India studying potential in textiles

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, April 18:

India is studying ways to boost production of specialised or technical textiles which is a growing market estimated to be worth around $100 billion. An expert committee set up to identify and study the requirements to boost or start manufacture of some of these textiles is in the final stages of preparing a report based on a study commissioned to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). “The study is in the last stages of completion. In three months we will come out with the list of 30 products,” Textile commissioner Subodh Kumar said. At least three of them are geotextiles and geogrids, used for highway construction, under the railway tracks, river embankment and canal beds, and non-woven textiles. More commonly used technical textiles are compression bandages in health care, shelter fabrics and bulletproof jackets.

“Out of 30 technical textiles identified, we have chosen 11 for which there is a large market potential,” Kumar said, “Many of them can be produced using the existing technology or raw materials currently being used for conventional textiles. As such very little would have to be imported.”

“In our project profiles, we will indicate the machinery that would have to be imported and from where to source them,” said Kumar, who foresees the need for fresh investment to tap this growing global demand. India has not made any systematic effort to develop this side of the textile industry because the focus has been more on the conventional materials. The few companies that are manufacturing technical textiles in the country are mainly due to efforts of individual entrepreneurs “with investments of around $3-4 million and that too in the lower end of technology”, said Kumar, “We are trying to identify those products in technical textiles with a high market potential in the country, especially in the infrastructure projects.” To promote technical textiles, the expert committee foresees a need to create some “common facilities for testing and accreditation so that the products can be sold in the international as well as the domestic market”. The question of fiscal incentives to promote investment in this specialised area is also under study, said Kumar, who is part of another expert committee looking into ways to revive the domestic textile machinery manufacturing industry.The second study has been undertaken for the ministry of heavy industry to help boost local textile machinery manufacturing units become more viable and competitive. With an eye on the post textile quota regime from January 2005, over the last couple of years India has been striving to encourage modernisation and enhancement of the quality and capacity of existing units.

The objective is to raise the textiles and garments exports from $13.5 billion currently to $50 billion by 2010. India is at present allowing imports of machinery at five per cent customs duty to encourage the textile industry to upgrade infrastructure.

“But that has put the domestic machine manufacturing industry, which imports 30-40 per cent of the components, at a disadvantage as they have to pay a higher rate of customs duty. We are trying to find out how to give them a level playing field. Secondly, a study on the direction the research and development should focus will help improve their products,” said Kumar.

The study is looking into how to make the textile machinery industry more competitive and revert to the old status of Rs 30 billion Indian Currency (IC) from the present estimated Rs 14 billion IC. “Despite having shrunk in size, Indian textile machinery continues to be export oriented, which means they are benchmarked for quality. The challenge today is the change in products and technology,” he added.