The new era of textiles for India

The new era of textiles for India

Indian textile industry needs to have complete control over its processing parameters. It’s high time now to start adopting complete in-house value chain development to encash on the price dynamics and ensure timely shipment of the consignments, says Avinash Mayekar.
Indeed! A new era is getting executed for the textiles of our country!!!

Our major textile & apparel trade business has been struggling for a quite long time now. It is simply resting at a distant number 2 position in the global market. We have been waiting for the Indian textile industry reaching to the golden era, but somehow on the global scale, we have not been able to make our dent. Nowadays, a lot has been changed. A never thought-of lockdown has put a new perspective in motion and emerged as a speed wheel for India. Everything has been turned upside down with the onset of the pandemic in this 21st century. Fighting the pandemic challenges and the difficult times has not only seen the willingness of the textile manufacturers to come back with great determination but, has also put the well-awaited limelight on them.

The pattern of India for being able to generate what the market demands have shown its excellence by rising and becoming number 2 even in medical textiles, where once their presence was negligible. The vaccination drive with friendliness with almost all countries around the globe and supplying essentials during the pandemic has made India, a favorable partner by the entire globe. There is no doubt in my mind that Indian textiles are going to rise and grab a much larger pie in all segments of textiles, apparel, and technical textiles. Some of the key reason for the new era is as follows:

