The textile industry in India was in a highly developed state as proved by the discovery of spindles and a piece of cotton cloth from Harappan excavations dating back five thousand years.
Vedic literature also talks about cotton spinning and various kinds of textile materials. Indian textiles of Gujarathi origin have also been found in Egyptian tombs showing that trade of textiles had also flourished long ago.
By the 17th century, the British East India Company started exporting Indian silks and cotton fabrics from Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Before the advent of mechanized means of spinning in the beginning of the 19th century, Indian cottons and silks called Khadi were hand-spun and hand-woven. Fabrics made of mill-spun yarn which are hand-woven are called handloom cloth.
The textile industry in India now has four million handlooms that weave magic out of 23 varieties of cotton. Mahatma Gandhi spinning cotton thread on his spinning wheel is an endearing symbol of yarn production in even Indian homes. The textile sector is the second largest provider of employment after agriculture in India.
Keeping in mind the huge population of India, it is no surprise the textile industry there is as extensive as it is today. It is an independent industry starting from raw material procurement to final production with value-addition at every step of the way.
Forming 14 percent of the total industrial output, the textile sector stands big in the Indian industrial scenario and is fast-growing. Indian fabric is in great demand in foreign shores owing to its ethnicity, rich textures, handwork and earthly colours. The international recognition that Indian fashion designers have received further showcases Indian fabrics in the greater market.
The employment opportunity created by the textile industry is also large, generating up to 12 million jobs covering both agricultural as well as industrial sectors. From cultivation of cotton and the collection of silk worms up to the production of cloth and the designing and stitching of garments, a huge workforce is required. Streamlining of such operations, however, requires support from the Government.
The textile industry is comprised of various segments, namely, readymade garments, cotton textiles including handlooms, man-made textiles, silk textiles, woolen textiles, carpets and other handicrafts, coir and jute.
Sectors of the textile industry
The man-made/filament yarn industry includes fibre and filament manufacturing units of cellulosic and non-cellulosic materials. The fibres are comprised of viscose staple fibre, acrylic staple fibre, nylon filament yarn, polypropylene filament yarn and polyester filament yarn.
India ranks first in jute production and this industry feeds 4 million farm families, giving direct and indirect employment to a huge work force. The jute mills are situated in West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, Tripura, Meghalaya and Chhattisgarh. Jute is entering the fashion industry in a big way with jute fibres delicately woven into dresses, jackets and waist coats.
However, the handlooms industry is not thriving as much as it should, owing to obsolete technology, an unorganised production system, low productivity, inadequate working capital, a conventional product range, weak marketing links, and overall stagnation of production and sales, according to research reports concerning this sector.
The woolen textiles industry is export-oriented but rural-based. Yet wool is the only natural fibre which is deficient in India. Woolen export items include knotted carpets, rugs, durries, etc. The industry employs more than 3 million workers in various activities. Ludhiana in Punjab is well known for its woolen garment production.
Indian Silk and Cotton Sectors
India is the second largest producer of silk and accounts for about 18% of the total world raw silk production. India produces all four varieties of silk, namely, Mulberry, Eri, Tasar and Muga. Sericulture is a cottage industry that is practiced in about 54 thousand villages across India. Nearly six million people are employed in this sector especially in rural areas.
The remarkable Indian silk is varied in form, colours, design, weaves and is high in quality. Kancheepuram silk sarees are characterized by golden jari buttas, woven into the saree in unique patterns. Gujarat and Rajasthan are known for Bandhni silk produced through an ancient method called “bandhej” or tie dying of the cloth.
Ikkat silk, known as patola in Orissa, also involves the same technique but is applied to the yarn before weaving. Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Orissa produce this silk. Varanasi or Benaras in Uttar Pradesh is famous for the Benaras silk fabric woven to create a raised effect (brocade) depicting floral motifs.
The Indian cotton industry is comprised of 1834 big spinning mills, 1249 small scale spinning mills, 184 exclusive weaving mills, nearly 500 thousand power loom units and 100 thousand handlooms units. The textile industry is highly labour intensive and employs around 6 million farmers besides another 40 to 50 million people in cotton cultivation, cotton trade and its processing.
The cultivation of cotton varieties and hybrids, new production technologies, plant protection techniques, education of farmers, the increase in area under irrigation, proactive government policies, more research efforts and high quality seeds have helped develop the cotton industry, according to experts.
Estimates show that about 70 percent of total cotton production is done in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The northern region of India produces short and medium staple cotton, and the southern region produces long staple cotton. The central region produces long and medium staples. Also the peak marketing season for the crop is during November to March.
The nodal agency of the government of India, the Cotton Corporation of India Limited (CCI), undertakes price support operations when prices of kapas (seed cotton) reaches support levels. It also purchases cotton to fulfil export requirements, and implements government missions to assist the cotton industry.
