Interview with Thomas Ong P S

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Thomas Ong P S
Thomas Ong P S
CEO
NanoTextile Sdn Bhd
NanoTextile Sdn Bhd

After the pandemic, there is expected to be a major change in lifestyle. How much will nanotextiles be a part of bringing about the change?

We are continuously providing technology services, which we do best. The only difference I am observing is the higher responsibility for us in bringing the change by assisting the industry to embrace functional textile manufacturing. We hope to build feasible business cases with more downstream business partners, brand owners and retailers to create a new range of their products focused on nanotechnology functionalities. In clothing textile market segment, different offerings to the consumers and clients are the focus proposition. I guess, this is my hope (or responsibility rather) in creating the change and catalysing the industry during the post-pandemic period.

How big is the impact of the pandemic on the Malaysian technical textiles market? What are the immediate concerns?

Like any other country, the impact on the textiles market in Malaysia ranges from mediocre to huge depending on how big your business is in the industry, be it in upstream or downstream businesses. The larger your business, the impact is bigger. We have observed similar downward trends in terms of sales value and consumer spending. However, on the technical textiles market in Malaysia, the growth per se just started in 2016. Hence, the overall impact in terms of value or size, is not as big as that of the industry as a whole. In fact, the immediate concern is how to functionalise products with value-added nanotechnology attributes to give additional properties or protection. We believe that would be the trend setter moving forward, and Nanotextile is here to match the industry gap of that realisation.

What are the measures the government is taking? Will there be any changes in the Third Industrial Master Plan (IMP3)?

Malaysia highlighted in its IMP3 that industrial and home textiles, functional fabrics, high-end fabrics and garments, and ethnic fabrics are growth categories of the largest established manufacturing sectors. Also, the textile and clothing industry in Malaysia is dependent on the import of raw materials, particularly for fabric manufacturing. However, as the industry shifts towards the manufacture of higher added-value products, Malaysia has the potential to develop industrial and home textiles, functional fabrics and high-value fabrics and clothing. The most important agenda to tackle would be the challenges in potentially localising raw material manufacturing to reduce dependence.

Looking at the current situation, can nanotextile technology be used to make personal protective equipment (PPE)? If yes, what benefits will they provide over normal PPE?

Our technologies are compatible to both weaved and moulded products. We are working closely with the local authorities and agencies to assist frontline workers during the pandemic, on how to introduce additional protection using nanotechnology. We also participated in projects specifically on the service and supply of PPE and face masks coated with our proprietary technology, enhancing the anti-fungal and anti-microbial protection. This is the assurance we give to medical workers and volunteers that PPE and face shields are pre-sanitised before usage.

What are the limitations of nanotextiles that you are currently working on? How do you want to scale up their production in future?

We are working towards investment plans, both as an investor and investee. We are working on enriching our technologies by investing our efforts closely with our research partners. We are due to make an impact on more market segments this year alone as well as niche market segments like textile consumables and products for bed-ridden adults and autistic kids. Nanotextile is setting its sights on regional expansion. Hence, we are finally open to fund-raising ideas and initiatives to ensure the growth of the company.

We will also be launching a business strategy, a cushion strategic plan in which, we invite all our business partners to look into business plans and a new range of product rollout (client’s products), and  launch a new series (client’s series) focusing on nanotechnology functional wear when COVID19 subsides. This is our initiative to assist all brand owners and retailers to absorb the impact (size and/or effect) due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It would be a ‘1 Strategy 9 Benefits’ plan to curb and regain customer spending confidence.

What factors will play an important role in the development of nanotextiles based market in future?

I believe both acceptance factors by the industry and demand would play an important role in nanotextile’s development. We play a role in giving awareness to both upstream and downstream industrial players by continuously giving functional textile insights. Therefore, for the past five years, we are not solely focused on outright sales and services business. We are actively involved in conferences and seminars to ensure that these opportunities are not overlooked.

Nanosafety is a growing concern. What are your thoughts on this?

It is important to address both technological advancements that nanotechnology brings forth and its societal challenges by strengthening research and innovation efforts, with increased emphasis on sustainable development, competitiveness, environment, health and safety. This shall come with a high degree of responsibility for engineered nanomaterials providers and manufacturers to ensure that the suspended nanomaterials are in compliance with standards and safety measures. Nanotextile technologies are certified and genuine ones.
Published on: 05/05/2020

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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