  1. India’s rise as the Power House of Textiles:
    With positive trends in favour of India, we are having all the benefits in the global market as far as strategic marketing network is concerned or preference against most of the competitors is concerned. This positive image is built up through dedicated hard work in the past few years and the pandemic era has further acted as a catalyst to boost this image with India being able to rise to the occasion and produce quality medical textiles products in a sector where India had a negligible presence in the pre-pandemic era.
    So India is having all the necessary links for the value chain, thus now our focus must be on the area for the complete strengthening and development of the value chain across different sectors mainly in technical textiles. Technical textiles are now the guiding force for India as it is having a compound annual growth rate of around 20% in almost all segments of technical textiles. At the same time, new developments which are happening especially in hygiene and medical textiles have further given the boost and confidence for the innovative products of technical textiles in India. Most of the products of technical textiles are produced using manmade fibers. At the same time, there are certain hygiene-related products produced from bleach cotton which very well use cotton – the DNA element of the Indian textile Industry.
    To add to this growth of India, the positive steps by the Indian government towards the textile industry by setting new goals for doubling its exports has truly set the vision of India becoming a great leader in coming years. All these efforts are a mark that India is well within the achievable mark for becoming a powerhouse.
    However, for becoming the global powerhouse we need to control our raw material prices of fibers. We need to come out with innovative technology & be cost-competitive for all our production costs. More focus must be given on the quality aspect of products as well as on developing the niche market for functional textiles i.e. technical textiles. For this, there is a strong need for evolution in the man-made fiber industry to produce cost-effective fibres. We all know the petrochemical industry itself is facing a big challenge as nowadays more electric cars are coming up and other fuels are replacing petrochemicals. Thus MMF being by-products of petrochemicals, a futuristic vision is needed now to innovate and look at other alternative supplies of these raw materials or develop other methods for the cost-competitive production of these raw materials.
    For this, we need to analyze what resources India is having and what other types of fibers can be used for producing different technical textiles. So depending on the nature of the application, and region of operation we can suggest alternate raw materials to produce fibers of various types. The focus should also be on making maximum use of regenerated fibers or natural fibers as “Go green would be the mantra for future”. However, these fibers must be able to provide the properties needed for functional/technical textiles. This will give a lot of mileage as far as carbon footprints are concerned and the requirement of major global brands are concerned.
    We also need to understand that conventional textiles require a lot more energy, manpower, and other costs to produce a single garment/sqm of fabric. So we need to have short processes or technology that can produce the same end product with similar qualities but utilizing a much less amount of energy, manpower, raw material, and other infrastructure-related miscellaneous costs.
    For example, a high-altitude garment produced with this innovative technology must have the feature of warmth from fibers that would have been achieved with a conventional process. This is possible by merging properties of various technologies to produce different layers to produce such functional textiles. These are the innovations which we must bring into practice and cut down the cost incurred. Moreover, these innovative technologies also help us give due importance to the critical concerns of our dear environment.
  2. Post-COVID Challenges & benefits:
    The COVID has exposed us to a lot of new challenges. Some of these challenges are also prevalent to date. The major key issues were logistics management, container movements, vaccination transportation & immediate supply of medical kits for healthcare workers and frontline warriors across the country. However, every advisory has thought us a great lesson.
    Firstly it showed us our weakness of not having the complete value chain developed. It then made us self-dependent & carved a way to produce the missing links. e.g. mere need for an abundance of PPE kits and other medical textiles has seen India rise not only as the country producing these products to meet its own demand which once was being imported, but effectivity in producing the surplus quantity & exporting it to other needy countries. India not having technology or equipment for the production of medical textiles products, started with innovative concepts of using garmenting machines to produce masks, face masks, coveralls, operational disposables, and other medical textiles. This era exposed our country to its limitations and saw the entrepreneurs come out with solutions to produce the required textiles. This was a blessing in disguise for India that carved the roadmap for entering into the new market without having knowledge or historical background in the production of these textiles.
    COVID era was an eye-opener for most of us. Where all the national borders were closed, regional borders were closed. So we need to study and understand the earlier ecology wherein every village or region was self-dependent and taking care of all their necessities needs of clothing, shelter, and food. Focusing on clothing, we need to have a complete value chain developed in focused regions spread across the
    country. The term effective management is apt to describe how the COVID has thought us to take care of concerns one by one that we have faced and moved ahead towards achieving the greater goal. This way in the coming era, I am, sure we are in a much better position and will come out with more understanding of the products and their specifications needed by our esteemed customers. We need to develop the necessary new equipment for producing it & bringing on board the alternate new strategies to win over new target markets. Our most important learning is being able to have the appropriate understanding of the global markets and supplying the required product in a very less time at a competitive price.
  3. PLI Support & Vision of Government
    The government is doing its best for upgrading its current policy to assist the industry in adapting to the changing demands. It has come up with the PLI scheme to help the textile industry. The scheme appears to be a good booster initiative of the government. However, the scheme structure will take care only of the large-scale players which are unfortunately a limited number in our country. Whereas if a similar pattern was designed for MSME players it would have been a much greater help for the Indian players as there are a lot of Indian manufacturers in the small & MSME categories waiting for such opportunities to assist them to boost their scale of production towards value addition. This would have escalated the growth of the entire textile and apparel value chain.
    In my humble opinion, Government policy aim apart from building strong competitors with big players like China could also be focused on getting the requisite production in terms of quality and quantity in all segments especially the development of niche segments. It could have been focussed on making the entire country as a whole strong in the international market by also developing PLI policies for MSME segment businesses whose numbers are much larger in the country.
    I feel the current PLI scheme, whose major eligibility criteria is huge investment should have been any investment that would give double the turnover in the following years and have the ability and capability of increasing by 25% every year. This way any scale of investment fulfilling the 25% increase should have been eligible for benefits earmarked under the scheme. At the same time, current PLI focusing only on man-made should have considered any fibre like viscose, cotton, jute, etc. as they are aiming towards the growth of textiles and value chain development and have real competence to take on global challenges. This consideration is suggested taking into the picture a garmenting unit which would not have investment more than 10Cr or 25Cr yet still are capable enough to obtain double the turnover and profitability. This would have given a playing field advantage for every industry entrepreneur irrespective of its sector of operation. Moreover, garmenting sector can create a great pull across the entire value chain.
    Another major concern with the PLI scheme is increasing the turnover by 25% every year which has not happened with textile players in past and will be a difficult task to achieve as the textile industry is comparatively a less profitable sector. These are a few concerns that can be considered for making amendments if any, to the PLI scheme or for any new schemes in the future.
  4. Automation and Digitalization:
    This will play a very important role in the global textile industry. We need to understand that the current skilled workforce available is not sufficient to take care of the existing needs. So for a forecasted growth of 20-25% year on year, we will need to upgrade ourselves and adopt technology that will require less manpower at the same time will need a smart workforce. So skill set development needs to be done across the industry. There is a need to build more work-specific institutions like ITI so that we can mold or train people like ring frame tenters, winding trenters, nonwoven technology, etc. from textile-specific technology centers for skill development.
    The technology is upgrading rapidly so we need to be geared up with smart people who can easily adapt to the technology modifications and become familiar with the displays on the machines. Understand the changing signals, symbol languages, and also take care of the optimal scale of the new machine. The workforce should be capable to explore the functional properties of the machine as well. Or at least be skilled to adapt to these changes with training or internet assistance from technology providers via online conferencing.
    The COVID situation has already seen the breakdown of machines being handled through the internet because of travel restrictions in various developed countries, also the aftermath of incapability of not being able to resolve the issue due to lack of skills. Similarly, these online systems can also introduce supervision from abroad across the industry checking quality parameters online and supervised by both the buyer and manufacturer online. Giving complete transparency to the manufacturing process. Showcasing at actual the quality norms and practices followed, measures taken to care for manufacturing and maintenance. In some military-related textiles, such complete governance on the factory and monitoring entire factory happens by the government bodies especially for producing military uniforms as secrecy is the key element for such products.
    The circular economy is going to play a very important role as far as the complete value chain is concerned. To portray it in simple terms whatever is required by the end-user would be supplied by the value chain and wastage re-utilization will be of utmost priority right from sourcing of raw material up to the complete value chain process. This would also ensure complete control of the entire process and will help maintain control on the characteristic parameters of the end product either garment or technical textiles.
    A garment meant for quality of 2 years can be produced which will firstly not be damaged within a year or withstand a life greater than 2 years. Similarly, high-end garments with more years of life can also be produced depending on the end-user category demand. We need to understand that a circular economy will produce fewer carbon footprints, it will take care of green evolution and the end-user will be happy to utilize the product as per his specific requirements.

