experience. They shall be the flame keepers/promoters, which are very limited in number. The consumer awareness remains to be a big task, which these flame keepers can bring.
Currently industries promoting organic for crops specific to them. Textile sector want organic cotton, Soybean sector wants organic soy and so on. Organic cannot be crop specific, it must be farmer specific and community centric. Thus, with this limitation in current situation we have limited areas producing specific crops. Future is very encouraging with government, NGOs and industries realising importance and investing more and more resources in organic farming.
Tell us more about the opportunities and constraints in organic farming. Is the government doing enough to promote organic farming in India?
There are undoubtedly huge opportunities in organic farming. With so much of health and environment concerns, we can no longer keep our head buried in sand but must do substantial work to bring the change on ground. Distressed with the ill effects of conventional farming, the farming community is also seeing wisdom in changing to more sustainable ways of agriculture.
Earlier it was not enough done at the part of governments, but now they have realised the need and gradually more and more resources are being deployed in the sector. We shall see a very positive change in future. Various programs have been initiated by government to encourage organic farming.
Cotton is becoming a big issue with farmers suffering losses. Are there any steps taken by contemplated by the industry to alleviate this distress?
We need to see farmers as farmers, not just cotton producers. Focus needs to shift from organic cotton to organic farming as a whole. There is a paradigm shift of industry, they are investing in holistic farming and livelihood of farming community. If farming becomes sustainable, cotton shall be a natural outcome of this. We have been working in a big way on reducing cost of cultivation for farmers. Approach is shifting from just being production centric to more holistic, where all elements of agro ecosystem are taken into consideration.
What sustainability steps have your company taken? What are the tangible achievements?
Sustainability is at the core of our business. We have unwavering commitment towards development of the people and conservation of the planet.
While we have been engaged into empowerment of rural people by imparting them training on textile processes and inducting them into processes through our Gyanpeeth initiative, we are continuously working towards coming true to expectations of our employees. We have been conceiving ways to ensure perfect work-life balance for our people. Festival celebrations, sports events, annual day celebration, yoga sessions, spiritual and health talks are motivating employees to have positive outlook towards their personal and professional life. Beyond our employees we are trying to connect with their families. To encourage the wards of employees, we have launched scholarship schemes.
Resolute to have minimum impact on environment, we are recycling 100 per cent of water used in our processes and reusing 95 per cent of the recycled water. Besides, 30 per cent of the power used in Pratibha comes from renewable sources of energy. We had replaced 14,000 tube lights, installed across our facilities, with LED to save energy.
Pratibha Syntex’s MD was recently honoured by the Textile Ministry of India. Please share more details on this award.
We express our deepest gratitude towards the Ministry for bestowing our Managing Director with Outstanding Young Entrepreneurs Award in Textile Sector in garments and made ups category.
We have undertaken some innovations in product and processes, which made significant contributions to the business. Contributing towards circular fashion, we introduced GOLD certified C2C (Cradle to Cradle) garments in association with C&A Foundation for the first time globally. Additionally, majority of our raw materials are sustainable, which includes sustainable cotton, recycled polyester, spun dyed viscose, linen, Tencel, etc.
To cater to the fast fashion industry, we have created some unique systems to help us create a space. Besides, we have introduced 3D technology in our design process, which will further cut down the lead times.
Right from Farm to Factory, we abide by the preconditions of Sustainable Development Goals religiously, whether it is education, food security or end poverty, we are working across all 17 SDGs. By spreading light of education, empowering communities, promoting well-being for one and all, recycling water and engaging farmers in organic practices, we are committed to bring sea change.
Kindly share more details on Vasudha initiative.
Vasudha was formed in the year 1999. It was envisaged with an intent to develop self-sufficient farming communities. Under this ambitious initiative, we are imparting training to farmers about organic farming practices and encouraging them to covert to organic practices, as it is good for soil, best for farmers’ and their family’s health and offers a healthy diet to consumers. Initially started with handful of farmers, today, the initiative has gained ground with more and more farmers turning towards the organic ways of cultivation.
We are targeting to increase farmers income by four times by the year 2020. Initiatives in this direction have already begun. We are promoting multi-cropping, inter-cropping among the farmers, which have given very positive results. A market linkage programme is also being designed for their produce which will help them fetch better prices without intermediate businesses.
Under the Fairtrade programme, we have undertaken many developments in rural regions of MP, a school called Vasudha Vidhya Vihar is running in Karahi village, where around 500 children of farmers are being educated in English medium. Warehouses, toilets are constructed, and solar lights have been installed in many villages to facilitate the farmers and community at large.
What are the various technologies on offer?
We are extremely passionate about leveraging technologies that minimise environmental impact and maximise the output. We have installed low liquor dying utilities, cold bad patch machines in our dye house, which consumes 50 per cent less water for dying processes. State-of-the-art ETPs and STPs are recycling 100 per cent of water.
Energy efficient equipment are installed across the verticality to save energy and put cap on the GHG emissions.
What are the measures being undertaken to encourage modernisation and face-lift of your company, including your future plans?
As mentioned above, we are continuously adding innovative solutions in our supply chain. These not only include new machines and technologies, but also unique systems and methods that have improved our performance over the years.
Is your company planning for any inorganic growth?
We have already set up a new business entity, which will handle the organic food business within India and globe. The response has been tremendous, and we are looking at a very promising future with that. This business aims at a holistic approach by not only providing fair price to the farmers but also safe and healthy food to the consumers.