Post Covid, global marketplace will not be the same

Alessandro Liberatori—Trade Commissioner and Director of the Italian Trade Commission, New Delhi and the Coordinator of Trade offices in Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh—speaks on the emerging trends in textile machinery industry globally.

Alessandro Liberatori is the Trade Commissioner and Director of the Italian Trade Commission, New Delhi and the Coordinator of Trade offices in Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh. Having attained his education in political science and international relations. Dr Liberatori has studied Law and Economics of the European Union as a masters’ thesis. He also holds a masters’ degree in International Trade and Finance.

Prior to joining the Italian Trade Agency in Rome (2000), Dr Liberatori started his professional career by working with Confartigianato – The Italian Confederation of Crafts and Small and Medium sized enterprises. He was designated as the Trade Commissioner to Croatia from the year 2006 – 2011 and as the Head of the Business Assistance division as well as the Machinery, Energy and Environment department at the headquarters in Rome. He has previously served as the Trade Commissioner to Jakarta, Indonesia from 2015-2019, before taking up his current position as the Director of Italian Trade Commission, Embassy of Italy in New Delhi.

In an exclusive interview with the ITJ, Alessandro Liberatori speaks on the emerging trends in textile machinery industry globally.

What are some of the emerging trends in textile machinery industry globally?
Globally, a number of trends have emerged throughout the textile machinery industry in the recent years. With technology evolving constantly and the advent of Industry 4.0, the industry has experienced various manufacturing advancements including the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and more throughout the entire value chain.

Further, with reference to the trends in sustainability, efforts are being made constantly in order for textile manufacturers to meet the demands from governments, brands and consumers for streamlining their processes, minimising the use of toxic chemicals, water and energy as well as reducing their emissions and wastewater. New innovative technologies are being developed in the field of textile finishing which is the most polluting and energy intensive process in the textile supply chain.

What are your views on India as a potential market for Italian machinery industry in the next few years?
India is one of the most important global markets for Italy and is the second largest market for Italian textile machinery manufacturers with Italy being the third largest supplier of textile machinery to India. Italy’s exports to India in the textile machinery sector during previous years can be seen as follows:

Year

2017

2018

2019

% Share (2019) in Italy’s
total exports of Textile Machinery

Exports

(in EURO millions)

140

121

106

6.15%

Source:
EuroStat

By 2024-25, the Indian textiles industry will reach the production level of $350 billion (Euro 294 billion approximately), according to the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. Towards achieving these estimates, there will be a huge requirement of machinery for the manufacturing of textiles. Italy being one of the largest suppliers of textile machinery to India seeks to improve its position and at the same time looks forward to fulfil the India’s requirements while ensuring more efficiency and greater production capacity.

How flexible are the Italian companies to adapt to changes in the textile industry?
Majority of Italian textile machinery manufacturers exhibit the capabilities to be extremely flexible and responsive to the changes in the textile industry as well as their clients’ needs, while still offering highly specialised products. Particularly, the quality and customisation of the Italian high-tech machinery provides an advantage to the users in maintaining their competitive edge.

The Italian companies are able to address any type of changes in the industry including but not limited to the types of fabrics, fibres, applications and compositions. With the textile industry being a dynamic sector, trends change not only annually, but seasonally as well, for which Italian manufacturers are always ready to answer the call.

How has been the going for Italy during 2019-2020 in terms of performance? What are the pluses and minuses in the prospects for 2020 globally?
Textile machinery exports from Italy to the world during 2019 stood at Euro 1.72 billion posting a decline of almost 14 per cent if compared with 2018, when the exports stood at Euro 1.99 billion. During January-May 2020, the exports were Euro 505 million with a decline of almost 30 per cent as compared to Euro 730 million during the same period of 2019.

Following 2019, the Italian textile machinery had to face Covid pandemic, which led, as a first consequence, to the slowdown of the main markets in the sector, China, Turkey and India, in the first months of 2020. The resumption of activity for Italian textile machinery manufacturers has been slow due to a marked slowdown in apparel consumption in the global markets. However, the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), Trade Promotion Office of The Embassy of Italy in India in collaboration with ACIMIT (Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers) is leaving no stone unturned for relaunching the sector through internationalisation. A number of remote activities have been planned to fill the gaps created by the cancellation of various promotional initiatives in 2020.

