This is a common sight. In a dimly lit, dingy room of a grey fabric weaving unit in Icchalkaranji in South or Bhilwara in North, you may find about a dozen of tired looking, young and old designers are working on some worn out desktop computers, experimenting with different combinations of warp, weft and weaves to generate hundreds of dazzling graphics on the screens. They have to take the colour printouts with all technical detail and submit for approval by the owner before the day is over. The fabrics, after weaving, would look very bland, grey and humble. The real mystery would lie in the clever positioning of the cotton and polyester yarn in a harmonious rhythm, followed by the programme. Once a piece is cross dyed, that is, the polyester and cotton parts are dyed one by one; the fabric will come to life with a beautiful combination of two colours. In the next few days, the looms of the unit would be booked by the domestic customers who would get the grey fabric dyed and market all over the country.
There are many such instances of product developments regularly practiced by the Unorganized Sector of the Indian textile Industry. I gave the above example only to describe the low cost, simplicity and speed with which such innovations are translated into commercially viable and profitable products by the so called 'Unorganized Sector'. Yes, such novelty or fancy items have shorter product life cycle. But those die hard entrepreneurs make sure that before the cycle comes to an end; some new innovations are made and delivered. They are not qualified research scholars. Many do not have even more than school level education. Their resources are also very limited. Yet, they feed the vast Indian Domestic Market of fabric and at the end of the day, make their living. Practical creativity in their genes keeps them going.
The purpose of this article is to highlight the in-born strength of India. The Indians, by nature are more creative than productive. From my own experience of working with Chinese firms, I can safely say that in terms of textile productivity, China is far ahead of India. But in terms of innovation and designing that require emotional quotient, India rules.
Yet, despite having the talents and the demands, India lags behind western countries in terms of remarkable product development. At macro level, we have the resources. But there is hardly any meaningful connection between our Industry and the Research Institutes. The R&D at the Industry level is virtually non-existent because the Industry hardly understands the long term value of Product Research. Who will make them understand? Today, we have institutes like ATIRA, BTRA, SASMIRA, IITs etc, but how many new textile products or finishes they come up with per year? The revolutionary products, finishes and technologies like CoolMax, Spandex, Modal, Bamboo Fibre, Tanning Finish, UV-Protection, Air-Texturising, Aramid, and Washable Wool etc. are all invented at other countries. This is a ripe time that Indian Research Institutes do some path breaking contributions, make closer connections with the textile and related Industries (like the dyes & chemical industry) with innovative products and solutions and help the Indian Textile Industry produce more and more specialized and novelty items and improve their competitiveness.
In the new budget, the Union Government has waived tax on expenses made on R&D for all manufacturing units. Industries can utilize this benefit but the initiation should start from the Research Institutes in India.
The views expressed are personal. Here 'I' refers to the author.