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Cover Story | September 2018

Trident is focused on continuous innovation: RG

Trident Limited is the flagship company of the $1 billion Indian business conglomerate and global player, Trident Group. Incorporated in 1990, headquartered in Ludhiana. The company has dynamically evolved from being a solitary yarn and paper manufacturer to one of the largest, state-of-the-art and integrated home textile manufacturers globally.

The company’s manufacturing facilities located in Barnala (Punjab) and Budhni (Madhya Pradesh) cater to a customer base of over 100 countries across the globe. Over the years, Trident has successfully established its presence in the bath linen segment. The company is passionate to repeat its success in the bed linen segment and has enhanced the home textiles portfolio through its recently commissioned and world class bed linen facility in Budhni.

The company is the world’s largest manufacturer in the integrated home textile department. It also has the world’s largest spinning unit under a single roof of compact yarn. Additionally, it is the world’s largest manufacturer of wheat straw based paper.

Rajinder Gupta, Chairman of Trident Group, sheds some light on the trends in the home textile market and takes us through the company’s journey over the years, and various set-ups of the company for production, innovation and marketing.

Excerpts...

How did the home textile story begin in your company?How did it progress till now in product innovations?
Trident Group entered the home textiles business with the commissioning of its first terry towel manufacturing facility in the year 1998 in Punjab.

Major expansion in this category took place in 2004 with the commissioning of second terry towel unit at the same location. The year 2009 saw made-ups expansion when we commenced production at the third terry towel unit. We carried out another major expansion with the commissioning of a large 300 looms at the state-of-the-art terry towel factory at Budhni, Madhya Pradesh in 2014. The latest development was in the year 2015 with the inauguration of a 500 loom first sheeting unit at Budhni.

The journey has steadily progressed which previously was demand based and now developing into a 360 degree approach to the way the production decisions are made. Our product basket has been continuously upgraded with many new products to meet consumer preferences.

Trident is focused on continuous innovation, be it the production infrastructure, fibre use, yarn production or processing. From the special fibres like bamboo, eucalyptus, ramie, soya, milk, etc. to finest yarn to new weaving techniques, Trident has been giving new products to the market on a regular basis. Innovations like the Air Rich and Finesse have redefined the way the world looks at luxury towels. Our other exciting offerings include Nectarsoft, Feather Touch, Macaron, Classic and Indulgence Collections.

What are the buyers expectations in home textiles today? How does your company meet these expectations? What kind of trends are visible today and what do they portend for the future of home textiles?
Jacquard fabrics and surface textures are making a come back, especially in the terry towel segment. But for catering to the buyers in today’s times, the age-old approach of concentrating on just the price, product and packaging is not enough. The consumer is keeping up with the latest trends as they are exposed to more and more visual and innovative directions through technology and also focused on solution buying rather than only on product buying.

To keep up and stay ahead of these requirements, we conduct rigorous market surveys, participate in various textile events across the country and globe and pay special attention to product innovation at every step, be it fiber and yarn manufacturing, design or supply chain management.

The buyers expectations are solution oriented and are also bent towards supply chain-based solutions. Their expectations comprise performance and special features in textiles. Textile companies need to become solution providers and address the white-spaces in the product range available in the market. Colour fastness and durability are now the basic needs of a product and the consumers require more. Consumers do not want ‘plain vanilla’ fabrics anymore, they want an added feature and appeal. They want a story behind it, a tale to tell. They want a connect with the textiles.

Another area of Trident’s consumer focus is on sustainability and environment protection. Consumers particularly the millennials and generation Z prefer products and organisations that care for sustainability and protecting environment. Trident is at the forefront of promoting sustainable practices like recycling water, tree plantation, reuse of by-products, etc. besides CSR activities in a wide spectrum of areas.

What are the various set-ups in your company for production, innovation and marketing?
Trident Group has strategised vertical integration from cotton sourcing to the finished products. The production is undertaken with state-of-the-art facilities which include Spinning, Wide-width Airjet & Jacquard weaving, Soft Flow & continuous Dyeing and fully automated Cutting and Sewing for Towels & Sheeting. Our manufacturing units are equipped with world-class machinery like Karl Mayer, Texpa, Schmale, Thies from Germany, Toyota from Japan, Benninger from Switzerland, Anglada from Spain, ETON from Sweden, Zimmer from Austria and Picanol from Belgium.

