Good Times Ahead For India

Editor’s Note: This article is based on a speech delivered at the INDA-India Inaugural Workshop
on Nonwovens at the Textiles Committee Auditorium, Mumbai, India. Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar directs the
Nonwoven and Advanced Materials Laboratory, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, and is
co-chairman, INDA-India Committee, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA), Cary,

Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar

t is an exciting time for India and the Indian textile industry. India is flexing its
muscles on the international stage by exhibiting its “IT” powers — Indian textiles and information
technology. The Indian textile industry is strong in all conventional sectors from fiber to fabric.
The country can boast one of the world’s leading polyester staple fiber producers. Cotton
production in 2006-07 is expected to reach 270 lakh bales (1 lakh = 100,000), which will position
India in second place in global cotton output ahead of the United States. India also is a leading
exporter of apparel and home textiles.

All of these figures are very encouraging, but come with a caveat: China! In all these
cases, the Indian elephant is lagging behind the Chinese dragon. The figure is very alarming in
nonwovens. Currently, India produces only 35,000 metric tons per year, whereas China’s output per
year is more than 7.5 lakh metric tons. It is necessary for India to race against China,
particularly in textiles, as the Indian textile industry is vital for the growth of the economy and
manufacturing in India. It is the largest breadbasket next to agriculture, and a major foreign
exchange earner. The overall growth of the Indian textile industry beyond the conventional fiber
and garment sectors is much needed to fulfill the targets laid out in India’s 11th five-year plan.

More and more auto interior parts are made from nonwovens fabrics.

India Plans For Growth

The 11th five-year plan calls for double-digit gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 2012,
up from the current 8.5-percent growth. China already achieved GDP growth of 9.9 percent several
years ago. More importantly, the manufacturing sector is expected to grow at a rate of between 12
and 14 percent between 2007 and 2012. To achieve this target set by the National Manufacturing
Competitive Council of India, contribution by the Indian textile industry is a must beyond the
traditional regimes.

Generally referred to as nonwovens and technical textiles, this non-traditional textiles
sector is growing at an average annual rate of 7 to 8 percent, even in industrialized nations like
the United States. In North Carolina over the last two years, there have been significant
investments in the nonwoven industry from leading European and Israeli companies such as Jacob Holm
Industries and A.F.G. Wipes Inc. — highlighting the confidence and market opportunities in
nonwovens. What are the reasons for this? Consumer demand for lifestyle-enhancement products such
as feminine hygiene products, baby diapers, wipes and surgical drapes; convenience; and economics
are all contributing factors. The majority of these products are made from nonwovens and hence
there is enormous growth in the industry. According to estimates from INDA and Brussels-based EDANA
(International Association Serving the Nonwovens and Related Industries), the nonwovens industry
will be worth more than US$22 billion in 2009. The wipes industry alone is worth more than US$6

It is vital that India’s textile and manufacturing sectors embrace the highly productive and
high-margin nonwovens industry in order to reach the target of US$115 billion by 2012. The Indian
government estimates the non-traditional textile sector’s contribution to the 11th five-year plan
will be little more than US$12 billion. However, the nonwoven technical textiles sector is in its
infancy in India. Although there is awareness of prospects and growth opportunities for this
industry in India, large-scale interest to invest in the burgeoning sector is not prevalent among
industry leaders. An important reason for this scenario is the lack of knowledge of the technology
and its products, and their domestic and global demands. The necessary huge infrastructure
investments also certainly deter interest.

According to EDANA, the nonwovens wipes industry is worth US$6 billion.

INDA-India To Promote Nonwovens/Technical Textiles

This is the reason INDA is coming to India. INDA soon will establish an office in India upon
receiving the necessary approval from the government. Through this venture, INDA hopes to enhance
the awareness of the global opportunities for nonwovens and technical textiles and to create
interest in India to invest in this growth industry.

As the mission of INDA-India is to create a win-win situation for the Indian textile
industry and INDA member companies, initial efforts will focus on the transfer of knowledge via a
series of training courses and seminars. In October 2007, an international conference on nonwovens
is planned in Mumbai. This international forum will open doors for many leading nonwovens companies
to learn about the Indian market and industry, which will, in the near future, create joint
ventures and marketing opportunities for both parties. More importantly, the Indian textile
industry will be able to get a deeper understanding of the technology and products, and interact
with global players such as Freudenberg, Ahlstrom and Saurer-Neumag, for example. It is hoped INDA’s
international conference will spearhead the creation and growth of a major nonwoven industry base
in India.

Convenience and economics contribute to the demand for medical nonwovens products.

The Indo-US collaboration with the arrival of INDA in India will certainly boost
the contribution of the Indian textile industry to the GDP and will attract foreign direct
investments in India. Simply put, the INDA-India cooperation will enable the Indian consumer
society to tap the potential and opportunities of spunbond/meltblown/spunbond (SMS) technology.

It is pleasing to report the Indian government is considering technical textiles a thrust
area and is promoting this sector with positive schemes. A sum of 960 million rupees (US$21.8
million) has been requested in the 11th five-year plan for creating awareness and setting up six
centers of excellence. It will be of immense benefit to set up one center dedicated solely to
nonwovens technology — a one-stop research and development center with pilot plant capabilities in
four major nonwovens technologies: needlepunch/thermalbond; spunbond; meltblown; and spunlace. Such
an endeavor is not possible with an investment of 150 million rupees (US$3.4 million) requested for
the creation of one center. A public-private partnership, and in this case, an international
effort, are needed. With the involvement of INDA in India, the Ministry of Textiles is providing a
helping hand. INDA member companies that are serious about creating opportunities for themselves in
India will be encouraged to support such a joint endeavor, as it provides a win-win situation. All
stakeholders have to work towards achieving this goal, which in the long run will create a
self-sustaining nonwovens and technical textiles industry in India.

In the recent past, the Indian textile industry was looking for diversification beyond the
apparel and garment sectors, and the nonwovens and technical textiles industry is certainly an
option. Already, Indian consumers are bombarded with mass media campaigns for nonwoven products
such as Pampers® and Huggies®. With the retail industry boom on the horizon, there is certainly a
bright future for the nonwovens industry in India.

March/April 2007