India Calling

By Karen McIntryre, Senior Editor | August 7, 2013

Investment continues in India as the industry looks for the next hot growth area

The nonwovens industry of India is under a spotlight. Industry watchers are paying close attention to this large Asian country, trying to determine if it will follow its larger neighbor to the North, China, in terms of investment growth and consumer acceptance of nonwovens-related products.

And, if early indications prove to be true, India will surely become an important force in the global nonwovens industry in the near future. Already, many major North American and European companies have established roots there and a number of local producers have cropped up.

These manufacturers are surely seeking to capitalize on the overwhelming growth predicted for India, where U.S. government sources predict that the gross domestic product (GDP) will grow 10% per year to reach $7 trillion by 2016. As consumers increase their incomes, and by extension, their buying power, it is expected that more of them will opt for disposable diapers, feminine hygiene items and other disposable goods. At the same time, a move toward industrialization will require infrastructure improvements that will warrant the use of geotextiles, more advanced filtration systems and other technical nonwovens.

The Big Guns

Perhaps the most buzzed-about nonwovens investment is that from Global Nonwovens Ltd., which announced last year it would add a 20,000-ton spunmelt line in Nashik, India with a planned start up for mid-2014 and a second line tentatively planned for 2016.

According to Global Nonwovens executive Anubhav Poddar, the line will supply multilayer nonwoven fabrics to the international hygiene, medical, and industrial markets. “This plant will be the most advanced nonwoven plant in India and utilize the latest state of the art manufacturing technology and equipment from Europe,” he says.

Poddar adds that the line will largely serve the domestic market following the investment of international hygiene product manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, who has reportedly embarked on a $1 billion investment plan in the country and expects to start making diapers there next year.

While Global Nonwovens can take credit for the first major spunmelt expansion in India, local producer Ginni Filaments has been running a successful spunlace operation there for more than five years and has also forward integrated into wipes manufacturing, supplying baby care and other products to private label customers.

Low levels of penetration in both absorbent goods and disposable wipes will certainly mean growth for companies like Global Nonwovens and Ginni Filaments but there success could soon be challenged by western investment as companies in Europe and North America monitor this growth closely.

Betting on India

Currently, India represents only about 6% of the Asian nonwovens industry and so far the country has not benefitted from the rapid rate of investment seen by China or some other Asian countries. Still, many western companies are betting that India will experience strong growth moving forward.

One of these companies is Fiberweb. The London-based company acquired a controlling interest in its Terram joint venture company in June in a £2 million investment. According to George Hamilton, marketing and communications specialist, reports that India is a natural fit for Fiberweb. “We’ve been building customer numbers in India and the region for some time so it has long been part of the plan to increase our investment in the areas,” he says. “India also provides an attractive cost base, enabling us to deliver excellent quality materials at competitive prices for our customers.”

Fiberweb established Terram India in 2012 with a geotextile spunbond line, which was relocated from Fiberweb’s Terram operations in the U.K. The unique Terram spunbond process produces strong, lightweight geotextiles and has long been a key component in many leading geocomposites, being utilized as a trusted element in road, rail and building foundations, as well as many other construction projects. According to Fiberweb, the line is currently supplying Fiberweb in the UK along with several Fiberweb customers in the Middle East, South America, Asia and Africa and is well placed to deliver strategic benefit from the growing Indian market.

According to Hamilton, India is investing strongly in its infrastructure to support rapid economic development which has involved the growing use of geotextiles and geocomposites. “The domestic technical fabrics industry is developing rapidly,” he says. “The result is very high quality raw materials being produced locally to support this growing market.”

In fact, Textile Inteligence, the U.K.-based newsletter dedicated to the technical fabrics industry, last year dedicated a special report to the textile and clothing industry of India. In this report, it was estimated that India’s domestic market will be worth $140 billion by 2020 as the population increases and consumers become wealthier. This huge growth will provide opportunities for both foreign investors and domestic companies.”