Since most the exhibitions are cancelled due to Covid-19, what are the new strategies your organisation may be exploring to boost collaborations in India in the near future?
With the travelling restrictions still in effect, we have for the time being adopted a digital approach in establishing and maintaining relationships with both new and old stakeholders. Although exhibitions are tangible, and offer experiences of interactions that simply cannot be reproduced digitally, we still find the digital approach to be a practical option for staying in touch with the important Indian stakeholders in the present scenario.

Over the past few months, our office has organised and participated in a number of webinars for various sectors. This has proved to be a useful platform for reaching a large number of target audience while enabling us to attain a better understanding of the market.

What kind of challenges are you anticipating post-Covid?,

Post Covid, the global marketplace will not be the same as it was. Worker absence, restricted site access and collaboration, travel limitations and restrictions, fatigue and new ways of working are some of the challenges that can be expected and that shall be needed to be addressed quickly. Moreover, while addressing these challenges it shall be imperative to keep in mind the safety of employees as well as the mitigation of the risk of any similar future disruption.

The experience and learnings of many industries during the worldwide lockdowns show how important it is to be able to run operations no matter where your staff are, and also uninterrupted communications with customers and suppliers. For the same, it is also expected that manufacturers will start giving more significance to digital alternatives after this pandemic.

Were there any special efforts mounted in recent times to boost Italian machinery industry’s presence in India? What were the results?
Every year various opportunities of interaction are organised between Italian companies and global companies in both Italy and different parts of the world. The Italian Trade Agency (ITA), Trade Promotion Office of The Embassy of Italy in India in collaboration with ACIMIT (Association of Italian Textile Machinery Manufacturers) organised the Indian Textile Delegation to Italy from March 22-31, 2019 for the purpose of promoting Italian textile machinery in India. Our office made the selection of the 16 textile operators with the technical support of ACIMIT. 30 Italian textile machinery companies took part in the initiative, welcoming the Indian delegation. This initiative included presentations by the Italian textile machinery companies, followed by B2B meetings with Indian textile operators at the ACIMIT headquarters in Milan and industrial visits by the Indian delegation to Italian textile machinery companies.

Furthermore, ITA and ACIMIT organised awards for research to two students in the field of textile machinery from DKTE Society’s Textile and Engineering Institute in Ichalkaranji, Maharashtra with the aim of promoting awareness in the technologies that have rendered Italian manufacturers global industry leaders, and in fostering ties between universities and Italian businesses under the aegis of the Italian Textile Technology Awards. The students visited Milan from November 10-17 wherein they participated in technical sessions and factory visits to a number of Italian companies.

Lastly, a number of Italian textile machinery manufacturers are already part of the Indicative list under the Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS) of the Ministry of Textiles of the Government of India and in order for new companies willing to be a part of the same, certain formalities are required. In the past we have provided assistance to several Italian companies in their efforts to be a part of the ATUFS list through communications with the competent government authorities.

What are the various products on offer for the textile industry? What are its USPs?
A broad and comprehensive range of Italian textile machinery for serving the different requirements of the sector is available which includes pre-spinning and spinning machinery; twisting, reeling and winding machinery; pre-weaving and weaving machinery; knitting and hosiery machinery; dyeing, printing and finishing machinery; and laundry dry-cleaning and ironing machinery.

The flawless combination of tradition and innovation are the decisive factors for the success of Italian textile machinery worldwide. Italian manufacturers are located in areas and towns of ancient textile tradition, where a profitable exchange of experiences with the end-users is a stimulating contribution to the improvement of the machines. The skilled workforce of the sector, providing the necessary know how for the production quality, is a legacy of the ancient Italian textile tradition too.

The second key of our success has to be found in the high level of innovation that characterises our production. The topics of Italian R&D activities are energy saving and machine productivity, because our industry knows very well that it is important for textile companies to focus on these topics in order to remain competitive worldwide.

Advanced technology, sustainability, versatility, flexibility, excellent quality and price ratio are the main characteristics that make the Italian machinery an undisputed leader in the world.

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