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Cover Story | April 2017

The Lure of $30 bn

Cover Story: Technical textilesThe lure of $30 bn

There is a burgeoning market for technical textiles in India and the industry should rise to the occasion to tap its potential, finds an exclusive ITJ Report.

What has textile to do with Dengue prevention? Plenty, says the Swiss textile technology innovator HeiQ, which recently launched HeiQ Bug Guard; Wearing apparel empowered by HeiQ Bug Guard reduces the risk of mosquito and bug bites and consequently decreases the likelihood of infection with life-threatening diseases such as Zika, Malaria and Dengue

This is just a glimpse of the scale and scope of innovations touching the textile industry! Global innovations in technical textiles, trickling in a few years ago, have already turned into virtually a flood, and developed countries like Germany’s share of technical textiles in total textiles has touched nearly 50 to 60 per cent, while in India it is still a laggard at 10 per cent. And that too, with low-tech Packtech taking a lion’s share of this measly 10 per cent!

Where does India stand in the fast-growing universe of technical textiles? In the words of the Textiles Commissioner, Dr Kavita Gupta, “we are staring at the prospects of over 20 per cent growth,” but not making adequate efforts to realise the potential. Country’s technical textiles market, which is currently estimated at over $15 billion is likely to reach a level of $32 billion by 2023, by diversifying towards nonwoven technical textiles and forging global partnerships with counterparts. Without this value addition through technical textile route, the target for the textiles and apparel industry to reach a size of over $300 billion by 2023 is only a far cry!

However, the industry’s enthusiasm to enter technical textiles is undiminished. Giants like Welspun, Arvind Group and Alok Textiles are mounting efforts to strengthen the technical textile front. Welspun, one of the world’s leading home textiles manufacturer, has forayed into new technologies in its Technical Textile Business with by inaugurating its state-of-the-art needle entangled advance textile plant in Anjar, Gujarat, built at a cost of Rs 150 crore. The new facility will enhance product offerings and provide cutting-edge solutions in high-growth areas such as industrial and defence applications. According to BK Goenka, Chairman, Welspun Group, “We are entering into an exciting phase of business through these new offerings in technical textiles. The new facility will enhance our product offerings and provide cutting-edge solutions in high-growth areas such as industrial and defence applications. The new facilities strengthen Welspun’s position as a global manufacturer and underline our commitment to the ‘Make in India’ initiative as well as the economic development of the region and the country at large.”

Even newcomers are not shy of investing in technical textiles. Located on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) on NH-8, AUTOTECH Nonwovens, founded only four years ago, is in close proximity of the automotive hubs of Gujarat, Maharashtra as well as the major ports of Western-India. AUTOTECH has carved a niche for itself as a manufacturer of choice for needlepunched nonwovens globally. ANDRITZ Nonwoven, part of international technology Group ANDRITZ, very recently has successfully started up a complete needlepunch line – from webforming to needlepunching – supplied to AUTOTECH Nonwovens.

Speaking on the nonwovens market in India, Ankit Desai, Director, Autotech Nonwovens, said “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. geo textiles. There are no global standards in place for geo textiles 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”, he added.

Added Desai: “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 (HSR), 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.”

Speaking on the future of technical textiles market in India, Desai said, “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,” added Desai.

According to Avinash Mayekar, MD & CEO, Suvin Advisors, “Global technical textile market that was worth $147 billion in 2014 is all set and expected to reach up to $179 billion by 2018. Indutech, Mobiltech, Packtech, Buildtech and Hometech are the five major applications, which represent 2/3 of world technical textile market. Whereas Indian technical textile market is pegged at Rs 92,499 crore by 2015-16 and is projected to grow to Rs 116,217 crore by 2017-18. Technical textiles are introductory phase and has tremendous growth potentials in developing country like India.”

