Interview with Thomas Varghese

Face2Face
Thomas Varghese
Thomas Varghese
Business Head
Thai Acrylic Fibre
Thai Acrylic Fibre

The declining overall volume of acrylic fibre is a challenge

Aditya Birla Group's Thai Acrylic Fibre, based in Thailand, is the world's second-largest exporter of acrylic. In an exclusive interview with Thomas Varghese, business head for Thai Acrylic, Fibre2Fashion.com finds out more about the global acrylic market and the company's plans.

How much of the global acrylic market does Thai Acrylic claim?

The global acrylic fibre industry is estimated to be approximately 1.8 million tons. Thai Acrylic Fibre (TAF) is the world's fifth largest producer of acrylic fibre at 1,20,000 tons. 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. In India, our presence is largely limited due to the anti-dumping duty, and hence future plans will be governed by any changes in the regulatory structure.

How do you see India evolve as a global manufacturer of polyester?

Indian polyester manufacturing will be fuelled by a huge domestic demand as well as global manufacturing competitiveness. There is a huge opportunity for Indian manufacturers to be global leaders in this industry. The industry, though, will need to prepare for measures to reduce its environmental impact, and invest in making the operations sustainable with increasing regulations.

With global wool prices surging, how do you see demand for acrylic going up globally and in Thailand?

In spite of increasing wool prices, acrylic has not been a natural substitute for all applications. Most of the substitution has been done by polyester or polyester blends, leading to continued pressure on the acrylic industry. However, acrylic fibre is likely to do well in sweater and carpet sectors if it is reasonably priced.

Of all the manmade fibres, which are the ones that you expect to grow the most and why?

Polyester will be the highest growing fibre in terms of volume, primarily driven by value offerings and innovations in end-use development. Some niche fibres may also have very high growth rates, depending upon their specific sector-based applications.

What are the issues this segment is up against?

The main issues of the acrylic fibre industry are: 1. High raw material prices as compared to other manmade fibres, leading to high level of substitution 2. Limited R&D investment 3. Low awareness of consumers about performance of fibres leading to high pressure on realisations

Which are the new sustainable practices that Thai Acrylic has initiated across its textile value chain?

The biggest initiative for us this year will be publishing our first sustainability report as per the GRI - G4 standards. The report will speak about our various projects which we have initiated internally to make our operations more environment-friendly. There have been many initiatives taken to reduce our energy and water consumption. Also, we are creating a plan to make TAF a zero-discharge organisation in the next five years.

What are your plans with respect to manmade fibres, the next big thing being touted?

The most important factor and focus area for all manufacturers will be product innovation. Speciality fibres and application-specific developments will drive the next wave of profitability for most industry players.

How have exports fared in the last two years? What has been the growth percentage in the last two years and what is the percentage targeted for the next fiscal?

Our exports have been increasing since the last five years. We are exporting to more than 40 countries. We are the second-largest exporter of acrylic fibre in the world. We will continue to export over 95 per cent of our production in the coming fiscal.
Published on: 19/08/2015

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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