Winter warm­ers

With chilly winter winds ush­er­ing them­selves in, it is time for the wool­lens to make a warm ap­pear­ance! Bindu Gopal Rao sur­veys the woollen wear mar­ket of the na­tion to find out what keeps it tick­ing and thriv­ing.

Apparel - - Contents -

If there is one ma­te­rial that you can­not do without in the winters, it is wool. In­dia’s woollen wear in­dus­try is com­ing into fo­cus in a big way today; thus ben­e­fit­ing ev­ery­body—the pro­duc­ers, re­tail­ers and cus­tomers.

MAR­KET MAT­TERS

The woollen in­dus­try in the coun­try is R 10,000 crores in size and is broadly di­vided and scat­tered be­tween the or­gan­ised and de­cen­tralised sec­tors. Though the woollen wear mar­ket in In­dia is smaller as com­pared to the cot­ton or man-made fi­bre tex­tiles sec­tors, it plays an im­por­tant role in link­ing the ru­ral econ­omy of the coun­try to the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try. “The woollen wear mar­ket has been grow­ing at a healthy CAGR of 13 per­cent since 2007. How­ever, with in­creased wool prices ow­ing to the growth in global de­mand and a weak­en­ing ru­pee, wool im­port in In­dia has be­come more ex­pen­sive, lead­ing to un­fore­seen dis­tur­bances in the growth,” ex­plains Swapan Dutta, Pres­i­dent Re­tail, Monte Carlo Fash­ions Ltd. But the mar­ket is def­i­nitely look­ing up as per a re­cent re­port of ‘Na­tional Fi­bre Pol­icy’ (Min­istry of Tex­tiles) that states that in the next decade, con­sump­tion (pro­duc­tion + im­ports) of raw wool is es­ti­mated to dou­ble from 114.2 mil­lion kg in 2008-09 to 260.8 mil­lion kg by 2019-20. “We have seen winter wear in In­dia grow by leaps and bounds in the re­cent past, as ear­lier peo­ple were not so fash­ion con­scious and winter dress­ing was more of a ne­ces­sity. Today, it has be­come a must to dress fash­ion­ably even dur­ing the winter months. This aware­ness is boost­ing the sale of woollen wear in In­dia,” opines Sreyasee Halder, De­sign Head – W. Ac­cord­ing to Heena Mal­ho­tra, De­signer, Ch­habra 555, “The woollen mar­ket has deep roots in In­dia; the ini­tial de­signs and pat­terns were in­spired by folk art and cul­ture but it has seen a hu­mon­gous change with the course of time.”

IN­DUS­TRY CEN­TRES

The wool in­dus­try in the coun­try is small in size and widely scat­tered. Lud­hi­ana is the hub for most of the woollen wear that is pro­duced in the coun­try, with the best of brands sourc­ing and de­vel­op­ing their prod­ucts from here. Hi­machal Pradesh and Pun­jab, too, are some of the best places to source woollen wear in In­dia. The woollen wear in­dus­try is grow­ing strong in the States of Haryana, Ra­jasthan, Ut­tar Pradesh, Ma­ha­rash­tra and Gu­jarat as well, and the sale of woollen ap­parel is be­com­ing ter­ri­tory-spe­cific too. “For in­stance, if you go to­wards the south, there is a de­mand for lighter woollen wear or gar­ments made out of cot­ton,” says Ra­jiv Mehra, Di­rec­tor, Styleever.com.

