The colourant industry is growing at an average rate of about three per cent per annum and is expected to reach 11 million Metric Tonne by 2018, says Dr. Ashok Athalye.
The global market for colourants comprising dyestuffs, pigments and dye intermediates is estimated at US$ 35 billion. The Asia-Pacific region is the market that accounts for the largest share. China and India registered highest growth in recent years owing to the rapidly expanding manufacturing base.
Over the last few decades, the major production centres of colourants have shifted from east. The global colourant manufacturing industry originally dominated by suppliers from Europe has shifted to Asia, primarily due to lower costs of production and the growing prominence of the end user industry.
The Indian colourant industry is valued at Rs 4,500 crore and covers about 20 per cent of the global market. It accounts for about 14 per cent of total exports and nine per cent of total imports. It has consistently contributed towards the set growth targets for the nation.
The major driving factors for the colourant market are the growth in end-use industries, increase in per capita consumption of textiles, enhanced standards of living and rising demand for environment-friendly products. However, factors like raw material price volatility, global over-capacity, currency fluctuations and environmental concerns could restrain growth.
The colourant market is segmented on the basis of dyes (acid, basic, direct, disperse, reactive, sulphur and vat), organic pigments (azo, phthalocyanine) and inorganic pigments (titanium dioxide, iron oxide, carbon black). Traditionally, the major consumer of colourants used to be textile, leather, paper, ink, plastic, paint and coatings, food and beverages, soap and cosmetics and personal care industries. Now, usage of colourants is growing in novel applications such as ceramics, electronics and medicine. These are termed functional (high technology) as they are not just included in the product for aesthetic reasons but for a specific purpose.
Functional colourants are the subject of much research and are being developed for a variety of purposes. Some of these are:
(i) Ink jet printing: A non-impact technique to produce images by directing small droplets of ink in rapid succession onto textile. This led to development of specific dyes and unique fluid systems. This technology is greatly impacting value added printing.
(ii) Laser dyes: These exhibit light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation at a few selected wavelengths and in very narrow bands. Application of such dye lasers covers communication technology and microsurgery.