Keeping in view the increasing requirements of our continuously expanding operations, we generate captive power to ensure an uninterrupted production and supply to our valued customers. With the theme of energy conservation and green environment, we are producing steam and power using eco-friendly processes. We also have a dedicated design studio for end-to-end product process and design innovation. Offshore design studios in the US and the UK ensure proximity to market. A qualified team of designers from the most prestigious institutes of India along with end-to-end product and print design capability keep Trident ahead of competition and market.

Trident Group has their sales and marketing offices in the USA, UK and France apart from various locations in India to offer logistics and warehousing solutions.

If in export, what percentage of production goes into export? Where are the markets, old and newly emerging? Approximately 90 per cent of production in the terry bath collection and 50 per cent of production in bed linen section is exported to other countries (FY18). Trident Group is a trusted partner to the top global retailers and fashion houses adding premium customers globally in countries like the USA, the UK, Italy, France, Japan, Australia amongst many other countries.

With the tremendous growth of home textiles, are we seeing competition intensifying in India in this market? How do you plan to keep ahead in this race?
Indian market has been majorly unorganised and as we see, the organised segment is growing at nearly 10 per cent. We also see major players showing interest in creating a domestic home textiles brand. This shift is very encouraging as it will help bring more awareness in this ignored category.

Trident Group is known for its state-of-the-art technology and the products launched in the market totally endorse these standards. This premium-ness in quality is a result of our investments in the best infrastructure and assets that you will find in home textiles segment around the globe.

This year, the marketing function is working towards evolving the business from a sales approach focused on selling the product to an experiential approach focused towards getting the consumer to experience different solutions and co-create products that are customised to their specific needs.

From B2B approach, the company is moving to B2C approach and we will witness lot of consumer engagement campaigns at POS. Domestic home textiles has seen a very robust response in FY18 where sales grew 100 per cent in comparison to FY17. Of this, bedsheets segment accounted for a huge jump in comparison to bath products. For FY19, we see further growth to the tune of 50 per cent improvement in bed and a stable outlook for bath segment. We will focus our energies in building a strong portfolio in top of bed and bathmats segments. We expect this segment to add another 10 per cent in sales.

How do you see the home textile market shaping up for the future? What are your views and opinions/suggestions for the industry and the Government to boost its growth further?
Today, worldwide there is a trend where consumers are becoming more aware and involved with brands. In the developed nations, consumers are getting involved even in erstwhile impulsive purchase segments like home textiles. Taking a cue, brands have now moved towards experiential marketing where various product innovations and solutions brought to the consumer and brands allow consumers to experience these innovations and rate them according to their choices and preferences. In the textile industry, this has led to the evolution of technical textiles sub-segment, which is gaining traction and innovations like thermal sheets, bio-finishing technology, stain and aroma management, etc. are getting good response in the market. Trident has a lot of scope for improving its product offerings and thereby increase in sales by exploring these revenue streams. The focus on consumer needs to increase multifold. The fortunes of textile industry are highly intertwined with the pricing of cotton. Raw material prices are almost 60-70 per cent of the overall product pricing and any spike in cotton prices (both positive and negative) is bound to significantly affect the profitability of industry.

Another significant factor that is already pinching many players in the industry is the shortage of skilled labour. Textile industry is, till date, a highly labour-intensive industry and contributes around 10 per cent of the jobs in India. But these jobs are mostly blue-collared jobs, and hence as people’s aspirations keep rising, there is a gap which is emerging in finding the right talent for these labour-intensive jobs. To counter these, we have started doing investments in automating many of our processes while ensuring adherence to cost and quality. Customer awareness and educational marketing on home textiles also remains a concern as this category still remains an impulsive buy. Brands and government should come together to run health and hygiene campaign for Home textile products to educate consumers.

- KARTHIK MUTHUVEERAN

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