We need to have complete control over our processing parameters. We need to be the industry leaders in the globe and supply goods to the global market only after truly understanding their needs and developing products as per their specifications at a competitive cost. It’s high time now, we start adopting complete in-house value chain development to encash on the price dynamics and ensure timely shipment of the consignments. We must be ready to produce the end product as per the specific fiber demand and use them in blends and proportion required by our buyers.
All of us have faced many challenges during the COVID era as none of us would have experienced or imagined this pandemic phase. However, by now, we are well versed with the issues created by pandemics and are aware of the worst of challenges and our constraints. So we are now geared up to take care of the issues like logistics management, quality parameters, and what needs to be done to be in the center of the market all-time through.
The government has also assisted through launching new schemes like PLI. It’s time for us to thoroughly study the schemes and all the segments of textile investors must make use of this scheme and ensure the growth of all. It should not remain as a scheme for only a select few players. The scheme should ultimately be linked towards increasing the scale of production across the entire textile value chain through all fibre segments and benefit India as a nation.
Automation and digitalization will take care of the shortcomings of firstly the less labor and secondly the disciplined production cycle. The lack of a skilled workforce can also be met by adopting techniques. This way we will get the necessary production scale with fewer errors that generally occur because of manual intervention.
The circular economy is the call of today. This is the unspoken demand of the users as it takes care of the ethical need of society and also helps in keeping control of the processing parameters ensuring specifications desired by the end-users are met. It’s in line with the green initiatives that would not deploy the resources and help keep the losses and destruction of natural resources.
India is in the position to take the lead and en-cash on its positive image created during the pandemic phase. We have shown our capabilities across all segments. India is said to attract huge investments in textiles. It is the talk of today and set to reap profits in coming years.
Let us carve out… Even a better tomorrow !!!

About the author:
Avinash Mayekar is the Managing Director of Suvin. He has over 34 years of experience working in consulting firms and various reputed textile companies of India. His main specialisation lies in strategy building, business process re-engineering and technical textiles. Working with a reputed global consulting firm, he has worked on large spinning projects in India and gained huge overseas experience.

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