Disposable Textiles – Future of Indian Textile Industry
Disposable textiles are generally used in or as apparel for functional applications, produced in such a way they can be disposed off after use. They are generally used for “use & throw” applications. Textiles can roughly be classified based on technology used into two types namely woven & non-woven. Of these nonwovens fit most to manufacture disposable textiles as they can be produced by using compact production lines which give much higher productivity at much lower operating cost. They can be tailor-made functionally and economically for the end user. Disposables are used to replace apparels as well as for technical applications. To list a few: Absorbent hygiene, Wipes & surgical gowns etc. Disposables are gaining popularity due to their hygiene related properties, ease of use & cost effectiveness. They have wide range of applications in the sectors like healthcare & hospitality. The use of household disposables is also growing with rapid pace. There are numerous other disposable applications, such as shopping bags, tablecloths, towels, airline head rests, pillow cases, sorbents, sponges, etc., which are made and marketed in domestic markets.
Current Indian Scenario
Indian market is under transition phase. Indian customer is showing paradigm shift from durables to the disposables. The average age of Indian population is 25 years. Significantly over 50% of the population is below 25 years – the vibrant segment for any market. This population is receptive to new technology & new products. They are faster in adopting global trends. The potential for nonwoven disposable usage in India is always increasing. The world giants in consumer products have all modified their strategies to suit Indian conditions prior to achieving any success. India is the second fastest growing economy after China. According to a survey by Goldman Sachs, India will become the largest economy by 2035. If we use PPP (purchasing power parity) which takes into account local purchasing power, India already has the 3rd largest economy. According to a new report by Goldman Sachs, India will grow at 8% until 2020. With the younger workforce and growing per-capita income, the middle and upper classes will grow significantly, and spending will increase. Although the use of nonwovens per-capita is extremely low in India at $0.04/capita compared to $2.73/capita in North America.
The market is growing rapidly for end uses in feminine care, medical, automotive and packaging applications. The hygiene market in India has a great potential because of the low penetration and the sheer size of the market. The entry strategies with feminine hygiene products followed by baby diapers, and eventually adult incontinence, will make it possible for women, children and adults to benefit from new, hygienic and easy-to-use products. The need for single-use surgical products (gowns and drapes) is imminent in Indian hospitals.
- Favorable Demographics
The major young population is the key growth driver in the growth of Disposable Textiles market. Young population is receptive to westernization. They are always adapting most of the trends of western markets. For example, today, we see many of ladies confidently using kitchen wipes which seem to be a rare scene about 20 years back.
- Increasing Purchasing Power
Purchasing Power of Indian population is rising. In fact, in most of the household, the husband & wife, both are working, so they have more disposable income which makes them spend more. They are susceptible to buy new products.
- Woman Population
With the changing time, number of working women has increased & this has given them more freedom to spend. With busy life schedule, they are left with less time for household work. “Use & throw” products offer them convenience.
Use of sanitary napkins is not limited to the urban market; it has started reaching to rural markets. TV Media has a great role to play in the promotion of hygiene products. Disposable products give them ease of use & these products are less time consuming. India will be the biggest market for feminine hygiene products like sanitary napkins in coming future. A typical potential estimate for feminine hygiene, based on per capita consumption of 50 units per annum by the eligible population of nearly 300 million users (Age group 15 to 40) will give a theoretical total market size of approximately 15 billion pieces. This could result in market sale value of $1.5 billion at 10 cents per piece.
- Growing Healthcare Industry:
Indian healthcare industry is growing exponentially. The demand for products like surgical gowns, masks and other wearable products to surgical drapes, pads, dressings and filtration materials is huge. Specialty textiles are manufactured for healthcare purpose like isolation gowns, disposable trousers, howie coats, liquid resistant laboratory coats, latex anti-allergic gloves, sleeve protector, shoe cover, disposable bed sheets, etc. These textiles are durable, lightweight and inexpensive.
Medical tourism is growing in India, so there with high demand for such products in coming future.
- High Birth Rate:
India has more than 50% population below 25 years. Median age of Indian is 25 years & birth rate in India is 20.66/1000 Population. Some 24 million babies are born in India every year. If we typically calculate that 25% of these infants in the period between birth and 24 months use at least 28 diapers a week, the theoretically available market for diapers is 8.7 billion pieces per year. This is a big number for any industry. With rising income levels, the consumption levels of this order are achievable in the near future, if the prices are kept right. So, demand for baby diapers will grow exponentially in coming future.
- Growing Retail Industry:
Most of Tier-1 cities accustomed to “Mall Culture” & now it is catching up Tier-2 & Tier-3 cities as well. Retail culture has major share in growth of the many of the disposable products such as kitchen wipes, adult & baby diapers & sanitary napkins.
The major challenge in growth of disposable textiles is the tendency and attitude of the large population of Indians. The currently low penetration of nonwoven disposable products provides an untapped market for new entrants to India. However, Indian customers are value-driven; hence the product with a true value will only be successful. A considerable quantity of bleached cotton wool and woven bandages is still used in the medical market. The market penetration of feminine hygiene is only 15% and sales are mainly in the urban areas. When the price barrier is broken, this market will explode in a big way. Cotton wool and woven gauzes are still popular in the country as nonwoven disposable material is not made locally and imports can be expensive. The health care industry is still using reusable caps, gowns and drapes. A significant portion of this market will remain with woven reusable material until necessary legislation for hygiene standards are introduced by the health authority in the government.
Other Area of concern for disposables is how disposable products affect landfills. As is the case in many Western countries, landfills is simply not the solution, but municipal waste can be used for energy provision and therefore benefit the country and the environment.
To summarize the issues why the disposables not much used much in India are:
- Low Hygiene awareness
- Pricing policies of nonwovens
- Availability of cheap washing facilities favoring reusable cotton apparels
- No standards for medical disposables; Quality is poor
To build momentum, change must happen much faster and with a greater degree of business expertise and planning. No doubt, the country has the tools to build a highly industrial nation, but implementation of the state of the art technology locally is where we need to focus on. With proper planning, vision in mind and engaging appropriate consultancy firms one can successfully implement projects for disposable nonwovens.
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