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Technical Textiles: A sunrise sector

Nov, 2020 - By CMI

Technical Textiles: A sunrise sector

The rapid economic growth leading to higher disposable income as well as infrastructure development has made India a vital market for the technical textile products. Technical textiles global market is expected to grow from US$ 177 billion in 2018 to reach US$ 220 billion by 2022.

As one of the oldest industries in India, the textile industry is historically linked to a variety of traditions and cultures that represent the diversity in our country. The textile industry has a number of segments:

  • Hand-woven: It is still an unorganized segment, however it is also wealth-intensive.

One of the greatest strengths of India lies in being the biggest producer of jute and cotton and the world's second largest producer of silk.

India is the world's second largest producer of polyester and is now emerging as a major player in the technical textile industry by adding $19 billion to its market value. Technical textiles is a swiftly growing sub-segment  which is needed to be used in various sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, sports apparel, and healthcare among others, the end use implementation of technical textiles is widespread. Some of the main contributors to the growth of this segment are modernization and manufacturing competitiveness in the Indian market.

Technical or engineered textiles are characterized as items that are used for functional rather than aesthetic purposes. These textiles have application across multiple industries including automotive, civil engineering and construction, agriculture, medicine, shipping, safety regulations, sports and personal security, etc.

There are 12 technical textile segments, depending on use. Professional textile products are predominantly made using specialty fibers such as Nomex, Kevlar, Spandex, Glass and Carbon, etc. These fibers have improved functional characteristics, such as greater tenacity, excellent insulation, improved thermal resistance and chemical resistance, etc.

According to InvestIndia, the technical textiles industry accounted for nearly 13% of the overall textile and apparel revenue in India and contributes 0.7% to India's GDP. As the use of technical textiles in India is still only 5-10%, compared to 30-70% in some advanced countries, there is a huge potential to meet a significant demand gap.

India is developing as a significant player in the technical textiles segment. India has become a crucial market for technical textile products because of the rapid economic growth that has led to higher disposable income and the development of infrastructure. Moreover, because of its technological and professional workforce, as well as the growing availability of raw materials, India has gained a firm foothold in the production of technical textiles.

The prime segments of the Indian technical textile industry are Hometech, Packtech, Clothtech, Agrotech, Meditech, Buildtech, Mobiltech, Oekotech, Geotech, Protech, Indutech and Sportech. covering about 65% of the Indian technical textile sector. While high growth rate is expected for Geotech, Hometech, Sportech, Oekotech, Packtech, and Indutech; Mobiltech, Indutech, Packtech, Buildtech and Hometech together represent 2/3rd of the global market in value. India is a major producer of technical textile products, including backing for jute carpets, versatile intermediate bulk containers, and covers for crops, hessian, tarpaulins, surgical dressings and usually commoditized fishnets.

According to InvestIndia, Asia Pacific has witnessed immense growth in technical textile sector and, owing to rapid urbanization and technological developments in the medical, automotive and construction industries, it is capturing the largest market share. This is further catalyzed by easy development, low-cost labor and favorable government policies. By capturing 40% of the global market, Asia Pacific has dominated the technological textile industry, while North America and Western Europe account for 25% and 22% of the global market share, respectively. The current Indian technical textiles market is estimated at $ 19 billion, growing at a CAGR of 12% since past five years. It contributes to about 0.7% to India’s GDP and accounts for approximately 13% of India’s total textile and apparel market.

Output of the technical textile in India is largely focused on small-scale sectors such as canvas tarpaulin, carpet backing, woven bags, shoelaces, soft luggage, zip fasteners, stuffed toys, awning manufacturing, canopies and blinds, etc.

The market in Gujarat is leading in the national professional textile division, and contributes over 25% of the revenue to the national technical textile market. Moreover, Gujarat has more than 800 technical textile units participating in each of the 12 sub-sectors of the functional textile industry. Reliance Industries, Ambika Polymer, Ginni Filaments Ltd., Supreme Nonwovens Pvt Ltd., and Anjani Udyog Pvt Ltd are the main players in Gujarat’s technical textile industry. Moreover, the state also has several international players such as American Hygienics Corporation, Austrian firm TenCate Geosynthetics, and Finnish firm, Ahlstrom.

