Dr. Arindam Basu

Northern India Textile Research Association, Ghaziabad

Place in Indian Economy

The textile and clothing industry plays a very important role in Indian economy and society. It is second only to Agriculture in employment in India. Around 45 million people are directly   engaged in this industry and around 60 million in allied industries. As per the projection at the end of 12th Plan the engagement will be 52 and 62 million respectively. It contributes 4% of GDP and accounts for 12% of country’s total export basket. It contributes towards 14% of industrial production. During 2012-13 the total export of textiles and clothing was Rupees 171971 crores i.e. US$. 31625 million. It increased to Rupees 214918 crores i.e. US$ 35426 million showing a growth of 25% (in rupees). As per 12th five year plan (2012-17), India envisages export of textiles and clothing worth US$ 64.41 billion by the end of March 2017. In addition there will be a significant increase in demand of clothing in domestic market due to increased per capita consumption. This increase is already seen due to India’s large number of young people, increased disposable income, increased fashion consciousness and exposure of developed foreign countries.

The unique feature of Indian textile industry is a large portion of textile and clothing products are produced in decentralised sector. In cloth production only 4-5% of total cloth is produced by organised sector. Around 60% cloth is produced by power-loom sector and around 13% in handloom sector. Majority of knitting and garment industry comes under small industries i.e. decentralised sector. These sectors need research and development including product development intervention for their sustainability.

Origin of TRAs

Textile Research Associations (TRAs) were established by the Industry and the Ministry of Textiles as Co-operative research centres to cater to the need of the textile clusters in India on 40-50 years back. The major TRAs are Ahmadabad Textile Industries Research Association (ATIRA) at Ahmadabad, Gujarat, Bombay Textile Research Association (BTRA) in Bombay, Maharashtra, and South India Textile Research Association (SITRA) at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and Northern India Textile research Association (NITRA) at Ghaziabad, U.P. Since then, TRAs have been  helping  Indian textile industry in many ways. They conduct applied research mainly applicable to  textile/garment industry.  R&D helps the industry to stay ahead and compete with developed and developing countries. Export data show how the textile industry improved its performances and has  become a respectable figure in the  International scenario. Besides, TRAs help the Government in policy- making related to textiles and clothing industry in India. Norms published by the TRAs help in bench-marking the performance of  industrial units. 

NITRA for example helps  industries in energy saving, waste control, manpower rationalisation and product development. Indigenous instruments and machines developed by NITRA help the industry in process control and quality control at reasonable cost.  Some years ago the funding from the Government of India has been cut down drastically forcing the TRAs to concentrate on  income generation activities such as testing, consultancy and training. Big companies have their own Research and Development divisions but the decentralised industry does not have means to conduct research activities and product development. If TRAs do not do research work, their consultancy i.e. dissemination of their research findings will be very limited. This may affect the decentralised sector badly causing job losses for a large number of people. Countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Myanmar will take this advantage and capture the market including Indian domestic market. As mentioned earlier a big proportion of textile industry is in  the decentralised sector .  

The ill-effect of this development will cause a significant adverse impact on Indian economy.

Product development

            The textile industry in developed countries is presently concentrating on high value addition to sustain its business. As Indian economy grows, India will also face sustainability problem unless textile industry diversifies in high value- added products such as technical textiles. Technical textiles are knowledge- based products used for other than garmenting purpose. The Government of India has identified 8 institutes/TRAs as Centre of Excellence (CoE) for different areas of Technical Textiles. For example NITRA has been identified as Centre of Excellence for Protective Textiles and sanctioned around 20 Crores of rupees for upgrading the laboratory and acquiring specialised instruments/ machines required for protective textiles. Similarly SITRA, BTRA, SASMIRA have been identified for Medical textiles, Geo-textiles and Agro-textiles respectively. Being new areas a lot of Research and Product development activities has to be undertaken.

Some of the products developed by NITRA are:

Stab resistant fabric for Hi-modulus Polyethylene fibre

* Cut resistant fabric using composite metallic yarn

* Seamless low cost jute carry bags

* Nylon/ cotton (NYCO) fabric for Para-military and military combat uniform

* Exploration of utilisation of Corn husks in textiles

* A special functional fabric for bedding and sportswear for providing extra ordinary comfort with excellent micro-climate.

* Functional fabric to provide bacterial and UV protection

* Protective clothing for workers in pesticide industry

* X-ray opaque textile materials

Many of the above have been commercialised.  For decentralised sector it is very much important that TRAs help them in these areas. Besides, new standards are being developed by the CoEs which needs lot of scientific studies. It is very much important for the TRAs to have few scientists fully engaged in these areas. Fund restriction forces TRAs to offer less salary which results in attracting only mediocre students which is not very good for the Research and Development.

            As compared to developed countries India’s investment in R&D per capita is very low and for textile industry it is much lower. Spending on R&D in India is 0.9% of its GDP whereas the spending on R&D by USA, Japan, Germany and China are 2.7%, 3.67%, 2.3% and 2.08% respectively of their respective GDPs. In India major R&D expenditure is in Pharmaceutical and software. In this situation further improvement in Textile/clothing industry will get affected if more funds are not pumped into R&D. Instead of creating new centres it is better to invest in the TRAs which have already made good infrastructure and core competency.