Exprtex Shingora’s focus right now is on import replacement

Exprtex Shingora’s focus right now is on import replacement


Exprtex Shingora is one of India’s leading textile manufacturing companies, supplying its products to world’s top brands. The Group principally operates through three primary segments — Textiles, Retail & Software.  The Technical Textiles division specialises in producing high-performance fabrics that are suitable for use in multiple applications for tactical, Aerospace and sportswears. Amit Jain, Managing Director, Exprtex Shingora, discusses with Divya Shetty the various applications within the field of technical textiles. He outlines the specific applications their company is involved in, as well as the challenges and opportunities they face in this industry.

Can you tell us more about how the company was founded and its current presence in India?

My father started manufacturing operations in 1976, initially focusing on beret caps and jerseys for the Indian Army. Later, my mother joined him in the early to mid-80s, establishing the Shingora brand to specialise in shawl production. Over time, the shawl business flourished, prompting the cessation of our involvement in the army-related endeavours due to operational challenges. Despite persisting difficulties, the shawl business thrived, gaining prominence in India before venturing into the export market. I entered the family business in 1996, collaborating with my mother to expand our shawl operations from its modest beginnings as a handloom venture. Until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus remained on fashion, encompassing scarf and fabric production alongside occasional collaborations with IIT Delhi on various projects, without significant engagement in technical textiles.

However, in response to the pandemic-induced disruption of the fashion industry, we transitioned to manufacturing PPE suits, swiftly securing government approval and producing over 350,000 units between April and August. This shift prompted a re-evaluation of our strategic direction, leading to our formal entry into the realm of technical textiles in mid-2021. Leveraging our expertise in silk and wool processing, we opted to specialise in nylon and aramid-based textiles, with nylon chosen for its resemblance to silk and aramid for its inherent fire-resistant properties, like wool. Presently, we boast a diverse portfolio comprising innovative nylon and aramid blends, marking the evolution of our enterprise. While retaining the Shingora brand’s presence in the fashion sector within India, we have also established Exprtex as our dedicated technical textile division, catering to both domestic and global markets.

Which of your applications—fire retardant fabrics, coated fabrics, tactical fabrics, or aerospace fabrics—has seen the most significant growth recently, and what measures is Exprtex Shingora taking to address this increased demand?

I find it difficult to single out any particular application, as I believe all of them are interesting. It varies; sometimes the demand for fire retardant materials rises, other times it’s aerospace that takes precedence, and so on. However, given our newness in this field, we’re genuinely excited about every application. Currently, we’re heavily investing in research and development to meet the increasing demand. We’re establishing laboratories and have recruited experts including a PhD in polymer science and a textile chemist, sourced from esteemed institutions like IIT Delhi. Additionally, we’ve onboarded an international analyst based in the US to bolster our team. Our primary focus lies in assembling a proficient R&D team and enhancing our testing and laboratory capabilities, as we already possess most of the required machinery. Our vision is clear: to concentrate on product development and bolstering our production capacity at present.

Can you elaborate on the advanced materials and technologies used in your fire retardant fabrics, and how they ensure compliance with international safety standards?

What we’re currently engaged in is utilising our expertise in wool to develop highly innovative fire retardant fabrics blended with wool that have not been made in India so far. Presently, our focus lies in identifying imported products and devising domestic alternatives, prioritising innovation in this regard. Our proficiency in working with wool proves invaluable in this endeavour, facilitating the creation of previously unseen fabric varieties within India. To ensure compliance with international standards, we adhere to stringent testing protocols, leveraging reputable Indian laboratories such as WRA, NITRA, and ATIRA, renowned for their testing capabilities. Additionally, we seek certifications from international testing facilities, recognising the necessity of such credentials for market relevance. Our strategy encompasses a multifaceted approach aimed at achieving our objectives.

With the technical textile industry in India facing challenges in sourcing raw materials, where does Exprtex Shingora source its materials, and how do you ensure a consistent supply chain?

