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Cover Story | March 2014

Technical textiles in India: Set for take-off?

The Indian industry must consciously work backed by intensive R&D towards exploring and finding new avenues of growth in technical textiles. An exclusive ITJ Report.

Statistics and figures fly fast and thick when technical textile seminars and symposium are held. Technical textiles is one of the fastest growing segment of the Indian economy, registering a compounded annual rate of growth of 11 per cent during the 11th Five Year Plan. Though one may say figures do not lie, the feeling of the industry and experts is that India has not scratched the surface of the potential in technical textiles. But Shashi Singh, Executive Director of the Indian Technical Textile Association (ITTA) minces no words and clearly states that the country has progressed well in technical textiles, though Packtech takes the majority share among the technical textile segments. In an informal chat with Samuel Joseph, Editor of The Indian Textile Journal, she said: "Clothtech, Hometech and Packtech constitute nearly 65 per cent of the total technical textiles in India. The high-end applications, like Medtech have not grown because investments are high and the industry is also not sure of the good returns. This also needs intensive research."

According to Shashi Singh, the one route in going for high-end products is to opt for joint ventures with technology transfer, and because this is a costly affair, many of the small and medium units prefer to take up the commodity technical textiles. Shashi Singh is also very clear that the industry is not making much use of the 8 Centres of Excellence (COEs) in technical textiles. Said Shashi Singh: "The COEs have now incubation facilities, which the industry should take advantage of. Besides, prototype development facilities are there, and instead of buying costly machines, they can do research in co-ordination with researchers and create new products." Now, about 4 COEs - ATIRA, BTRA, NITRA and SASMIRA -- are fully developed with machines and other facilities and the other 4 will take sometime to develop. "Potential of none of them has been properly tapped by the industry," Shashi Singh emphasised.

Without proper marketing and quality measures, no technical textile product will survive, said Shashi Singh, who also expressed some doubts over immediate boost to technical textiles in India. "Traditional textiles like home textiles are now getting a revival and the industry is keen to go after it now," said ITTA chief. But she founds her optimism on the emergence of a new breed of entrepreneurs who are young and willing to experiment. "Besides, the second and third generation industrialists from the well-established textile industry are also keen to diversify into technical textiles," Shashi Singh said.

Technology providers for the Indian technical textile industry, who are mostly from Europe, are divided on their opinions. Some are extremely positive and some feel that India has not done its homework yet in this area. But most of them admit that the Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS) has given a boost, and opine that the recent extra subsidy for looms declared by the Indian Government will give the much-needed boost to fabric production in India.

Andritz Nonwovens has been getting good enquiries for its systems and machines. This company has been regularly participating in Indian technical textile exhibitions. Says Marc Wolpers, Director of Truetzschler Nonwovens: "In India we are able to generate at least some turnover every year, which shows us that the Indian market is slowly developing. The Indian hygiene market will still take some more time we believe as it is linked to the personal income increases."

Says Hartwig Finger, CEO of Trutzschler Nonwovens: "In India, the consumption of nonwovens made from polyester

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