India is now a fast emerging market inching to reach half a billion middle income population by 2030. All these factors are good for the Indian textile industry in a long run. Even though the global economic crisis seams to be worsening day-by-day, as long as economies are emerging and growing as those in South and South East Asia, textile industry is here to grow provided it takes competition and innovation seriously. Read below to have an insight of the stand of the Indian Textile Industry in the economy.

Where Does the Indian Textile Industry Stand Now?

A general impression I get talking to the Indian textile industry leaders in the past few days make me understand that the industry is in a pinch. Why so? These are the reasons:

  1. Global recession
  2. Less export orders due to reductions in inventories by global retail giants like Wal-Mart
  3. Price of raw materials like cottons and
  4. Infrastructure bottlenecks such as power, particularly in Tamil Nadu.

It has been recently reported that textile exports in 2009-10 period will be equal or could be even lower than the one achieved in 2008-09. In this global financial meltdown situation, what should the Indian textile industry do? In the times of adversity, it is an immediate task for all stake holders to pause for a moment and take stock of the difficulties and chart plans for sustainability and growth of the Indian textile industry.

Road Ahead for the Indian Textile Industry

As the saying goes in the financial sector, it is not advisable to put all eggs in one basket. This is what happened somewhat in the case of the Indian textile industry. With the opening of world markets and the abolition of textile quotas since 2005, there came a negative situation as well. But, hindsight is always 20-20. Indian textile industry should have focused on all major sectors right from fibre to fashion and planned for an organized growth across the supply chain so as to compete with China and even countries such as Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand. Instead, the industry had put majority of its stock in the spinning sector. This is clearly evident in the utilization of Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme effectively by the spinning sector. Although it is a positive outcome, in my opinion, the industry turned a blind eye on value-adding sectors such as weaving and finishing. Indian powerloom sector, which enables value-addition is a highly unorganized industry and needs major upgradation. Not only India does not have world quality indigenous shuttleless looms, but also investments are not adequate to cope with the quality and quantity to cater to the export market. Technical textiles sector is still in its infancy and a tangible growth will be highly visible by 2035 when the growth in this sector will be exponential. Is there a panacea to the complexities surrounding the India Textile Industry?

Some Solutions for the Growth of Indian Textile Industry

A couple of points given below will give food for thought for all the stake holders in the Indian textile industry:

  1. The weak links in the Indian conventional industry such as weaving and finishing have to be strengthened. A major thrust here is to have consolidated efforts by Indian Textile Machinery Manufacturers Association, end-users and the Government to undertake a moonshot and come-up with alternatives to European Machinery, which the weaving sector can afford. This should be doable within the next five years, if dedicated efforts are undertaken with the financial support for R & D by the Government through its various schemes;

  1. Inch forward in the non-commodity textile sector, i.e., technical textiles sector from a non crawling phase to at least a crawling industry in the next three years. General awareness on nonwoven and technical sectors has been created with the recent marathon training workshops and conferences such as, "Advances in Textiles, Nonwoven and Technical Textiles", organized for the past five years in Coimbatore by Texas Tech University, USA and those such as the Texcellance and IIT's Technical Textiles conferences. These have put India on the international map in technical textiles. These conferences are of less use if they do not translate into investments and new projects. This aspect has been slow. Why is it so? Although the awareness on the broad-based technology know-how and end products has been created, less to no awareness has been created among industrialists on the marketability of non-commodity textile products.

What is needed in the Short to Near Long Term?

Creating greater awareness on the marketing of technical textiles is the need of the hour. This should include:

  1. What will be the growth?
  2. Who are the global leaders?
  3. Whom to approach to sell globally and
  4. Where to go and sell?

Over the past few months, I have been pushing interested parties in India and abroad to initiate trade delegations so that connectivity can be established among all stake holders Trade bodies in India such as SRTEPC, SIMA and global bodies such as the USA based INDA and IFAI and Europe based EDANA should consider this issue seriously in 2009. The Ministry of Textiles, Government of India should be a part of this mission. Such a mission will open the black box and will provide the Indian and Western technical textiles sector to get a better picture of the industry situation in India. An important aspect, which cannot be neglected is "Mission based Research", that will lead to innovation in the industry. A two prong approach has to be followed:

  1. Mission linked basic research spanning the entire supply chain. This should be carried out as a collaborative endeavor between the Ministry of Textiles and the Department of Science and Technology. Atleast in the next budget cycle, a pot of cash has to be earmarked and should be overseen by an autonomous central body. This autonomous body can be operated more or less similar to the National Textile Center consortium in the USA and

  1. Industry specific and problem solving research programme supported as a joint venture between the Ministry of Textiles and the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. This can be modeled after the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany. In the fast growing and competitive world, those who deliver what the consumers want, and at the same time cheaper and faster will be the industry trend setters.

Things have changed and people are improving their life in many different ways. India is a place to eye on and certainly the Indian textile sector will have its share in the growth story.

About the Author:

The author is associated with Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA.