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Cover Story | October 2016

Technical textiles sector needs huge investments

- Seshadri Ramkumar, Professor of Technical Textiles, Texas Tech University, USA

As Indian textile industry is an employment generating sector within the manufacturing portfolio, its position is very important in India’s mission on ‘Make in India’. It is very critical that there should be a concerted effort among different stakeholders such as the Government, industry, trade associations, central and state supported R&D laboratories, and academia to advance this sector to the next stage.

As of today, the spinning and the garment sectors are quite mature in terms of its manufacturing and revenue generating capabilities. However weak links exist in agriculture, weaving, finishing and more importantly technical textiles, which is relatively a new entrant to this sector.

With regards to the agriculture sector, which relates to the textile industry, indigenous development of next generation cotton seed technologies that will deal with weed resistance, drought resistance and yield enhancement should have priority when research projects are handled by central laboratories and trade associations such as Coimbatore-based SIMA. This situation has become serious with the recent Monsanto’s decision to pull its registration request for next level of seed technologies for the Indian market. Although for some years now, Indian textile manufacturing is trying to strengthen its weaving and finishing arms, it has not come to a level of satisfactory progress. In this particular scenario, the government can be a visible arm to boost this sector by providing incentives to import textile machineries to cater to the loopholes in these two sectors.

For nearly a decade there has been tremendous outreach by the Government to all sectors within the textile industry to promote the nascent nonwoven and technical textile industry. Although the predictions by this scribe in a 2009 report titled, “Indian Rising: Opportunities in Nonwovens and Technical Textiles”, and Government point to a double digit growth, it is indeed hard as of today to feel a tangible growth in this sector. The need of the hour is to help the industry with the realisation of workable projects in the technical textile arena.

So far efforts have concentrated on theoretical knowledge dissemination and promoting investments in the downstream sectors such as technical fabrics production, nonwoven rollgood manufacturing, investments in downstream processing such as needlepunching, spunlacing, etc. In order to see employment generation and revenue streams in this sector, it is extremely important to develop and grow the converting sector of the technical textile industry. There is an urgent need to create a one-stop knowledge house for the converting side of the technical textile industry.

The nascent technical textiles sector should focus on products that will be absorbed by consumers such as wipes and institutional buyers such as filtration products, automotive products, to name a few. As downstream projects in the technical textiles sector need huge investments, practically it may not suit small and medium scale investors.

Government of India should consider the development of the upstream sector, i.e. converting sector as a priority to take the textile industry to the next level. From jobs perspective, it is this side of the technical textile sector, which can provide good opportunities. Information on marketing these high-valued technical textile products both within and outside Indian borders has to be made available to the prospective investors in the field.

It is the task of the stakeholders to first identify the weak links such as those mentioned above and find ways to solve those problems so that the Indian textile industry becomes broad-based by 2020.

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