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Armed forces provide umpteen opportunities for technical textiles
Mar '09
In a study on 'Opportunities for Technical Textiles in Indian Defence', FICCI has emphasized the need for stronger industry-defence partnership and exchanges to develop sufficiently large domestic manufacturing base and to promote innovation in various segments of technical textiles in India. The report has also emphasised the need for having speedy testing and trial procedures for the approval of a product in Indian defence especially for these textiles items.

FICCI's report highlights that currently the strength of Indian defence forces is around 15 lacs and another 10 to 12 lacs are involved in para-military forces and Special Forces. A large number of these forces are required to be equipped with protective and special clothing that are called technical textiles. FICCI study observed that a large proportion of the defence textiles requirement were functional in nature and offer a large market for Indian technical textiles industry.

Providing an approximate size of the potential market for technical textiles in Indian defence, FICCI pointed-out that on personnel uniforms alone the expenditure of defence forces is to the tune of Rs.2000 crore ($400 million). Besides uniform, technical textiles are used in many other areas also in defence like parachute, bullet proof jackets, geo-textiles for border roads, tents, mosquito nets etc, which together offer a great opportunity for Indian technical textiles industry provided the industry-defence partnership is strengthened. Currently, defence is dependent on import for many of these items.

This report is first in the series of reports on technical textiles being done by FICCI Taskforce on Technical Textiles. Technical textiles or functional textiles are defined as those textiles that have some functional properties attached to it and are different from the traditional textiles that are merely used for adoration. These textiles offer invaluable functional properties to defence forces.

FICCI study emphasized that it is important to strengthen the industry-defence linkages because small and medium manufacturers find it difficult to penetrate the defence procurement market due to irregular nature of such contracts. There is a need to develop and support regular industry forums to exchange information related to current and future defence requirements for the development and/or purchase of clothing. Also, FICCI study has suggested that industry should be engaged even at the stage of development of technical specifications by defence forces for these technical textiles.

Further, FICCI study observed that in order to encourage the domestic manufacturing quality and innovation in technical textiles, defence should implement the lowest bidder (LI) concept with caution. FICCI added that many companies in this area have said that most of the times they do not receive the contracts from Indian defence forces just because of the lowest bidder concept (LI), even if their products are of better quality and more durable and more suitable for the defence personnel. FICCI stated that it is important to have indigenous manufacturing capability in this area as it would ensure a reliable and uninterrupted supply of defence requirements during exigencies.

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