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Print edition : March 24, 2006

Micro Cotton towels manufactured by Sharadha Terry Products Ltd. -

The textile industry has picked up like never before.

IN 2004-05, India's textile industry, with a turnover of $25 billion, accounted for 20 per cent of the country's industrial output and 35 per cent of its gross export earnings.

After garments, home textiles constitute the next hot product in the sector. India is fast becoming a leader in the manufacture of home textiles because of the availability of cotton, traditional labour expertise, skilled labour and skills in designing. The financial difficulties faced by two of the world's largest home textile manufacturers, Pillotex and West Point Stevens in the U.S., and the closure of mills in Europe and Turkey opened up enormous opportunities for home textile manufacturers in India, especially Coimbatore. It led to a demand for 70,000 to 80,000 tonnes of towels in the market.

The terry towels manufactured by Sharadha Terry Products Limited (STPL) at Mettupalayam, near Coimbatore, under the brand name Micro Cotton, has become the rage in the U.S. and Europe. Although the towel is priced at $45 a piece, there is no dearth of buyers. G. Kannappan, the firm's chairman and managing director, says, "We are catering to the elite. We are not competing on prices." The towels are extremely light and fluffy, and absorb 250 per cent more moisture than their weight. Bedsheets and blankets are also produced under the Micro Cotton brand name at their associate company at Perunthurai in Erode district.

The Mettupalayam unit is a 100 per cent export-oriented one. It also makes beach towels, kitchen towels, bathrobes, bath rugs and institutional towels.

The unit, which began production in 1994 with 16 looms, has 128 looms now. "Our investment was Rs.250 crores on terry products alone. Only innovation keeps us afloat," Kannappan said. STPL received an award in December 2005 from leading market analysts M/s Frost and Sullivan for "manufacturing world class products".

Super Spinning Mills Limited of the Sara Elgi group, Coimbatore, is another star performer, both nationally and internationally. Sumanth Ramamurthi is its managing director. In the group's fold are Elgi Electric and Industries Limited, Sara Elgi Arteriors Limited, Elgi Building Products Limited, Sara Elgi Envirtech Limited and Sara Elgi Industrial Research and Development Limited. Super Spinning Mills not only exports yarn for knitting and weaving but produces T-shirts for Park Avenue, ColorPlus and Arrow. It exported garments to leading international labels such as Boccacio, Links and Pebble Beach.

The mill has three units for manufacturing yarn and a unit for producing knitted fabrics. The processing units can produce dyed yarn and fabric in a riot of colours. The three garment units of Sara Apparels and Fashions produce knitted T-shirts. "We plan to increase production from 10,000 pieces a day to 20,000 pieces a day in 12 months," K.R. Seethapathy, executive director, said.

Seethapathy added: "A special feature of Super Spinning Mills is its backward integration. We are engaged in contract farming. We develop cotton seeds and supply them to farmers. We give a fair price for the cotton grown by the farmers. We pay immediately. Our mills therefore get high-quality cotton." The mills produced organic shirts, made of cotton cultivated without using fertilizers.

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