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India Manufacturers Crossing Categories

India's home textiles exports to the United States boomed in 2005, thanks to the elimination of quota and the almost year-long uncertainty about whether safeguard caps would be leveled on Chinese-made goods.

Although India's year-over-year gains were not as staggering as those recorded by some other countries, it boosted exports to the U.S. significantly: cotton sheets up 57%, cotton pillowcases up 52% and terry towels up 24%.

The growth continues. In the first month of 2006, India again expanded its home textiles business in the U.S., according to preliminary data released last week by the U.S. Commerce Department's Office of Textiles and Apparel. January's imports from India were up 75% in cotton sheets, 56% in pillowcases, 68% in cotton terry towels, 85% in textile floor coverings and 232% in bedspreads/quilts.

But chief textiles rivals China and Pakistan are growing volumes even faster, and with manufacturers in all three countries still building out capacities, competition for share of the U.S. market promises to grow fiercer.

India's leading textiles manufacturers are moving briskly to set the pace. They are also adding new product categories as each seeks to become a more complete resource for the U.S. market.

Towel manufacturer Abhishek/Trident is installing sheeting equipment this year, and plans to add additional product categories thereafter with an eye toward becoming a one-stop shop by 2008. Its sheeting capacity will come on line in early 2007, and when fully operational will produce more than 1 million meters of fabric per day.

At the same time, Trident continues to boost its towel capacity. The mill recently completed a terry toweling expansion that pumped up capacity from 7.3 million pieces per month to 10 million. It will add 100 looms over the course of this year as well as a matching preparatory/processing house and finishing capacity.

Rival Welspun jumped into the sheeting business last year, opening a plant that can manufacture thread counts from 180 to 1,000 and handles bleached, dyed, printed, embroidered, flannel and yarn-dye constructions. It also can produce a variety of blends, including those employing cotton, silk, modal and linen, with various types of finishes, according to the company.

The accompanying cut-and-sew operation is almost 90% automated so that up to the folding process, there is minimal human handling.

It was a step forward in Welspun's plan to offer multiple product categories. The company also has acknowledged that it may boost growth through an acquisition, should the right opportunity present itself.

Sheet maker Alok Industries is ramping up product offerings as well. Alok will enter the bath business in mid-2006, just three years after launching into sheets. The mill is also in the process of setting up spinning capacities for certain specialty and high-count yarns.

Further, Alok is developing a wide range of cotton blankets, table linens and curtains. And the company is planning to open an office in New York.

The opening last year of a new backing plant propelled Faze 3's bath rug business and continues to do so. The company has been particularly successful in picking up new bath rug programs in the mass market, but also sees room for expansion in its blankets and throws business.

Sharadha greatly expanded business last year, making its MicroCotton branded terry towel a familiar better/best offering in department store and specialty store bath assortments.

This year, Sharadha is taking its zero-twist constructions in bedding into the mid-tier with a mid-price collection that will be branded as Dew. In addition to the ultra-soft hand in the product, Dew's shrink is just 5% to 6%, as opposed to the normal shrink on cotton bedding of 8% to 12%, according to the company.

One Indian company that is not yet among the leading finished product manufacturers but surely will be is Gujarat Heavy Chemicals (GHCL), which recently purchased U.S. legacy mill Dan River.

A spinning giant, GHCL is currently completing a state-of-art manufacturing facility at Vapi, India that is slated to start production by March — a move the company expects to make it one of the top three home textiles players in India. Most, if not all, of Dan River's U.S. production is expected to relocate to the new facility.

TOP MANUFACTURERS: INDIA

Company Name 2005 Exports to US (millions)
Source: HTT research
METHODOLOGY
Data for the International Top Manufacturers report series is compiled from published financial filings and analyst reports as well as through discussions with sources in the United States and overseas. In cases where no hard data was available, HTT used estimates based on market research.
1. Welspun $81
Added sheeting capacity last year as it builds toward multiple product category offerings, a strategy that could involve acquisitions.
2. Abhishek Industries/Trident 80
Sheeting facility under construction and slated to begin production in early 2007. Company plans to be a one-stop shop with multiple product categories in 2008.
3. Alok Industries 71
Entering the bath business this spring with completion of the new towel facility. Also developing blankets, table linens and curtains this year.
4. Sharadha 54
Towel placements up nicely in department store and specialty store bath assortments; introducing mid-tier/mid-price collection of zero-twist bedding.
5. Faze 3 48
Bath rug business growing rapidly, especially in the mass market, but also eyeing expansion in other product categories.


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