India’s Ministry of Textiles unlocked another $3.89 million for 15 research and development projects aimed at growing the South Asian nation’s prowess in materials beyond the cotton staples it’s known for.
The 322.50-million-rupee investment covers key strategic areas such as specialty fibers, protective textiles, high-performance textiles, geotextiles, medical textiles, sustainable textiles, and textiles for building materials.
The funds were part of the 14.80 billion rupees ($179 million) budget approved by the Indian government in 2020 for the National Technical Textiles Mission (NTTM) to focus on innovation and indigenous development of specialty fibers, bring in large-scale investments and enhancing India’s export of technical textiles by 2024 to position the garment-exporting nation as a global leader in technical textiles.
The investment capitalizes on India‘s existing strength across the entire textile value chain, from fiber and yarn to fabric and apparel, and will help the sector reach a goal of exporting $100 billion by 2030, up from $40 billion last year.
Announcing the move earlier this month, Piyush Goyal, union minister of Textiles, Commerce and Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, said leading textile manufacturers and institutes must unite to indigenously develop strategic and high-value technical textile products, with NTTM’s support.
The approved projects included seven involving specialty fibers, two apiece for protective as well as high-performance textiles, and one each for geotextiles, medical textiles, sustainable textiles, and textiles for building materials.
Industry analysts told Sourcing Journal that the past three years accelerated growth in some technical textiles, such as masks and PPE, while other areas lagged.
When the focus on technical textiles was announced in 2020, then-textile minister Smriti Irani said the mission’s first component would focus on research, innovation and development, with a focus on carbon fiber, aramid fiber, nylon fiber, and composites.
Looking at technical textiles as futuristic, niche and functional rather than aesthetic, Irani said the government aims to position India as a global leader in technical textiles by growing the domestic market by 15 percent to 20 percent annually, reaching for $50 billion by 2024.
Reviewing the progress of previously sanctioned R&D projects under NTTM, Goyal cited developing technical textile machinery and equipment as a major challenge requiring collaborative interventions from the government, industry and academia, including commercialization of the specialized machines.
“Robust outreach exercise is required to attract R&D proposals in machinery and equipment across major textile machinery manufacturing hubs in India. Inter-ministerial collaboration is required to document and utilize existing and updated technologies for wider usage in the nation-building process, especially in the areas of sustainable technical textiles,” he said.
India has the advantage of having a complete supply chain, positioning the technical textiles to emerge with a similar strength, Prashant Agarwal, co-founder and joint managing director of Wazir Advisors, a consulting firm with expertise in textiles and apparel, told Sourcing Journal. He pointed out that India supported a $153 billion textile and apparel market in 2021, with the domestic market at $110 billion and exports of $43 billion. The investments required to meet the sector’s expected 10 percent CAGR growth trajectory to $350 billion by 2030 include an estimated $100 billion, with $17 billion for technical textiles, and strong value chain funding.
Private companies like Reliance and Aditya Birla too have been focusing on research and developing fibers, Agarwal continued, adding that R&D work is geared at reaching the commercialization stage.
“Not a shift towards technical textiles but as India is expanding, people are looking for different business opportunities, and all kinds of things are being evaluated,” he said. “It is not a shift, but an add-on to the existing market. “
Mohit Raina, managing director and CEO of Raina Industries, a producer of advanced building materials, is bullish about technical textiles’ potential. A first-generation entrepreneur who moved back to India from Germany in 2014 to advance the sector, Raina said the government wants to “create solutions which are more sustainable, fibers and textiles in concrete replacing steel because it does not corrode, while steel does, and other such solutions—this is where the barrier in the mindset has to break. It is necessary to look at textiles from this perspective.”
Among the many projects using these textiles to break barriers, his company has made modular toilets, launched under the brand name Mo-To mainly made of high-quality textile reinforced concrete, and is making landscaping furniture with textiles.
There is considerable scope for growth, he said, adding that 20 percent of all materials are textile based. “In Europe 4 percent of all materials across all industries have some kind of textile structure and are textile based, while in India this is 0.4 percent. So there is an opportunity to take the Indian numbers to 5 to 10 percent of all materials across all sectors. That is where technical textiles has its chance to grow.”
“This is not a sunrise industry,” Raina said. “The sun has already risen. It is time for action.”
Will this action continue at the pace needed to keep up with the evolving technology, and global research innovation?
The conversation is expected to continue as the Ministry for Textiles organizes Technotex India from Feb. 22-24 at the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Mumbai.
Expected to attract global and national industry leaders, CEOs, senior industry representatives, experts and government officials, Technotex India will focus on the nation’s technical textile industry and growth prospects. According to government figures, the Indian technical textile market is the world’s fifth largest, growing at 9 percent to 10 percent per year.
“The Ministry of Textiles is hopeful that the focused deliberations, knowledge exchange and business connect at the Technotex 2023 will yield actionable plans that will be instrumental in boosting India’s Technical Textile industry,” it said in a statement.