Tamil Nadu is also a growing Indian epicenter of technological textiles. It is having medical industrial textiles, nonwovens, industrial sports textiles and geotextiles. The investor-friendly climate of the state has made it possible to establish textile parks dedicated solely to technical textiles.

Maharashtra is also providing the domestic technical textile industry significant stimulus. It is a major contributor of advanced woven textiles, coir fibers, ropes and corsages, as well as of agricultural textiles. Maharashtra-based players in the market are B&V Agro, Kwality Nets, and Malmo Exim Ltd among others. By maintaining four of the country’s eight Centers of Excellence for Technical Textiles, the state is also supporting research and development.

Punjab is a potential market for producers of Indian Sportech products. With the growing demand for sporting technical textiles, the state is demonstrating significant potential for the sports technical textiles sector to grow over the forecast period.

The above-mentioned state textiles, MSMEs and industrial policies have influenced the growth of the technical textiles sector not only locally, but throughout the world.

Some government initiatives that were taken to boost Technical Textile Market are as follows:

  • Harmonized System of Nomenclature (HSN) Codes for Technical Textile: In 2019, 207 HSN codes were devoted to technical textiles by the Government of India's Ministry of Textiles to help track import and export data, provide financial assistance and other incentives for producers. This classification is intended to increase foreign trade and allow the size of the market to rise to US$ 26 billion by 2020-21.
  • Technotex India Technotex India is a flagship event organized by the Ministry of Textiles in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and consists of exhibits, conferences and seminars involving stakeholders from across the global value chain of technological textiles.
  • In order to place the country as a global leader in the field of technical textiles, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the establishment of a National Technical Textiles Mission in February 2020 with a total outlay of $194 million.
  • Automatic Route Government of India allows 100% FDI under automatic route. Operations in India have already started with foreign technical textile manufacturers such as Ahlstrom, Johnson & Johnson, Du Pont Procter & Gamble, 3 M, SKAPS, Kimberly Clark, Terram, Maccaferri and Strata Geosystems.

In India, the technical textile industry is heavily dependent on the import of specialty fibers. India’s technological textile industry is primarily in the MSME sector. Moreover, the use of new technology, overseas cooperation and joint ventures, setting up close cooperation with the technical institutes of the country, growing investment and expansion of domestic market to generate demand for technical textiles are some of the steps that need to be taken to accelerate the country's growth in this sector.

Due to increasing demand, India relies heavily on the import of specialty fibres. However, the absence of a robust R&D ecosystem has been an obstacle due to the lack of necessary technology. Moreover, fiscal irregularities such as the introduction of excise duties on raw materials and the absence of an exemption for the finished product have raised overall costs and discouraged domestic output.

During the COVID-19 crisis, when global production came to a grinding halt and the ban on exports of essential medical equipment including N95 face masks and protective gears, technical textiles became even more important, rendering imports to India almost impossible. For PPE kits, India was entirely import-based. It soon grew from producing Zero PPE kits in March to producing US$ 0.25 million a day in 60 days, becoming the second largest manufacturer after China.

The industry continues to be the second largest employer in India, amid the economic slowdown and decline in the overall market for textiles due to COVID-19. India has shown its ability to adapt and overcome the problem with limited resources and time by turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity.

In India, the technical textile industry is at an early stage of development and thus has a huge potential for development. Due to implementation of several policies and schemes to boost the textile sector, and the government's objective of building world class infrastructure in the country, the technical textile industry is poised for growth.

Therefore, working together to improve technical textiles, a high-value segment of this market, is even more important for the government and the industry.

To sum up, the right approach can position India as a global leader in production, consumption and export of technical textiles.