The need of the hour

Interview – Mr. Uday Khadilkar (Asst. Vice President, Marketing, Grasim)

By – Ms Jigna Shah, Editor – Textile Value Chain

The Story so far

With over 50 years of experience in manufacturing world-class cellulosic fibres, it has been our conscious endeavour to keep ahead of the business and constantly re-invent ourselves. At Aditya Birla, we take tremendous pride in research and innovations at our in-house world-class facilities. Viscose staple fibres (VSF) business accounts for about 80% of Grasim Industries Ltd. stand alone revenue. Over the last three years the Group’s investments have been in excess of Rs. 4,300 crores and capacities have scaled to a little over 900,000 tonnes p.a making it one of the largest manufacturer in the world with about 20% market share. We have wood pulp plantations in Canada, Sweden and India and installed capacity of more than 700,000 spindles across Indonesia, Thailand, Philipines and India. Our entire range of Cellulosic fibres of Aditya Birla Group are under the brand of Birla Cellulose.

Launch of LIVA

In India, even though consumers actually use garments made from viscose and like the feel and comfort they are not aware that they are made from viscose or its blend. The awareness of VSF is low as compared to cotton, polyester, wool & silk.

Traditionally we are a B2B brand, but with the stupendous launch of LIVA in March, we are moving forward with the important connection of business directly with the consumer and the retail segment. With this new initiative, we are the only company in the world to operate fully integrated manufacturing facilities extending from fibre to fashion, all under the umbrella brand called ‘LIVA’. LIVA is a new age biodegradable cellulosic fabric made of Birla’ s viscose staple fibres and goes through an accredited value chain to meet the standards of LIVA. We have been running pilot projects and working with partners across the value chain for more than 2 years. The result was a perfect fabric in quality that promises fluidity, elegance, superior drape and comfort, in other words, an ultimate fabric for a woman’s wardrobe that gives a beautiful flow to the garments and enhances ease of movement. LIVA accentuates the wearer’s curves because of its fluidity and softness unlike cotton which is boxy.

Our objective is to make LIVA known as a unique fabric, both in India and in international markets. Globally speaking, Italy, Turkey, Sweden are considered for specialty niche viscose fabrics whereas China is considered as a mass producer of viscose fabrics. India is predominantly known for cotton and that’s where we want to bring a change for the modern fashion conscious Indian consumer. We have collaborated with major fashion brands in India like Pantaloons, Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Lifestyle, Global Desi, Chemistry and F109 for making available LIVA garments.

LAPF: Need of the hour

When a product is launched the value chain needs to be in place. Once this happens, more volumes can be expected through the value chain. The need of the hour in our highly fragmented textile industry was to bring together different players of the value chain under one platform for successful delivery of LIVA promise. Till now, VSF products available in the Indian market were of inconsistent quality because the value chain was not developed adequately in terms of technology and processes. To bridge this gap and make the process more streamlined and effective, LIVA Accreditation Partner Forum (LAPF) was launched. 

LAPF is a forum of value chain partners (spinners, fabricators & processors) who have the capability to offer good quality and innovative products made of Birla Cellulose fibre/fibre blends. Through the forum, Birla Cellulose works with spinners, fabricators and process houses creating sustainable and high quality new age yarns and fabrics. Fabrics made by these partners in the value chain are promoted and marketed to retailers, brands and consumers as ‘LIVA’. This program is advantageous for the partners where they can own the LIVA fabric and promote the same amongst their customers. LIVA is based on four strategic pillars namely:

  • Brand & Communication Development – where we understand and deliver consumer needs & experience
  • Design & Innovation – Innovation in fibres, yarns & fabrics and engagement with designer fraternity
  • Marketing to brands and retail – to ensure visibility, premiumness & consumer experience
  • LIVA Accredited Partner Forum – to deliver the LIVA promise

It’s a win-win situation for everyone who will be a part of this forum.

Eligibility for LAPF Partnership

Basically any entrepreneur can qualify to be part of this accredited forum if they are capable of delivering quality products as per LIVA standards. For basic eligibility they should have adequate machinery set-up with good technology level, efficient and updated systems and processes, precise quality control instruments, qualified staff/ workmen, effective monitoring/ inspection systems and a thorough professional approach.

Interested value chain partners have to fulfill all the criteria as per the MOU and are assessed by our expert panel before being certified as LAPF members. During assessment if the team finds them lacking in any area, our experts provide 360 degrees support to help them to improve and overcome the issues, be it operation skills, raw materials, machinery, etc as per the laid down standards. We also provide support with marketing, vendor management, design innovation, product perfection and sustainability.

Many leading textile mills those have integrated setups are already part of LAPF. These mills have good control over their processes from fibre to finished fabric and provide guarantee for quality of the products with timely delivery. With time, the brand plans to add more value chain partners. Currently, we have over 280 LAPF partners: 35 spinners, 150 weavers and 110 processors. And the journey is on to add more value chain player to the LAPF fold in the near future.

LAPF Co-branding              ­­

With LAPF, our partners enjoy an incremental business percolated down the LIVA value chain. To improve visibility and as a mark of assured quality & traceability, members can use LIVA & LAPF logos on packaging and promotional material. LAPF members can use these logos only for Birla Cellulose products and only for first quality products passing LIVA standards. The ‘LIVA accredited’ logo can be used on fabric rolls, fabric bags, yarn cones and yarn cartons. The LIVA accredited partner logo can be used in website, stationery, visiting cards and other promotional material. LIVA products command a premium as they are of superior and consistent quality leading to satisfaction of value chain partners and consumer alike.

LAPF Evaluation & Improvement Program

Technology is changing so fast that we cannot afford to slack. For any program to be successful, continuous evaluation and improvement is a necessity. To this cause, we have commissioned Bombay Textile Research Association (BTRA) for evaluation & improvement of LAPF partners. This evaluation service is a value added service exclusively for LAPF partners and the entire cost is borne by us.

BTRA is a well-known R & D centre that was founded in 1954 which provides a gamut of services like technical, testing and audit services. Alongwith Birla Cellulose team, BTRA team visits LAPF partners’ facilities doing thorough shop-floor investigations. They identify and provide constructive solutions to technical and techno-economic problems regarding quality, machine production, machine maintenance, quality systems, recording systems etc. These detailed reports reflect where exactly the members stand, their strengths and weaknesses which helps them improve their systems. In the long run, this practice will yield consistent quality products with satisfied value chain partners and consumers.

Many international brands are shifting their focus towards India for sourcing Viscose based products due to increase in ease of manufacturing and consistent quality. This is the right time for a forum like LAPF to streamline our fragmented industry and make good of the opportunity. Many international buyers have shown keen interest in LAPF, as they want to avail the benefits for sourcing quality products. Their interest shows trust and faith in LAPF which tells us that we are heading in the right direction.