• Jennifer Marks

FIT Honoree: Welspun Lauded for Transformation

When Welspun Global Products is honored at today's FIT Scholarship Breakfast as the Leader in Product Innovation and Marketing, the honor will cap a remarkable decade of transformation for the India-based mill.

When the home textiles producer opened its first, modest New York showroom in 2000 at 295 Fifth Avenue, Welspun was just one of several off-shore towel makers looking for a spot in the U.S. market. With an eye toward the elimination of quota in 2005, Welspun steadily built its business — initially as a supplier to U.S. mills, then steadily branching out to retail-direct programs as it simultaneously scaled up its manufacturing capacity.

Today, Welspun is the third largest home textiles supplier in the United States market, with more than $400 million in business last year. It is also the largest supplier of towels and third largest supplier of sheets.

Its product range also includes fashion bedding, blankets, quilts/coverlets, bath rugs, utility bedding and bath robes. Its acquisitions during the decade of upmarket U.K. towel manufacturer Christy and high-end Portuguese bath rug manufacturer Sorema gave it grounding in the European market. The opening three years ago of a bedding manufacturing plant in Mexico provided the launch pad into the South American market.

The debut of designer Amy Butler in 2008 and embrace of the full Nautica home textiles roster last year spearheaded its push into branded business.

Through the third quarter of the fiscal year, total sales for the global business were up 37% year-to-date, according to the company's quarterly financial statement. Sales for the quarter jumped 40%, driven by a 65% boost to its sheet business and a 19% rise in the towel segment.

“We believe that by adhering to environment sustenance, coupled with the dedication of our colleagues, we are on our way to become one of the largest home textile companies in the world,” said Rajesh Mandawewala, joint managing director.

Part of the $3 billion Welspun Group in India — whose businesses also include the manufacturing of line pipes and steel, oil and gas exploration and strategic investments — the home textiles unit plans further investments. Toweling capacity is to expand to 4,500 tons on an annual basis, sheets to 7.5 million meters and bath rugs to two million by fiscal year 2011. As part of the company's sustainability, Welspun is also planning to build an effluent treatment plant at Vapi and enhance the capacity of a similar plant in Anjar.

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