ndia is rising and moving ahead with opportunities in every industrial sector. For the
past four years, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) has grown more than 8 percent. Growth in 2007
reached as high as 9.4 percent and is predicted to fall to between 8 and 9 percent in 2008. India’s
middle-class population is more than 300 million, which is set to spearhead the growth of the
nonwoven and technical textiles industry. According to global investment banker Goldman Sachs,
India’s economy will exceed the economy of Europe and Japan by 2030 and that of the United States
by 2045. Such growth is possible because of the increase in household incomes and the predicted
growth in the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors.
India’s Consumption Of Nonwovens (2007-2050)
The liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991 coincided with the booming
information technology sector. This fortuitous development has led to the growth of a middle-class
population with disposable income. In addition, since 2000, India has set up one-stop superstores
that are commonly referred to as “big bazaars,” and most recently with organized retail stores and
malls. The economy and the growth in the sales outlet will lead to a higher consumption of
disposable items such as nonwovens. Furthermore, the Indian government is planning to spend a large
sum of money on infrastructure projects such as highways and bridges, which will consume
semi-durable and durable nonwovens and technical textiles.
According to estimates by the United States-based Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics
Industry (INDA) and Belgium-based EDANA, the International Association Serving the Nonwovens and
Related Industries, the current annual per capita consumption of nonwovens in India is less than
100 grams, whereas the per capita consumption of nonwovens in developed markets such as the United
States and Western Europe is between 3 and 3.5 kilograms (kg). As is evident from the growth of the
nonwoven industry in developed markets, it has taken nearly four decades for those markets to cross
the threshold level of 3 kg per capita consumption. More interestingly, the per capita consumption
of nonwovens is directly correlated with the per capita income levels of the population. Nonwoven
and technical textiles pundits are in agreement with this theory. However, no one has predicted the
growth of the nonwoven industry based on per capita consumption in India in relation to India’s
projected per capita income level for the next four decades.
An analysis using per capita income levels from the World Bank has led to some interesting
conclusions that will be of enormous interest to the global nonwovens and technical textiles
industry. For this analysis, certain baseline figures were drawn from the data published by the
World Bank. Estimates presented of India’s per capita nonwoven consumption are based on the World
Bank’s income estimates. As per the World Bank data for 2007, per capita GDP of the United States
and India are US$45,817 and US$946.10, respectively. At this per capita income level, it is assumed
that India’s per capita consumption of nonwovens is 80 grams. The annual growth rates used for the
United States’ and India’s economy are 4.6 percent and 13.27 percent, respectively. These figures
are the average growth rates of the two countries, respectively, from 2003 to 2007. These growth
rates have been used to calculate the per capita nonwoven consumption for India and the United
States for the years 2005 to 2050. Tables 1 and 2 provide the per capita income levels and the
corresponding nonwoven consumption for that time period. Since the data will be exhaustive, they
are presented in five year increments.
As may be noted from the Tables, the growth rate in per capita GDP used for the nonwoven
consumption is the same as that of the growth rate assumed for the economy. This is a fairly
well-accepted theory in the industry with regard to the relationship between per capita GDP and
nonwoven consumption growth. Assuming that the industry is fairly developed when the per capita
consumption of nonwovens reaches 3 to 3.5 kg, as is the current state of the US and Western
European industries, India will reach this level in 2035. India’s nonwoven and technical textile
industry is currently highly fragmented and is in the embryonic stage. The industry is predicted to
have double-digit growth between 13 and 15 percent per annum in the next two decades, leading up to
a developed stage by 2035. During this period, developed markets such as the United States and
Western Europe are set to grow at a much slower rate of close to 5 percent. Therefore, it would be
of much value for the global industry to take India seriously and take part in the growth.
The growth in the nonwovens industries in the United States and India is measured by the
growth in per capita consumption. In that scenario, the nascent Indian industry will grow steadily
over the next two decades, reaching the threshold level of 3 kg by 2035. Interestingly, at this
level, the exponential growth of Indian consumption will provide enormous opportunity for the
industry, whereas the US industry will grow only slowly, at a rate of around 5 percent beyond the
threshold level of per capita consumption of 3 kg.
The Indian growth story will defy the well-established growth theory in the textile
industry. China will also behave similarly, but at a different stage in the years to come.
Therefore, where is sustained growth? It is definitely in India at a projected annual rate of 13
percent from now until 2050 and beyond.
The Indian industry will show phenomenal growth from the embryonic stage (2007) through its
infancy (2010-2035) and then through the developed stage (2035 and beyond). Per capita income
levels for 2005-2050 compared to the nonwovens consumption also indicate tremendous growth with a
shift in 2035 enabling exponential growth from this stage. These figures will be extremely valuable
for the Indian and global industry to plan their activities for next few decades to come. The take
home message here is that, during its growth phase, India’s nonwoven and technical textile industry
will grow twice as fast as the industry in the current developed markets. Although India’s industry
base is extremely small currently, with an annual total production of 60,000 metric tons, the next
two decades are set to change the nature of Indian technical textile industry and provide an ample
growth opportunity of more than 13 percent per annum.
Indian Technical Textiles: Some Noteworthy Points
Government Support For Technical Textiles Development: The National Technology
Mission on Technical Textiles has a budget of US$170 million for five years.
Self-Reliance With Regard To Raw Materials For Nonwovens:
• India is home the world’s largest polyester manufacturer, Reliance
• India will become the second-largest producer of cotton in 2008.
• Austria-based Lenzing Group and India-based Modi Group will collaborate
to build a viscose plant with a capacity of 80,000 metric tons per annum.
Research And Development Infrastructure: According to sources from the Office of
the Textile Commissioner of India, the government over the next five years will invest in 20
centers of excellence in research for nonwoven and technical textiles. Four centers will be
approved as Phase I and will focus on Geotech, Medtech, Protech and Agrotech.
Awareness Programs: The government will spend at least 10 million Indian rupees
per annum for the next five years to create awareness among entrepreneurs in order to grow the
Technology Information and Forecasting Assessment Council (TIFAC): An autonomous
body under the Department of Science and Technology, TIFAC will invest around 18 million Indian
rupees as part of a private-public partnership worth 36 million Indian rupees to set up a center
for excellence in technical textiles at the DKTE Society’s Textile and Engineering Institute in
Ichalkaranji in the State of Maharashtra. This program is unique in that it will have contributions
from the institute and industrial partners to undertake mission-linked projects to promote the
nonwoven and technical textile industry. TIFAC has already established a center at Kumaraguru
College of Technology in South India whose focus is to strengthen research and development in the
textile machinery and allied sectors. The total budgeted cost is 37.6 million Indian rupees.
By 2012, India’s technical textile industry will be worth US$12 billion to US$15 billion,
which will be 10 percent of the global industry value. Apart from the National Technology Mission
to promote technical textiles, positive schemes such as the Technology Upgradation Fund and a
reduction to 5 percent in the basic customs duties on imported nonwoven and technical textile
machinery are worthy of mentioning. The Indian government promotes the growth of the textile
sector, as it is the breadwinner for the middle- and lower-middle-income people who constitute the
major chunk of the electorate. It is predicted that the period between 2010 and 2035 will be
crucial for the technical textiles sector in India and will provide ample opportunities for both
international and domestic players, with a growth rate of up to 15 percent per annum.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar is an assistant professor at the Nonwoven and Advanced
Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech University (TTU), Lubbock, Texas, USA. Appachi Arunachalam is a
visiting scholar at TTU.