Technical textiles weave a strong growth story in India

The domestic technical textile sector has attracted several large international players such as Johnson and Johnson, Procter & Gamble, 3M, DuPont, Freudenberg, Terram, Kolpman, Lindstrom, Teijin, Ahlstrom, Owens Corning, etc.

January 28, 2020

The usage of technical textiles is picking up pace in India driven by various factors offering plenty of opportunities for domestic as well as foreign investors

USA-based textile manufacturer Glen Raven, through its Mumbai-based Strata Geosystems joint venture, has opened a manufacturing facility in Daheli, Gujarat last year

Malaysia-based TenCate Geosynthetics Asia recently worked on an asphalt pavement rehabilitation project for their client, NHAI in Madurai, Tamil Nadu

The government has augmented investments in R&D, testing and investor facilitation through the establishment of centres of excellence, textile parks

Epitomizing the growing importance of India in the geosynthetics field, USA-based textile manufacturer Glen Raven Inc, as part of its Mumbai headquartered Strata Geosystems joint venture, opened a manufacturing facility in Daheli, Gujarat early last year. The new technical textile plant aims to meet the growing demand for geosynthetic products in India and for exports around the globe.

This plant which manufactures geogrids (geosynthetic material made from polymers and used widely in civil engineering applications to provide tensile strength to reinforce soil), will be used to build high-performance structures for highways. Strata’s materials can be found in more than 400 bridge ramps across India’s national highways, as reinforced soil technology is slowly being adopted in the country, especially in critical infrastructure applications. 

Maccaferri Environmental Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of the Bologna headquartered Officine Maccaferri S.p.A, is another foreign venture in this segment operating in India since 1998. With a corporate office, design and R&D unit in New Delhi and a manufacturing plant in Pune, this company is responsible for the reinforced soil walls in 10 locations in the US$427.9 million national highway project coming up in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu. Some of their major clients include the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, Airport Authority of India, J&K Flood Control Department, Central Railways, Kolkata Port Trust, Gujarat Maritime Board, Cairn Energy, etc.

India’s textile market is valued at US$16.6 billion, according to a 2019 KPMG report, referring to this as the “most promising time” for the sector in India

Geo-textiles, a segment of India’s US$16.6 billion technical textile industry, is expanding driven by the government’s massive push to strengthen infrastructure and connectivity. An eco-friendly material, they are increasingly used to build strong roads and sloping landscapes because they last longer and require less maintenance. Besides, they are used for various other applications like preventing coastline erosion and protecting river banks and reservoirs.

The Kerala government has announced that it will create a US$142.9 million business from coir geo-textiles. Also, the government of India had allotted a financial outlay of US$70.8 million for five years to promote the use of geotechnical textiles in the north-east region, prone to landslides, high-seismic activity, and weak soil conditions. 

Sunshine sector of Indian textile

In the recent past, India has been trying to capitalize on this highly functional fabric manufactured for their technical properties. Technical textiles with enhanced properties are more productive, efficient, cost-effective and offer multiple innovative solutions for many engineering and general applications. The usage has picked up momentum in India to increase productivity in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture fields, to provide better protective gear for the military, police and security forces, for sturdier infrastructure for highways, railways ports and airports and to improve hygiene and healthcare of the general public. 

The size of India’s technical textile market has been pegged at US$16.6 billion by KPMG in its 2019 report, “Technical Textiles: Growth sector of the Textiles Sector.” This report also states that this is the “most promising time” for the sector in India, as the government at the highest level is deeply engaged to devise policies that would boost it. 

The sunshine sector of India’s textile industry, the technical textile sector share in the US$100 billion domestic consumption of textiles in the country is US$19 billion. Technical textiles constitute 12-15 per cent of the total textile value chain in India, but this is small compared to some of the European countries where technical textiles constitute 50 per cent of the total textiles value chain.

However, this sector is poised to grow at 18 per cent CAGR during 2018-25 in India and is projected to reach a market size of US$28.6 billion by 2020-21, according to government reports. India has 4-5 share in the global technical textiles market but this is expected to increase, as the growth focus is projected to come from the Asia Pacific region in the future.

