Alok Industries Ltd, is an Indian Textile manufacturing company based in Mumbai, India with integration in both the streams, in cotton as well as polyester value chain. ISO 9001:2000 certified company. The company has created global-sized capacities and expanded its markets across the global territories. Its main business involves weaving, knitting, processing, home textiles, ready made garments and polyester yarns. It exports 26% of its products to over 90 countries in the US, Europe, South America, Asia and Africa.

Mr. Rakesh Rastogi, Vice President, Polyester Marketing, Alok Industries Limited, spoke exclusively to the Textile Value Chain during a recent exhibition in Surat.

What are the products you have launched in this exhibition? Can you explain to us about the new products or brands that you have launched in this exhibition?

As you know, we are one of the largest manufacturers of texturized yarns. However, we do have other products especially in the spun category. This includes 100% cotton yarns, 100% polyester yarns and now we have also started with cotton and polyester blend yarns. The demand for PC yarns has increased in the past few days, especially in the Surat Market. Other than that, we have another new development, which is launched now. It is called ‘Suta’. This is the specific name given to a good quality, polymer-based yarn and we have done certain modifications in the raw material itself, which then are converted to a yarn and then to a fabric giving a completely different feel. The product when touched gives a feel of cotton and when a customer sees the product, they cannot differentiate whether it is cotton or polyester, only by its visual appearance. This is a new launch. We feel that there is a trend among the consumers to buy more products that are cotton-based. However, there are some products that cannot be made of cotton and we need to use polyester there. So, to give that cotton feel, we have developed this product.

We have a wide range of products that we have developed over time. All these products are available at our Mumbai office. However, we have brought only a few products at this exhibition. We have brought the products which we feel are suitable for the Surat market. Here, we have got products like T-shirts, and fabrics both woven and knitted and our new launch. We think that our new product will definitely take up some market share in the coming days. It is also priced very fairly and will eventually replace the conventional cotton fabric. It is very attractively priced and the post-production process like dyeing are also cheaper than those compared to cotton as this material is polymer-based. This is the USP of this product.

So basically, it is a polymer and cotton mix?

No, it is not a mix or blend. It is completely polymer-based. But, the kind of hand feel or the feeling when you will wear the garment made out of it, is nowhere near to the family of polyester. Visually and the feeling after wearing it will be exactly like that of cotton, not like polyester.

Have you launched any other brands?

Right now, there are couple of brands that have dedicated an entire range of products which use the ‘Suta’ yarn. However, currently I am not in a position to disclose the name of the brands, but yes one of India’s finest brands has also used ‘Suta’. We have also developed a particular garment for the Bangladesh market. and if it picks up in the Bangladesh markets then it won’t need much time to spread all over the globe as they account for the majority of the textile market.  We have received a fairly positive response from them. We are already in the second stage of development with them, which is almost close to converting orders.

How much of this product have you produced till now?

Currently, we are not producing excessive quantities. We are making it according to the orders and we have sufficient capacities. It is a spun-based yarn and we have sufficient spinning capacities. We are making it as per the orders we receive. We have huge orders for garments from different brands and we are making everything in-house, including the yarn, the fabric, its processing and the garments as well. We also do its packaging and selling by ourselves. The entire value chain is in our hands and it is in full swing. I feel in the coming season, these garments will be seen throughout the Indian market.

What is the current situation of this product in the Indian market?

The brands in the market are currently marketing it as a novel product, not specifically as ‘Suta’ product. This is because they want to gain the feedback from the consumer, whether they like the touch and feel of the product, or if there are any issues with the product. However, at the mass sampling stage they have not found any issues in the product and hence, they are very positive about the product. I think we will be seeing a greater number of ‘Suta’ products down the line in the coming months instead of the cotton products.

Are you planning to have this brand in the retail as well?

Yes, we have already applied for a trademark. Once, we get that, the product will be on the shelves with the ‘Suta’ tag on it.

Are you planning to have an entire range of product made from ‘Suta’?

Yes, definitely. The best part about us, since we are a vertically and horizontally integrated company, it is very easy for us to even sell the yarn or the fabric or the garments. We can do this at any stage that the customer wants. That’s the benefit of working with us.

Right now, there are not much shares of this product…

No, because this is a very new development. It is barely 2-3 months old and even in the market, showing it to the customers and other marketing, we have not approached everyone as of yet. We have only approached the fabric manufacturers, who can actually convert this product into something valuable and have the potential to sell it further. If we make this a mass commodity product, there is no value to that. So, we have spoken to only a few selected and targeted manufacturers.

Are you currently targeting only apparel brands or any other brands like home textiles as well?