West Bengal was the birthplace of the hosiery industry in India. It includes small and medium enterprises and is decentralized, labour intensive, creates numerous jobs and is a foreign exchange grosser. Tirupur in Tamil Nadu is a major export hub for hosiery production. India produces top quality value-added cotton-based products and excels in exporting casual wear like T-shirts and skirts. Chief export destinations are the US, Spain, the UK, Germany and France.
By 2010 textile exports reached far and wide, including the US, UAE, UK UK , Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, Bangladesh and Japan. The abolition of import restrictions of the multi-fibre arrangement (MFA) since 1st January, 2005 under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Textiles and Clothing has made the market highly competitive. This will result in the production of better material with existing inputs available in the Indian market, analysts feel.
The textile industry is making forays in the technical textiles field from the usual clothing segment. Making up more than half of the total textile output the industry is moving vertically. Technical textiles need both expensive machinery as well as skilled workers. This sector encompasses applications like filtration, bed sheets and abrasive materials, healthcare upholstery and furniture, blood-absorbing materials and thermal protection, adhesive tape, seatbelts, and other specialized applications and products. These products have a huge export potential.
Being rich in raw materials, including cotton yarn, fibres like polyester, silk, viscose, jute, coir and so on, India has an advantageous position in spinning and all other processes making up the textile industry value chain. A huge skilled workforce working at lower wages adds to the advantage which makes Indian fabrics competitively priced.
India has 24 percent of the world’s share of spindles and is a big exporter of yarn, accounting for 25 percent of the cotton yarn trade globally. The apparel industry is also a significant foreign exchange earner, holding 12 percent of India’s export market. The diverse garment industry includes suppliers of ready-made garments serving both domestic and foreign markets.
The fast growing textile industry is sure to bring huge earnings for the country. The government’s regulatory policies have helped improve infrastructure in apparel parks, special textile parks, and Export Processing Zones. Government support has increased consumption of clothing and fabric and a single rate of material cost is used across India.
With more emphasis on growth in GDP, textile exports and employment opportunities, the Indian government has invested huge amounts in aiding the industry’s growth by developing better infrastructure and networking.
The newly modernized industry is reaping the benefits of a USD 5 billion investment in modern machinery. Big brands on the international arena, including Levis, Wal-Mart, JC Penny, GAP and Marks & Spencer are sourcing fabrics and garments from India, with Wal-Mart being a prominent buyer.
To develop the industry further it is necessary to open more retail outlets, produce more value added products, encourage workers to capitalize their capability to innovate more, provide market knowledge at every level of the supply chain, and increase training for the making of special technical textiles, assisted by continuous research and development.
Keeping tabs on the introduction of new accessories, employing a government owned cargo-shipping mechanism, rationalizing fiscal duties and improvement of technology via Technology Up-gradation Fund Scheme (TUFS), setting up more apparel parks, eliminating restrictive regulations and controlling raw material exports will also serve to develop the textile industry in India.
India has the distinction of being the second largest producer of raw cotton, cotton yarn, cellulosic fibre and silk, besides being the fourth largest producer of synthetic fibre and the largest producer of jute. As one of the largest textile industries in the world, the Indian industry covers the entire supply chain and delivers packaged products to customers comprising a variety of fibres, diverse count sizes and cloth of different weight and weave, besides finished garments.
Textile exports capable of building the country’s coffers need more encouragement. Upgrading technology, implementation of policy level decision-making to achieve export target, de-reservation of woven segment of ready-made garments and knitwear and liberalization of FDI policy, and various other measures will help increase exports further. Quality checking of laboratories and more international trade shows to promote Indian fabric in the international market will also serve the purpose, experts agree.
Indian manufacturers and suppliers are coming out with varying fabrics aimed at different global markets. The accolades received by Indian designers and the demand for Indian silk with its rich brocade work add spice to the industry.
Problems to be overcome
The growing demand for Indian cotton due to various reasons has led to increase in production which stands at over 37.5 million bales. Still some impediments occur. The fragmentation in the industry, leading to small scale companies, prevents the use of enhanced technology to drive production. The uneven supply base prevents integration between links in the supply chain. Small scale operations also reduce competitiveness. India’s geographic location poses a problem as shipping costs to reach western shores are higher compared to other countries like Mexico, Turkey and China.
The global textiles and clothing industry is earmarked to grow to USD 700 billion by 2012. After the expiry of the MFA, or the Multi-Fibre Arrangement, which governed the textile trade between nations, quota-free trading started which resulted in changes in the apparel and textile trade, such as the shifting of supply bases, reduction in sourcing prices and a re-orientation of the buyer-supplier relationship.
Whether it is denim from Arvind mills, silk from Kancheepuram, woolen from Ludhiana, knitwear from Mumbai or jute from West Bengal, India caters to every need and fancy of the global populace. India has come a long way from using mordant dyes and printing blocks in 3000 B.C. Its organic dyes, intricate designs churned out from manual looms, and product diversification have given a boost to the industry. Being a major contributor to the GDP, employment to rural areas and to the less privileged, and as a major contributor to industrial production and export, the textile industry has a bigger say in the future growth of the Indian economy.
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