Also benefitting from a growing geosynthetics market in India is Oerlikon Neumag, which in March sold an inline plant with 12 spinning positions for the production of staple fibers for geotextiles to an Indian company. The order includes the complete machine equipment from spinning to baling including engineering and services of supervision for erection and commissioning.

“Geotextiles is a very promising market for our short spinning inline plants which perfectly suits the needs of nonwoven producers who intend to make their own specialized staple fibers,” says Clement Woon, CEO of Oerlikon Textile.

“For Oerlikon Neumag, this project is a great opportunity in an interesting market with an excellent growth potential,” says Rainer Straub, head of sales, Oerlikon Neumag.

Filtration Growth Attracts Investment

As infrastructural improvements and industrialization warrant the needs for more sophisticated filtration systems, a number of western companies have been focusing on India either through joint ventures, acquisitions or greenfield sites. As air quality becomes a concern and so does the need for clean drinking water, new filtration companies are becoming commonplace within the Indian nonwovens industry.

Take for example, Hollingsworth & Vose. The Massachusettes-based filtration specialist formed a joint venture with Nath Group two years ago to establish a manufacturing site in India. The plan included the construction of a new mill near Aurangabad, Maharashtra which will be financed by both companies as well as warehousing facilities to better serve customers currently importing H&V products. The new mill can produce the highest standards of water- and solvent-based engine filter media, as well as selected products for HVAC filtration and battery separator applications.

“H&V has been actively building our relationships and presence in India for many years,” said CEO Val Hollingsworth at the time of the investment. “We are pleased to be taking this next step forward to better serve our customers in India and the surrounding region.

Before making the investment, Hollingsworth, along with his senior executive team, contemplated a number of options for expanding into India. “Like H&V, Nath is a family-owned, professionally managed company with a long term view and a commitment to technology,” he says. “This investment, like our investments in China, is part of our strategy to serve our customers globally.”

The joint venture agreement has helped H&V meet demand in India for high quality engine and industrial filtration products is significant and growing.

Germany’s Freudenberg Filtration Technologies took the acquisition route to expanding in India when it acquired Pyramid Filters. Based in Pune, India, Freudenberg Filtration Technologies India provides high-efficient industrial and automotive filter elements and systems, as well as globally patented system solutions for capacity and efficiency enhancement in gas turbines and compressors. Pyramid Filters develops and produces air filter elements and systems for cleanroom applications in the pharmaceutical, medical, food and chemical industries. In 2010, Pyramid Filters generated sales of several million euros.

“Founded in 1998, Pyramid Filters enjoys an excellent reputation in India, thanks to a comprehensive HEPA filter range and renowned services,” says Andreas Kreuter, managing director of the global Freudenberg Filtration Technologies Group. “Based on Pyramid’s strong market position, we will be able to add new products to our already broad portfolio and offer our customers further services.”

Kirti Kelkar, founder and director of Pyramid Filters India Pvt., says, “We are glad to have found in Freudenberg Filtration Technologies a partner with whom we can jointly develop world class cleanroom filtration solutions. Our existing customers will benefit from Freudenberg Filtration Technologies’ expertise in application engineering and their position as one of the global technological leaders in filtration.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Industries, an expert in baghouse filtration, started a converting operation in India in 2012 and has been supplying this site with needlepunched nonwovens made in India. The company expects to diversify into nonwovens manufacturing at the site in the next two to three years.

“There are tremendous growth opportunities in India due to massive growth in infrastructure throughout the country,” says spokesman John Lewis. “This internal growth, along with tighter emission standards, demand a high quality, reputable filter bag producer such as Andrew.”

In the next two to three years, Andrew intends to add needlepunch manufacturing equipment in India but until then the site will be supplied by the Chinese operation.

Meanwhile, in China, Andrew expects its new spunlace line at its Wuxi facility to be operational in early 2014 when it will enable the company to offer new innovative high efficiency media.

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