Tamil Nadu: Gauze, gloves and a golden chance

Tech-savvy Tamil Nadu is pushing hard to promote technical textiles and emerge as a global player in the sector. With the world’s largest producer of technical textiles, China, hit by supply chain disruptions post-Covid, the state has the chance and the potential to step in. Tamil Nadu already manufactures agrotech, buildtech, hometech, indutech and meditech textiles for domestic and overseas consumption.

However, the sector is still in a nascent stage in the country. The demand for technical textiles is expected to touch $220 billion by 2025 globally. The technical textiles market size in India is ₹ 72,000 crore to ₹ 1 lakh crore, and Tamil Nadu accounts for 5%-6% of the production. The total exports from the country are estimated at ₹ 19,000 crore.

Technical textile clusters are located in Coimbatore, Karur, Tirupur and Virudhunagar districts manufacturing bandages, gauze, gloves, PPE, clothing for defence forces, nets used on farms, in kitchen apron, screens and heat-resistant double oven gloves.

But, the state has scope to cash in on unexplored technical textile variants, as well.

A Sakthivel, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said, there is a huge untapped potential for Indian manufacturers to increase their share of the global market. “With the largest automobile and auto component cluster in India, Tamil Nadu is well poised to attract high value mobiltech investments,” he said.

Technical textiles are material and products used across industries. They includetyre cord fabrics, airbags, seatbelts and vehicle covers in the mobiltech segment, bulletproof vests, parachute fabrics and camouflage nets used by the armed forces, active wear and shoe components used in sports, and acoustic fabric and canopies in industries.

Currently, China is the leading exporter of 39 key technical textile products, the US of eight key products
and Germany of seven.

Industry experts underscore that the thrust should be on research and development (R&D), developing
infrastructure, and favourable investment policies for setting up of technical textile units in the state.

For instance, the meditech cluster at Rajapalayam in Virudhunagar district, comprising around 100 MSMEs and large industries, requires facilities such as effluent treatment processing systems. N R K Ramkumar Raja, MD of the 1939-founded The Ramaraju Surgical Cotton Mills at Rajapalayam, which manufactures gauze, bandage fabric and absorbent cotton, says primarily the environmental requirements need to be addressed. “The government should help us in treating the waste in technical textiles,” he says.

Raja M Shanmugam, former president of Tiruppur Exporters Association, says technical textiles are an R&D-intense sector. Noting that technical textiles contribute hardly 1% of Tirupur’s75,000crore annual turnover, he says, “The textile industry is largely dominated by micro and small players and they have financial and know-how constraints. Research support is essential in this region.

The central and state governments should set up an exclusive research wing for textiles at Tirupur on the line of the Central Leather Research Institute in Chennai. ” K S Sundararaman, former chairperson of The Indian Technical Textiles Association and MD of Shiva Texyarn Limited, a technical textiles company at Coimbatore, says there is lack of awareness on application of manmade fibres and creating awareness among entrepreneurs is essential. “If you are looking at value addition, technical textiles are the thing,” he says.

Conventional textile manufacturers are also evincing interest in the technical textiles, identified as a sunrise sector. Rajesh Sharma, chairman, planning & development, Chennai Apparel Association, says, technical textiles need less manpower than conventional textiles manufacturing as it is more machinery based.

And given there is a manpower shortage in the conventional textiles industry, he says, “Technical textiles gives an opportunity for conventional textiles players. We are encouraging people to get into technical textiles. ”

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