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According to Arash Nikookhesal, the Nikoogroup became the first Iranian producer of thermobonded coverstock material and hydroentangled nonwovens after its search for new market opportunities and innovations led it to the technology. “Iran, with a population of 80 million, is a very good potential market for all kinds of nonwovens,” he said. “There is still a lot of room for expansion in this market.”
Much of this expansion is taking place internationally. Ten years ago, when it began exporting, Nikoogroup mainly targeted Europe including Italy, Germany and France and soonafter expanded into eastern and central European countries like Russia and the Ukraine as well as Turkey. “Latin America is our next target. We are just starting with Brazil and hope to expand to Argentina and Mexico,” Mr. Nikookhesal said.
The company installed its first nonwovens line, a thermobonding machine, 17 years ago and invested in a second line four years later. In 2004, Abharris diversified into spunlaced nonwovens with one line; two years later, two more spunlace lines were added at the MBNT subsidiary. Currently, the company can make 7000 tons of thermobonded nonwovens, 19,000 tons of spunlace and 10,000 tons of ADL material.
Mr. Nikookhesal gave two reasons for choosing spunlace and thermobonding and more recently ADL as its nonwovens competencies. For one, the company already makes a number of synthetic fibers including staple polypropylene and polyester and bicomponents fibers, which are mainly exported to Europe. As a raw material supplier to its nonwovens business, Nikoogroup has the opportunity to be innovative and quickly produce new products to the market. Additionally, the company’s expertise in yarn spinning gave it exposure to the high growth market of nonwovens. “In the last 20 years, our main expansion targets became nonwovens,” Mr. Nikookhesal said. “We started with a thermobonding line and still believe nonwovens is the first choice for investment and expansion in the textile industry.”
In recent years, Nikoogroup’s exposure in hygiene influenced the company to focus on antibacterial technology. Because existing antibacterial products used chemicals that wore away after washing and were generally not based on natural ingredients, Nikoogroup began focusing on nanotechnology using silver to create antibacterial agents. “The nano silver that is present in our products is Ag pure, which is harmless to the human body and skin and preferred to colloidal silver. Our nano silver products are permanently antibacterial and with negligible release of nano particles. Because the nano silver particles are trapped inside the structure of fibers. Fabrics using the technology are ideal for disposable products like diapers or medical fabrics as well as durables like automotives, filtration, food and drug packaging, cosmetic applications, furniture, padding wall papering and tea bags,” Mr. Nikookhesal said.