The textile industry dates back to more than 700 years when cotton was woven for the first time and it is now more than 200 years since the first mechanized textile machinery was introduced by England. Since then, the industry, worldwide has gone through many ups and downs. The power centre of manufacturing has shifted from the US and Europe to the countries of Asia. India too had a glorious past till the early 80's, with Ahmedabad in Gujarat, called the 'Manchester of the East'.

But now the focus in manufacturing has shifted from other parts of India to the Southern state of Tamil Nadu, which today has 50 percent of all textile production units in the country. Even the Indian textile industry has had its own set of challenges, in the 80's as well as now.

&sec=article&uinfo=<%=server.URLEncode(1675)%>" target="_blank">Fibre2fashion had an exclusive interview with Dr. P. R. Roy; for some glimpses of challenges faced by global textile industry today and steps to be taken to overcome this situation. He replied in detail by saying, "In any walks of life including business, challenges particularly in an economic meltdown scenario bring out a fresh leadership dilemma. For example, either one continues with the same vigour in his present business and pursues the growth strategy as planned or probes in depth the options of cost cutting including down-sizing and hold or abandon all his future plans.

Textile Industry, as we know has been facing such challenges in the last few decades. Being confronted with such challenges in the 80s (no meltdown) where the threat came from many Asian and South American countries, the global textile leaders opted for RTAs , FTAs , OPTs etc, to keep their flags flying, whereas the emerging textile countries sensing a winning scenario started looking at large scale investments both in textiles and apparels .

In between, relocating and outsourcing turned out to be buzzwords and in fact provided an opportunity to the emerging economies to learn in depth the tricks of the trade. An entirely new textile world emerged with the abolition of quotas, although immediately followed by some major protective measures against China. This history of the textile industry was one-sided where the slowing down or withdrawal of one side gave a tremendous scope to the other side to out-beat or outsmart them in their own game. The present scenario is somewhat universal putting every global leader on the same side (though the degree of concerns may vary) and being questioned 'Quo Vadis'?

The recent pattern of progress tends to give us some idea of the strategies followed though differently, both by the advanced economies and the emerging ones. Advances in science & technology and as applied to textiles certainly gave an edge to the western world and also to Japan to move away from manufacturing of traditional textiles in a big way and thus creating a fresh leadership position through the advent of large range of technical textiles.

Japan on one side and the US-EU on the other adopted a different strategy in applying new knowledge and skills. Japan attacked the man-made fibre as their core activity whereas the western world looked at the development of newer dyes & chemicals auxiliaries as steps to sustain their leadership. For both, environment remained a major concern. The potential of using such products has been become, so all pervasive that, all emerging economies have started having a serious look at it.

Even under the present meltdown scenario, the advanced knowledge based textile countries are expected to follow a similar path and look at automation, robotization and application of micro-electronics, both in textiles & apparel as chosen paths to retain their supremacy. India, even before the present development has always been a slow starter in textiles and perhaps a poor believer of its own capability. India has also been a poor interpreter of the likely global development scenario of the post quota world.

In the process, choice of products, market mix, technology up-gradation, improving the academic and research inputs and finally creating a talented force and then taking advantage of all these factors, has remained highly questionable. Large scale unemployment, postponing investment decisions, major cost cutting approaches and a wait & watch attitude would have perhaps influenced the Indian textile stalwarts in a big way.

Of course, it is hoped that there are bold, unconventional leaders influenced by the 'Blue Ocean Strategy' who would be able find a new path perhaps less competitive to march ahead. India needs to look at the textile and apparel industry from a multi-disciplinary angle and bring in its huge talents, available in the other disciplines into productive actions and in turn benefit the textile industry."


We then asked Dr. Roy to gaze through a crystal globe and tell us the trends he foresees in technological development in textiles in the future, to which he expansively replied by saying, "As discussed above, the challenges confronted and the opportunities identified would obviously influence the technology developments. Historically, the onus has been on the western advanced economies to develop technology whether it is in the field of machinery development or in the field of man-made fibres, dyes, chemicals, auxiliaries, bio-technology, material science, micro electronics, sensor development in particular, application of IT, nanotechnology, plasma applications, etc would continue to be the focus.

Growth in technical textiles would highly influence the technology developments. In the apparel sector, automation might become a reality in the next decade. On the traditional apparel and home textile fronts, compact spinning technology is likely to invade with much higher intensity. Higher ring frame productivity through novel approaches would continue to draw the attention of researchers. Although, there are no major developments seen on the horizon in weaving, 3-D fabrics may become a major interest for specialized application.

Knits would see more and more of 'Yarn to Garment' developments. Warp knits would find enhanced application in technical textiles. Nonwovens are likely to be of prime interest and perhaps newer products and newer production methods for nonwovens are expected to be the darling of researchers and machine manufacturers. Biomimetics, the love of Japanese where the nature is mimicked through the developments in man-made fibres is also likely to attract major attention.

Expectedly, the developments in the different disciplines of Science & Technology would continue to influence the technology developments in textiles and also the product developments for newer applications", with which he closed the interview.

We deeply thank Dr Roy for enlightening our global readers with his optimistic views.

About Dr. Roy:

Dr. Roy is a PhD in textiles from the University of Manchester, UK and a former Chief Executive Officer of the Lalbhai group owned, Ahmedabad based, Arvind Mills Ltd and has over 40 years of rich experience in industry, research and teaching. He is considered an expert in denim manufacturing technology and is currently working as an independent management consultant for textile industries globally.