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Talking Point | October 2017

Innovation and investment in R&D key to our growth

Huntsman Textile Effects is a leading global provider of high quality dyes and chemicals to the textile and related industries. With operations in more than 90 countries and seven primary manufacturing facilities in six countries (China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Thailand), Huntsman Textile Effects is uniquely positioned to provide prompt and expert technical service wherever our customers are based. “Today, the Huntsman Group has nearly 5,000 patents (granted and pending), which translate into an expanding inventory of products and an increasing presence in worldwide markets. At Textile Effects, we hold approximately 700 patents and 25 per cent of our products are less than five years old. We consistently invest around 5 per cent of turnover in research and technology,” says Dheeraj Talreja, Commercial Director – South Asia, Middle East & Africa, Huntsman Textile Effects, while speaking about the company’s recent investment in expansion and R&D to ITJ Senior Sub Editor Karthik Muthuveeran in an exclusive interview.

Excerpts...

What is the current status of Huntsman as far as the textile dyeing industry is concerned, globally as well as in the Asian market?

Huntsman Textile Effects continues to be one of the leading providers of chemicals, dyes and inks to the global textile industry. We draw on our core pillars of sustainability, innovation and collaboration, working with all sections of the textile value chain to build on our embedded heritage of innovation and drive the industry towards a more sustainable future in Asia and around the world.

In textiles, sustainability plays a key role today. What is Huntsman’s agenda and how it is being taken up?

Several forces are reshaping the global textile industry. Consumers are increasingly vocal in demanding a cleaner and more transparent textile supply chain, which puts pressure on brands and retailers and ultimately requires that mills clean up their act, too. Government regulatory authorities in countries such as India and China have also been introducing tougher environmental legislation and stricter enforcement policies for several years.

At Huntsman Textile Effects, sustainability, innovation and collaboration are at the heart of what we do. Our goal is to support our customers and the industry to achieve both economic and environmental sustainability: delivering innovative high-quality textile products that consumers want from cleaner and more efficient and transparent supply chains. We use cutting-edge technology to develop state-of-the-art dyes, chemicals and inks that reduce water and energy consumption and help mills and brands create high-value end products with intelligent effects such as durable water repellence, built-in freshness or sun protection.

We believe in controlling inputs to control outputs, and we have rigorous processes in place to ensure compliance to stringent product stewardship standards from the onset of product design to product end-of-life. Working only with qualified suppliers with global levels of safety and environmental compliance standards, we use raw materials with strict impurity limits to reduce effluent discharge and wastewater treatment. We believe in continuously engaging with our stakeholders, including our suppliers, to meet stringent global safety and environmental compliance standards.

What is Huntsman’s recent investment in expansion and R&D? What are the results, if any special efforts were taken up in these areas?

Innovation and investment in research and technology have always been absolutely critical to the growth and sustainability of the Huntsman business, and we have a proven record of scientific and technological innovation. Today, the Huntsman Group has nearly 5,000 patents (granted and pending), which translate into an expanding inventory of products and an increasing presence in worldwide markets.

At Textile Effects, we hold approximately 700 patents and 25 per cent of our products are less than five years old. We consistently invest around 5 per cent of turnover in research and technology. While many in our industry are cutting back, we are investing more in dyes, smart dyeing processes, intelligent effects and eco-friendly digital inks.

Crucially, we believe in delivering innovation with purpose. As emerging technologies redefine our customers’ needs, we have to remain agile to meet their ever-changing demands in an extremely competitive marketplace. For example, more than 50 per cent of our research projects are related to environmental sustainability.

How do you look at the Indian market and what are the strategies and set-ups which will get priority in the plans for this market?

We are market leaders in India and we continue to grow above industry growth rates. To support our customers here, we have strengthened our Research and Technology Center in Mumbai and continue to invest in our people to help us create products and innovations that are unique to the subcontinent's needs. We have also recently realigned our regional operations to bring decision-making closer to the customer in India and to improve cross-functional synergy to react more quickly to evolving customer and market requirements.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian dyeing industry? What corrective measures are needed to face the challenges in the future?

India is one of the world’s largest textile and garment exporters, with access to talented labor and raw materials, and supportive government policies.

We believe that India has the potential to grow its share of the global clothing and textile market in coming years.

However, the sector’s high water consumption and use of hazardous chemicals must be addressed to achieve this growth and protect India’s people and ecosystems, not to mention ensuring that mills can adhere to the Restricted Substance Lists of the world’s top brands. Dye houses have an important role to play in delivering the comfortable, attractive and durable high-performance products that consumers in India and around the world want, whether producing high-fashion garments, practical work attire, active sportswear or reliable technical textiles. A combined approach to innovation and sustainability that focuses on meeting customers’ changing needs will be key to facing future challenges.

Huntsman has been launching many new products in the recent times. What is the global status for Huntsman in the eco-preserving technologies? What are the plans for the future?

Huntsman Textile Effects helps brands differentiate to capitalise on changing consumer preferences with environment-friendly technologies that help mills achieve sustainable growth. We also help mills optimise and standardise their dyeing processes to improve output and profitability through our Productivity Improvement Program.

In dyes, our AVITERA SE reactive dye range is a real game-changer for the industry. These dyes use up to 50 per cent less water and energy than the best current dyeing technologies, and less salt, and they are the first reactive dyes to be free of para-chloroaniline** (below detection limits) and other hazardous substances. Made in India at our Baroda production plan, the AVITERA SE dyes also help mills improve productivity and yield and win more global business with a cleaner supply chain.

On the chemicals front, we have developed a range of intelligent effects that produce high-performance textiles with built-in freshness, sun protection, friction protection and water repellence, in bright whites and color that lasts. These effects comply with global environmental standards and Restricted Substances Lists and promote the transition to PFC-free.

In the digital printing sector, Huntsman is recognised as a pioneer in the market. Our role is to develop digital inks that deliver intense, vivid colors, top-quality finishing and optimum print reliability while effectively managing cost and environmental impact. Today, our digital inks run in the largest digital printing mils globally, and we are certified and recommended by major print head and machine manufacturers, helping our customers be more eco-friendly as they deliver higher value products more cost effectively.

In the textile dyeing industry, consolidation is taking place with mergers and take-overs. What is the key role that Huntsman is playing in this, and what lies ahead for the end-users?

Back in July, Huntsman Corporation and Clariant presented a first update on the planned merger of equals to create HuntsmanClariant, a leading global specialty chemicals company. We are on track to close the deal as planned this coming December or January.

The merger brings together two strong specialty chemicals businesses, further extending our presence and reach to better meet the needs of our customers across our Asian and global markets. By focusing on delivering innovation with purpose, we will benefit from complementary R&D and technological expertise as well as cross-fertilisation in sustainability and innovation. But our aim remains the same: help our customers meet global textile trends and address their toughest challenges, especially around water use, hazardous chemicals and productivity.

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