THE OB­STA­CLES TO OVER­COME

The in­dus­try suf­fers from in­ad­e­quate and out­dated pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties. The ca­pac­ity of pro­duc­ing qual­ity prod­ucts, es­pe­cially fully-fash­ioned, com­put­erised knitwear is avail­able only at limited cen­tres. Even though fac­to­ries are im­port­ing com­put­erised knit­ting ma­chines from Ja­pan and other coun­tries, the man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­ity is still far less com­pared to China and Bangladesh. Qual­ity upgra­da­tion and fab­ric de­vel­op­ment in women’s western woollen wear is an area with enor­mous po­ten­tial for the mills to ex­plore as the pro­duc­tion of wool in the coun­try is not suf­fi­cient to meet the de­mand of the ap­parel sec­tor. “With raw wool prices hav­ing ap­pre­ci­ated 25 per­cent in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, the ru­pee de­val­u­a­tion has added to the woes, push­ing up the landed price of raw wool in In­dia. Hence, there has been a shift in im­ports—from fine qual­ity wool to low qual­ity wool in re­cent years. The other chal­lenges in­clude lack of proper govern­ment poli­cies and ini­tia­tive in de­vel­op­ing the wool sec­tor,” says Mehra. “How­ever, In­dia does have the ad­van­tage of be­ing a labour driven coun­try, and man­u­fac­tur­ing hand flat knit­ted winter wear is still very pop­u­lar, and is of­ten use­ful to create cost ef­fec­tive prod­ucts,” says Halder.

THE ROAD AHEAD

With the cost of raw wool hav­ing risen con­sid­er­ably, there is a lot of fo­cus on cre­at­ing new yarn blends like acrylic polyamide, vis­cose polyamide and wool modal. “Cur­rently the R&D ac­tiv­i­ties un­der­taken are not at par; they need to be up­graded in or­der to ren­der tech­ni­cal and trou­bleshoot­ing ser­vices with ref­er­ence to se­lec­tion of raw ma­te­rial, con­trol­ling var­i­ous ad­just­ing equip­ments, re­duc­ing the cost of pro­duc­tion and im­prov­ing the qual­ity of prod­uct,” says Man­noj Mehrra, CMD, Study By Janak Pvt Ltd. There have also been var­i­ous re­search and de­vel­op­ment mea­sures im­ple­mented to mod­ernise the pre-loom and post-loom fa­cil­i­ties for en­sur­ing qual­ity fin­ished prod­ucts. “Our prod­uct de­vel­op­ment on wool ap­parel is in four ma­jor cat­e­gories— Sport, Baby, Ur­ban and Ap­parel Care. In gen­eral, the in­dus­try is look­ing for green man­u­fac­tur­ers to meet the con­sumers’ de­mands. Aus­tralian Wool In­no­va­tion (AWI) is keen to pro­mote the nat­u­ral fi­bre—Merino wool in the In­dian mar­ket in the com­ing years,” says a spokesper­son from The Wool­mark Com­pany (TWC). AWI/TWC is pro­mot­ing wool as a tran­si­tional fi­bre, warm in winters and cool in sum­mers. This year Monte Carlo has in­tro­duced a new and very high/lux­ury range/prod­ucts made from 16 GSM cash wool, im­ported from Italy. “As a lead­ing do­mes­tic man­u­fac­turer and en­joy­ing a large cus­tomer base, our R&D ac­tiv­i­ties are fo­cused to­wards en­hanc­ing the feel of the gar­ment, im­prov­ing di­men­sional sta­bil­ity and re­duc­ing pil­ing,” opines Dutta.

THE SHIFT FROM TRA­DI­TIONAL WAYS AND METH­ODS HAS LED TO THE EMER­GENCE OF NEW TRENDS LIKE IN­TRO­DUC­TION OF NEWER YARNS AND IN­NO­VA­TIVE VALUE AD­DI­TIONS.

Adds Mal­ho­tra, “Ev­ery year R&D ac­tiv­i­ties are ini­ti­ated by the govern­ment for the bet­ter­ment of the wool in­dus­try. Cost re­duc­tion, qual­ity and pro­duc­tiv­ity are some of the agen­das that have been given pref­er­ence dur­ing the talks.” With clever dis­cre­tion and stronger in­tia­tives, the woollen wear mar­ket of the coun­try can def­i­nitely be turned around so as to emerge as one of the main com­po­nents that make up the eco­nomic back­bone of the coun­try.

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