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CEO Thai Acrylic Fibre & Domestic Textiles
Thai Acrylic Fibre to go big on Sustainability & Innovation
Thailand-based Thai Acrylic Fibre Co Ltd is the 5th largest acrylic fibre manufacturer in the world. Its products are marketed under the brand name Birlacril, which include high quality dyed and raw white tow, top and fibre for various end-uses such as sweaters, blankets, carpets, soft toys and awnings. With over 30 different varieties of acrylic fibre, the company serves both the commodity and the specialty high-end markets. Enjoying worldwide recognition, Birlacril products are sold in more than 40 countries covering all continents. The final products made with Birlacril fibres are marketed by a number of prestigious brands in Europe and America. Satyaki Ghosh, CEO, Thai Acrylic Fibre & Domestic Textiles, speaks about the journey of the company and its focus on sustainability and innovation.
Can you tell us something about the company and what kind of products you manufacture in your plant in Thailand?
Thai Acrylic Fibre (TAF) ranks among the top five quality acrylic fibre producers globally. TAF produces acrylic fibre/tow & top both in regular and more than 14 different types of specialty fibre variants including technical fibres for high-end applications.
Which are your key markets?
Our key market is Asia which is also the largest consumer of acrylic fibres. Being the 2nd largest exporter of acrylic fibre, we sell to more than 40 countries in the world including the US and the EU. TAF is one of the first ventures of Aditya Birla Group outside India, please tell us a little about TAF's journey from 1987 to today.
TAF has a special place in the history of our group, being one of the first companies the group started outside India. We started with an installed capacity of 14,000 TPA, which is now 108,000 TPA and are still expanding. We are probably the only acrylic fibre manufacturer in the world with expansion plans. Initially our main market was Thailand and neighbouring countries but today we have customers all over the world.
TAF has been through advancements in technology, automation, computerised process control systems and captive power, making our operations extremely efficient and reliable. This has led to TAF becoming a quality supplier and we have won a number of prestigious awards like Japan Quality Medal, Deming Prize, International Asia Pacific Quality Awards, etc. There has also been a change in the product mix, with the focus now being more on specialty products.
How big is the global market for acrylic fibres? At what rate is it growing?
Global acrylic fibre demand went through a gradual decline in the last decade, primarily due to substitution by cheaper alternatives like polyester. The driver of this was 'price' but not 'preference'. The declining overall volume of acrylic fibre is a challenge and amidst this, we would wish to seek a 10 per cent growth in the coming years.
Which are the key focus areas for the company for future growth?
As a company we'll increasingly focus on our value-added product portfolio. The most important factor will be product innovation. Specialty fibres and application-specific developments will drive the next wave of growth.
Your company manufactures a very wide range of products. What has been your approach towards product innovation?
We acknowledge the fact that consumer needs change over time and we try to capture those needs that feed into our Research & Development. Our marketing teams work closely with R&D to develop products that are relevant in the current market and address the needs of the endconsumer. We also have an application development centre, where we work on new applications of our products. One of the good examples is our Tropix fibre which we developed for sweaters with cotton-like look and feel, but now it is getting popular in T-shirts and other outerwear categories due to its high UPF (50+) and ability to impart vibrant shades.
Acrylic has been traditionally used in sweaters, blankets and carpets. What other applications you are exploring?
As mentioned before, we are constantly working on new applications of our fibre. In apparel, for example, we are working with a number of customers across the value chain to develop applications in innerwear segment with our functional fibres like Amicor and Pilbloc that provide comfort, freshness and moisture management.
In technical textiles, we have a huge focus on all-weather resistant outdoor fabrics that find application in awnings, garden umbrellas, marine and outdoor upholstery. Our Durashine fibre is a superior quality solution-dyed acrylic fibre for these applications with a global customer base.
We have recently acquired Germany based Pyrotex which is a unique flame resistant fibre with LOI of 43 per cent and doesn't produce toxic fumes. With Pyrotex, we are exploring segments like workwear, uniform, FR upholstery. etc.
We are now working much more closely with our downstream customers especially brands and retailers to understand the needs of their consumers and support them with our innovations.
Textile industry is being challenged by authorities on pollution and customers are looking for more and more sustainable products. How is TAF addressing this?
Pollution is one of the most challenging problems facing the textiles industry. From fibre to garment, the various processes not only create a threat to the environment but also consume the natural resources like water. Availability of safe drinking water is reducing globally. In developing nations, the search for safe drinking water can be a daily struggle. Millions of people are getting affected every year from preventable diseases caused by the lack of access to clean water. We are committed to achieve sustainability in our products and processes and constantly innovate to develop sustainable products. One of the biggest success stories for us is our Radianza fibre, which is a very innovative solution to address some of these environmental challenges. It is a ready-to-use dyed fibre manufactured using a technology that involves minimum use of water, energy and harmful chemicals. A fabric made from yarns with 100 per cent Radianza fibres would require only 20 per cent of water/energy as compared to conventional dyeing. Moreover, due to no need of dyeing at a yarn or fabric stage, there is no discharge of dyestuff unlike in conventional dyeing where dyestuff losses lead to polluted effluent.
We are seeing a high growth in demand for Radianza fibre with more and more customers adopting sustainable ways to run their business.
What is the company's vision for reaching the next level and how do you plan to achieve it?
Our vision is to be a differentiated player in the textiles and apparel value chain with focus on consumer-centric innovations. We have aggressive plans to grow our share of specialty products by achieving unmatched quality, reaching out to the entire value chain and exploring new applications. Our whole organisation is focused on achieving this vision.
Published on: 05/10/2018
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