NITRA aids in non-cotton natural fibre development for the industry
Northern India Textile Research Association (NITRA) is a research institute set up by textile industry and Government of India (presently Ministry of Textiles) around 50 years back to help the industry by developing new products & processes, helping them in savings in energy and raw materials, rationalising man power etc. Dr Arindam Basu, Director General, NITRA, discusses the association’s achievements from the previous year and shares insights on enhancing export performance with Divya Shetty.
How was NITRA’s performance in the calendar year 2023?
The year 2023 was a very successful and eventful year for NITRA as it was engaged in 8 research projects sponsored by Ministry of Textiles (under NTTM scheme and National Jute Board), Department of Science & Technology and Ministry of Agriculture and farmers’ Welfare. These include development of jute composite material for automotive acoustic insulation, development of protective work wear for steel/metal industry workmen using Jute/cotton materials, development of ceramic/UHMWPE based hybrid composite armour, crop cover/ mulch using Sunhemp & banana fibres, 3D high performance knitted sports textiles, specialised fire fighting suit etc.
Considering the awareness about sustainability, NITRA continued to work and help the industry using various non-cotton natural fibres such as hemp, jute, banana fibres etc. It is helping 4 start-up companies in developing textile products using these unconventional fibres. This year 7 patent applications have been filed. Along with an international agency, NITRA is helping textile industries in Panipat to cut down water and chemical consumption by 25 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Also it is helping industry in designing Zero Liquid Discharge plant for its wet processing unit.
Most of the technologies developed by NITRA are transferred to industries for commercial uses. This year NITRA has transferred a number of technologies such as next generation eco-friendly antimicrobial technology to Polygiene Group, Sweden, Molten metal splash resistant fabric to JCT, Phagwara, Jute composite for automobiles to RFM Automotives, Gurgaon, Extraction of finer banana fibres to Gencrest Bioproducts, Mumbai etc.
Considering its innovative works Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) has awarded NITRA as one of the best innovative institutes in two consecutive years (2023 and 2022).
What are the challenges before the Indian T&A manufacturers as they aim to their exports globally?
The challenges before the textile and apparel industry are many. To name a few, increase in price of cotton during off season, high trash content in the cotton, absence of very big weaving/ knitting facilities, import of cheap fabrics from neighbouring countries etc.
The aim of T&A manufacturers are and will be to produce good quality and consistent final products. Usages of more recycled/ biodegradable fibres, green and cleaner processes, optimised usages of energy, water and other resources. A large number of MSME units are present in the textile & apparel industry and they need to upgrade their processes into eco-friendly processes which is a big challenge.
Amid the global uncertainty, how can we boast our exports?
The textile products include apparel products and other technical uses. Whereas, when economy is not good for a country, growth of apparel demand will be minimum but uses of technical textiles will not reduce and war in different parts of the world will increase the uses of technical textiles. Hence, the industries should try to increase the export in these areas which the low cost countries will not be able to supply and per unit value addition is much higher as compared to standard apparels.
Secondly USA and European countries are looking for products which are sustainable. The Indian textile and apparel industry should introduce more organic/ responsible cottons, recycled fibres in their products and user greener technologies in their processing. These will attract the buyers and will clean our own environment also.
Generally big buyers mandate the use of recycled fibres in a fixed proportion in the mixing while spinning yarn. And to assure the quality and origin of recycled fibres block chain links need to be created throughout the textile and apparel industry.
In my opinion the manufacturers should take advantage of increasing domestic market which is growing continuously due to increased disposable income, awareness of the latest fashions and a large share of youth population in India. In the case of technical textiles, presently the penetration level is only 10-12 per cent in India against 30-70 per cent in the world market. There is huge scope of increment in this sector as usages of technical textiles are increasing at the rate of 10-12 per cent in India against 4.4 per cent in the World.
Any policy/scheme suggestion the government can take to encourage the industry?
The Government of India has introduced various schemes such as National Technical Textile Mission (NTTM), Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, PM MITRA Apparel parks to help Indian textile & apparel industry. Besides that, many state governments have introduce various schemes under their textile policies to helping the industry in expansion and setting up of new units. Most of the benefits offered by the state governments are in addition to the Central Government schemes. Also for start ups Technology Development Board (TDB) is offering help beside a scheme called GREAT under NTTM.
The Quality Control Orders (QCOs) introduced by the Ministry of Textiles and BIS will restrict dumping of cheap poor quality textile and apparel products by neighbouring countries, which in turn will help the domestic industry.
Can you give few suggestions to achieve the $100 billion export target?
Indian export of T&A in the world lies between 4 to 5 per cent only. If it is doubled the target may be achieved. But for that industry needs to broad base the market such looking at east, FTAs with UAE, Australia etc. Some of the technical textile items are not included in the report of T&A exports due to absence of proper HSN code. Efforts are there to include these untapped products in the record of T&A exports.
Quality consistency needs to be improved by Indian industry. History shows that the improvement in export of Japanese products could be achieved by providing consistent quality for a long period.