One important point I’d like to make by using this platform is the implementation of Quality Control Order (QCO) norms by the government. While I fully support the introduction of such norms to boost the domestic industry, they must be applied with discernment. Imposing QCO norms on raw materials, especially those not domestically available, can inadvertently impede innovation and hinder the nation’s progress. It would be more prudent for the government to enforce QCO norms on semi-finished or finished goods, rather than raw material fibres and yarns that aren’t produced domestically or might not meet international standards. Such stringent regulations stifle innovation by limiting the import of specialised materials crucial for advancement.

As an importer, I encounter numerous hurdles when attempting to import certain fibres from specialised European companies lacking QCO approvals. Instead, the government should encourage the production of raw materials domestically, foster demand through market dynamics, and then consider imposing restrictions once the industry has matured. Currently, the challenge lies in sourcing raw materials, particularly fine nylon yarns and specific aramid fibers, due to limited domestic production capabilities and restrictive import regulations. We advocate for a re-evaluation of these policies to facilitate easier access to essential materials for domestic industries. Leveraging our established relationships with leading global suppliers, including Japanese and Taiwanese counterparts, we are negotiating long-term agreements to secure a stable supply chain for our operations.

Could you discuss the specific applications of your coated fabrics in industrial settings, and how their properties are tailored to meet the needs of these environments?

One of the most pressing demands in the country is for extreme cold weather clothing, particularly needed by the army. Additionally, there’s a significant demand for items such as backpacks, tents, and Bulletproof Vest carriers, among others, yet not all of these necessities currently have Indian-made solutions. We’re actively addressing this gap by leveraging our coating capabilities to develop tailored solutions. Furthermore, we’re focusing on creating specialty fabrics resistant to gases, water, and chemicals, refining our expertise in highly specialised coatings.

What innovations has Exprtex Shingora introduced in the development of tactical fabrics and aerospace applications, to enhance durability and functionality?

We now have a joint IP with IIT Delhi for specialty fabric designed for hot and humid weather. This fabric is intended for the defence forces, particularly those operating in very hot or humid climates, where moisture evaporation, breathability, and permeability are crucial. Additionally, this fabric offers UV protection. We are developing such specialised materials to meet tactical needs.

Regarding aerospace, we have successfully completed the entire cycle of requirements for parachute fabrics, which are needed by the Ministry of Defence for various applications. This is our current status in the aerospace sector.

How does Exprtex Shingora manage the cost implications of producing high-performance technical textiles, and what strategies are in place to maintain competitive pricing without compromising on quality?

That’s a difficult one. Because of the raw material problem, we have to import most of the raw materials. If customs becomes a challenge, the cost rises even higher. So, things are not cheap. They could be cheaper if the government made things easier. The only thing we can do is improve efficiencies. Our focus right now is not on reducing costs, but on developing high-quality products and import replacement products. However, one thing is for sure; our import replacements are either at the same price or slightly cheaper than the landed duty-paid products available in India.

Can you provide insights into the research and development efforts at Exprtex Shingora aimed at enhancing the performance and durability of your technical textiles?

Our focus right now is on import replacement. We have assembled a team of experts and are collaborating with institutions such as IIT Ropar, IIT Mandi, and also I signed an agreement with CSIO in Chandigarh. We are also working with local universities, like Lovely Professional University, and other academic centres. Our aim is to emphasise research and development because, as an organisation, we are not interested in making commercial products. There is no point in doing that. We want to be specialised and known for specific types of products. Our entire effort right now involves partnering with organisations, institutes, and building internal teams. We are also focusing on internal culture and mindset changes, engaging with our workers to drive this vision forward.

How challenging is it to secure skilled labour in India, particularly within the technical textiles sector?

In Ludhiana, Punjab, we have no one who understands technical textiles, so we are building that entire capability ourselves. We are training our people and have created a certification program where certain workers earn the Exprtex certified designation. My R&D team is responsible for building SOPs and training modules for these teams. This is not an HR function in our company; it’s the responsibility of the scientists. The scientists are building the processes and materials; we are doing it slightly differently.

Lastly, could you share your company’s short-term and long-term plans with us?

In the short term, we definitely want to be the best import replacement company. In the long term, we aim to have our own IP products that compete globally. As of now, the focus is on setting up laboratories, testing facilities, systems, processes, and the R&D team. I think the next step is to establish a completely new greenfield project dedicated to specialty textiles. But before doing this, we need to have all the important ingredients in place.