He added, “The fastest growing middle class population with higher disposable income is one of the biggest key growth drivers in India for rise in technical textiles consumption. The middle class is well educated and receptive to the many technical textile products particularly the disposable products. This combined with the growth of organised retail in the country is a key growth driver for technical textiles used in consumer products. The average age of Indian population is around 25 years. Significantly over 50 per cent of the population is below 25 years. Indian population is receptive to new technology and new products. They are faster in adopting global trends, so most of the global manufacturers are targeting India as a market. But Indian entrepreneurs are lagging in tapping this market potential. So, it is very necessary to understand market potential of technical textiles and first step towards it is to understand what are technical textiles.”

Investments in technical textiles

The Indian technical textiles industry is largely unorganized in nature and size of the manufacturing units vary to a large extent. Although there are various large players present, the production of certain goods is still concentrated to the small scale segment like canvas tarpaulin, carpet backing, woven sacks, shoe laces, soft luggage, zip fasteners, stuffed toys, fabrication of awnings, canopies and blinds, etc. There are a few Multi-National Companies like Ahlstrom, Johnson & Johnson, Du Pont, Procter & Gamble, 3M, SKAPs, Kimberly Clark, etc. which are internationally very large players in technical textiles and have set up their units in India as well. Large Indian companies include SRF, Entremonde Polycoaters, Kusumgarh Corporates, Supreme Nonwovens Pvt. Ltd., Garware Wall Ropes, Century Enka, Techfab India Ltd., Pacific Non-Woven, Vardhman, Unimin, etc. Going forward further investments are expected along with the growing market attractiveness.

Government schemes for technical textiles

Technology mission on technical textiles: Technical textiles are the textile materials and products used for their technical performance and functional properties. Unlike conventional textiles which are used traditionally for clothing or furnishing, technical textiles are used basically on account of their specific physical and functional properties and mostly by other user industries. Technical textiles represent a multi-disciplinary field with numerous end use applications. To remove the impediments hampering the production of technical textiles in the country and to meet growing demand in the domestic and export market the govt. has launched Technology Mission on Technical Textiles (TMTT) during December 2010 with two mini- missions for a period of five years (from 2010-11 to 2014-15) with a fund outlay of Rs 200 crore.

Upgradation of existing four Centers of Excellence: Four COEs have already been established but these centres are not having facilities for development of prototypes, incubation centre for products of their segments and provision for recurring expenditure for appointment of experts. Therefore, a fund support is being provided to the existing COEs to upgrade them in line with new COEs.

Providing fund support for organising workshops: Reputed national and international agencies including the Indian diaspora settled abroad are being invited to conduct seminars, workshops and short term training programmes in which knowhow about latest technology, international practices, market details, global scenario, etc.

Social compliance through standardization, regulatory measures: Consultants have been engaged to identify the needed regulatory changes required along with international best practices and also the strategy to facilitate such changes in the rules and regulations.

Two studies on developing measures for promoting usage of Agrotech and geotech had been have been approved.

Future of technical textiles

Smart textiles represents the next generation of textiles with use in several fashion products, furnishing and technical textiles applications. The vision is to create textile products exhibiting dynamic functionalities by combining smart materials and integrated computing power. Smart textiles can be divided into two categories, i.e., aesthetic and performance enhancing. Aesthetic include fabrics that light up to the fabric that can change colour. Performance enhancing fabrics have applications in sports, military, etc.

Smart textiles was first introduced in early 1900s due to the influence of military research and wearable technology. The smart textiles market has been a considerable evolution in the past few years, with a transition from passive to active smart and ultra-smart fabrics. First generation passive fabrics were proficient of only sensing environmental stimuli, while second generation active fabrics include components such as sensors, actuators and a control unit which can sense thermal, electrical and other stimuli; the third generation of smart fabrics known as ultra-smart fabrics can sense, react and adapt to environmental conditions or stimuli. Ultra-smart fabrics essentially consist of a unit which works like a brain with cognition, reasoning, and activating capacities.

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