As per the baseline survey of the technical textile industry in India, about 2,100 units are manufacturing technical textiles in India. Most of the units are concentrated in Gujarat, followed by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. 

Though India consumes all 12 technical textile usage categories (that includes geotextiles, mobile tech, build tech, etc.), the country is a large producer of technical textiles products primarily in pack tech, cloth tech, home tech, and sport each segment. The large domestic players are SRF, Entremonde Polycoaters, Kusumgar Corporates, Supreme Nonwovens Pvt Ltd, Garware Wall Ropes, Century Enka, Techfab India Ltd.

Besides Maccaferri and Strata Geosystems, the domestic technical textile sector has attracted several large international players such as Johnson and Johnson, Procter & Gamble, 3M, DuPont, Freudenberg, Terram, Kolpman, Lindstrom, Teijin, Ahlstrom, Owens Corning, etc. 

Finland based Ahlstrom Fiber Composites India, a leader in medical textiles, has been operating in the country since 2011, with a manufacturing plant in Mundra in Gujarat. While the European major, TenCate Geosynthetics Asia, recently worked on an asphalt pavement rehabilitation project for their client, NHAI in Madurai, Tamil Nadu and supplied poly felt nonwoven geotextiles for a waste disposal pipeline on the seafloor for a Jamnagar oil refinery. With a base in Telangana, TenCate is looking to cater to the rising demands for geosynthetics in the country.

Germany-based Freudenberg Group is very active in India as well. The company has invested US$51.9 million in India for a period of five years for its manufacturing and R&D activities. Fibretex Nonwovens, a Danish company has been here since 2013 and is increasing its activities in India, seeing the huge potential in the country, especially in the area of geosynthetics in infrastructure.

Trade, investment opportunities

Availability of young and cost-efficient labor, a strong textile value chain extending from fiber to fabric to garments, industrial growth, rise in per capita income, and the government’s push to encourage the sector is all the factors accelerating growth in this sector. Also, India has an abundant supply of raw materials such as natural fibres, synthetic fibres, and chemicals for processing, all of which have led major technical textile multi-nationals to set up their manufacturing base in the country. 

Moreover, India is Asia’s third-largest economy and industrialising rapidly, which is facilitating the development of end-user industries of technical textiles like automobile and healthcare.

According to the KPMG report, gradually import-dependent technical textile products viable in terms of volume and scale have been replaced with indigenous production, resulting in economic development and value retention within the economy. Also, owing to globalisation and social media, Indian consumers are increasingly becoming more aware of products with higher functionality as compared to conventional options. With higher disposable income, the younger population is willing to adapt to high-tech products with higher spending capacity.

Finally, the government has undertaken a slew of initiatives to boost this sector. For example, 207 technical textiles items have been brought under a separate head in the Harmonised System of Nomenclature (HSN) code under the foreign trade policy. What this means is that medicinal bandages and tapes, cotton wool, tent fabrics, nylon ropes, painting canvas, glass fibres, life jackets, and certain outer garments are among 207 products that will now be identified as technical textiles. This will help to give clarity in export and import data compilation along with targeted incentives for the sector. 

Also, 92 application areas have been identified for mandatory use across 10 central ministries/departments. The government has augmented investments in R&D, testing and investor facilitation through the establishment of eight Centres of Excellence, textile parks and international collaborations with foreign institutes and laboratories. Efforts are on to encourage R&D and facilitate investments in high-growth sectors such as mobile tech, build tech, industrial tech, and meditech. These measures coupled with 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) under the automatic route in this sector offers plenty of significant opportunities for joint ventures to investors.  

Key clusters for technical textiles in India: 

  • Gujarat: Surat and Ahmedabad: Hub for Packtech, Agrotech, and Non-woven fabrics
  • Maharashtra: Mumbai and Pune: Clothtech and Indutech production
  • National Capital Region: Mobiltech, Hometech, Protech, and Sportech 
  • Jallandhar and Meerut: Sport composites 
  • Kanpur: Sportech goods (tents, sleeping bags)
  • Kolkata: Industrial gloves, jute/hessians, and industrial workwear 
  • Bangalore: Meditech/ Packtech 
  • Chennai and Coimbatore – Fishnets and Clothtech

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