Currently, we are not focusing on home textiles for this product. The count range of this product is somewhere between 15 to 60s. When wego to the 60s, the loom capacities and speeds are tremendously high compared to a normal width machine. This makes it a little difficult to absorb. However, we are working on this. I have made in -house samples using alternate yarns for home textiles, but it is still under development. We have not yet been able to identify where this product can be fitted into for home textiles. But we are very positive for the apparels.

Alok is a part of the Reliance group. Reliance has its own range of polyester products, is it different or how do you manage this competition within the company itself?

We are one single company. I wouldn’t say that Alok and Reliance are two different entities. We are one company and we don’t work on the lines of creating competition for each other. This particular product is something different and we are marketing it differently. In fact, I would say, Reliance themselves are also looking into using this product in their product ranges. So, there is no question of competition amongst each other. We actually complement each other. There are certain products that they manufacture, there are certain products that we manufacture. So, there is absolutely no scope for competition.

There are many upcoming start-ups in this field. As an industry leader, what would be your advice for these newcomers?

I feel there are a lot of start-ups coming in. However, textile used to be an unorganised sector. But now this is changing, yet the major chunk of textile industries are an unorganised sector and start-ups come in with a big vision. However, these visions are a bit overhyped right now. We need to get below the line and think how we can get into the market effectively. Textile does not work system to system. Every company has to find innovative ways to get things done. For examples: If you place an order for a fabric, you cannot guarantee that the fabric delivered will be 100% correct. There are scopes for errors, rejections, order cancellations, a lot of contingencies are possible. The Start-ups actually need to think about these shortcomings and work beforehand for this.

Would you like to add/say anything else?

Not really.

Surat is more of a polyester market…

We are in polyester business only. We have one of the largest businesses when it comes to polyester yarns. Recently, we have acquired the ‘Shekhavati Yarns’, the other unit of ‘SMITA’, for textile yarns. Our projection is around 750 tonnes a day for polyester yarn. Surat is an ever-growing market and main focus is to increase our business in Surat and expand it.

According to you, how will be the acceptance of this ‘Suta’ brand in this market?

The thing is that there is a trend for dull finish in cotton yarn. But, at present it is not viable to do this with cotton, mainly due to the price. So, we have developed this product in the polyester yarn and it looks and feels like cotton with the required dull finish. We have developed this yarn and fabric and garment collection as well.

How much percentage market share do you have in Surat?

At present, our volume is less in Surat. Our total sales in Surat are about 10%. We are aiming this to go till 20%.

And overall, in the polyester market, what is the share of Alok?

Alok’s share in the market is around 15% in the overall market. Bhilosa is the biggest player in this market.

Now you are a part of Reliance, which is one of the giants in the polyester market. So how does this work? Is there a tie-up or is it a synchronised activity?

Reliance is our parent company. Reliance has taken over Alok company. But our identities are different, we still do the marketing with the brand name of Alok. Both have different customer bases. There is no competitionbetween us. It is controlled by Reliance, but we are doing a good job individually as well.

Have both the companies merged on the production side?

No. Reliance is different and Alok is completely different when it comes to production.

How is the company culture after the takeover?

The company culture has changed. Some HR policies have changed and the employees are benefitted because of this. Financially we are stronger now. We are doing a better job now. Now it is a profit-making company and we hope to do much better in the near future as well.

What is your turnover from the last financial year?

Last year, we were in a different phase. We were still organising our machines which were not running. Now all the machines are running better and the production will increase, leading to more profits. The revenue and profitability, both will increase this year.

How much is your projection for this year?

We will definitely have a growth of 10% this year.

We are participating for the first time in Surat. The only reason being that we are back in the game. Surat being the dearest market to us, we want to make sure that we have substantially a good share of the market here. That’s the reason we have come up with ‘Suta’, it is something that the Surat market has probably not seen before. The customers here would get something new to work with.

How has the response been in two days of the exhibition so far?

The response is really good. We have got new customers as well. They really liked the product, the garments that we have manufactured etc. The response is especially fantastic for ‘Suta’.

Have you received some orders?

Yes, we have received some trial orders. But it will take time to make the fabric and then they will get to see the actual results.

Do you take the orders only for yarns?

We have a separate division for yarns and also for fabrics. We have a separate division for garments, we have products like terry towels, handkerchiefs etc. We can cater to all stages of customers as we are vertically and horizontally integrated.

You have said that this works on the principle of ‘make-to-order’. How much time is normally required for it?

It takes maximum one month for Yarn to Fabric. The cycle is nothing different. It is the same as the other fabrics in the market. There is no specific extended lead time for this because the process is in-house and we can start as soon as we get the orders.

Surat is basically a weaver’s market, so do they focus on buying yarns from you?

Yes, it is a weaver’s market. But there are a few garment units here as well, which buy the fabric. These are mainly the exporters. They liked our fabric and we have received a few orders as well. S

We have taken a chemical from Reliance for the polyester yarn and everything up to the garment stage processing is done in-house.