By:
Dr. Subrata Das
Consumer Testing Laboratories (India) Limited, Inc.
No.35, Mirage Point, 80 Feet Road, ST Bed, Koramangala,
Bangalore - 560034

The Indian apparel industry, which took off in the mid 60s, is worth around $15 billion now. In fact, the industry has advanced gradually in terms of technology adoption and has reached a critical mass today. One of the primary drawbacks in India�s clothing chain is the lack of adequate fabric / garment processing capacity of requisite quality standards. While the issue of fabric processing has been debated for long, the area of garment wet processing has started creating interest only in the recent past.

A significant part of the apparel export from India is dominated by Cotton garments. Out of the total exports, men�s shirts, T-shirts and to some extent skirts and kids garments have a large use of cotton fabric. These are not only high growth areas in India�s apparel export, but also expose themselves to a variety of wet processing options. Further, categories such as trousers, shorts and denim apparel, which internationally are high growth categories, have wet processing as an integral part of its value addition. Thus, one of the prime reasons for garment wet processing sector�s rising importance is its ability to introduce a variety of aesthetic and functional innovations.

Garments have been subjected to a wide range of performance-enhancing functional finishes in the recent years. Some of the more widely used functional finishes include but not limited to Water & Oil Repellent (WOR), Wrinkle Resistant (WR), Anti-Microbial, Anti-Ozonate, UV resistant, Fire Retardant, Moisture Management, Sensory Perception etc. A large number of Domestic Brands have been employing the above functional finishes quite widely and have accepted these in their finish program. Unlike the aesthetic appeal, these finishes build in a specific functional characteristic in the apparel and hence make the garment more intelligent. This helps in raising the unit value realization and also provides with a differentiation strategy.

In recent years interest from overseas buyers in sourcing garments is been seen that has a large inclination towards �wash� factor, due to the fashion trends currently in vogue. Finally, a number of wet processes are being carried out on the garment stage rather than the fabric stage, since this gives a better control element to the garment manufacturer. Hence, washing which started off initially to pre-shrink garments (prior to reaching the consumer) has come a long way now to provide fashion and functionality elements. Now washing programs are many such as silicone wash, enzyme wash, denim wash, vintage wash, bio wash, steam wash, sand wash, caustic wash, stone wash, stain guard wash, peach skin finishing, acid wash, cold tip wash, wicking effect, golf ball wash, melange wash etc. but choice remains with consumer.

While the garment sector in general has been traditionally in the unorganized sector, the wet processing sector has been further relegated due to its low importance in the initial years of garment manufacturing in the country. Even till date, garment exporters continue to accord this department lowest priority, which can be seen from the fact that the laundry is either manned by �masters� or on contract basis, unlike other departments.


The wet processing sector of garment in India is highly fragmented � a large number of small sized units scattered across the major garment manufacturing centers. The average size of the units would be around 1000 - 2000 garments per day capacity (enzyme wash cycle), which is by far very low compared to international standards. Garment wet processing capacities even in neighbouring countries are higher than the Indian average.

Laundries, with indigenously developed machines which can deliver the basic functions pretty well, lack the sophistication desired for improving wash reproducibility, enhancing efficiencies or boosting productivities. In the Indian scenario, laundries by and large do not have well laid out systems since these are master-driven, who do have high skill level but a low knowledge level. The information pertaining to wet processing is kept secret with few individuals who do not want to share for the garment industry as a whole. There is lack of wash development updates or courses available and the academic institutes too have chosen to ignore this area till very recently.

On the environmental issue, garment wet processing sector releases large amounts of effluents but is not geared to cater to the effluent treatment requirements � another reason of being in the small-scale sector.

Despite automations, garment wet processing has a large component of manual intervention that is required for its efficient running. Apart from product development, the production facilities need trained technicians to understand the inter-linkages between machine-material-chemical. Further, despite sophisticated control instrumentation, a number of online quality checks are in the form of visual or tactile testing and hence necessitate the requisite training.

In order to understand the recent scenario of garment wet processing industry in India, a SWOT analysis has been done. There is a vast scope for improvement, but proper initiation at the end of the industry owners and policy makers in the country is highly desirable if one tries to achieve operational excellence and produce mind blowing products to satisfy fashion needs on economic scale.


About the author:
Dr. Subrata Das


Dr. Subrata Das, did his Ph.D (1997) and M.Tech (1986) from the Textile Technology Department of I.I.T.Delhi after completion of B.Sc(Tech) in Textile Technology(1983) from Calcutta University. He is having around two decades of working experience in Shop floor, Research & Development, Quality Assurance and Teaching.

Dr. Das had visited abroad several times and received special training in Social Accountability, Laboratory Management Systems and Excellence in Retail Store Operations. He has performed more than 100 audits in Bangladesh as a lead auditor in Social Compliance for reputed garment buyers throughout the globe. Dr. Das is presently heading the Consumer Testing Laboratories (India) Limited, Inc., Bangalore. He has around 75 publications in reputed national and international textile journals and presented 20 technical papers in various national and international conferences. He is also in the panel of referees in Indian Journal of Fibre and Textile Research. Dr Das has recently been empanelled as NABL assessor in Laboratory audit as per ISO/IEC 17025 Email: drsubratadas2000@gmail.com


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