The present times demand all the industries to innovate and be relevant in the fight against the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Even as the frontline warriors are diligently performing their duties towards the society, a number of firms are working to innovate and help them with basics like PPE, masks and other healthcare apparels.
In the same endeavour, Donear Group has proved that the firm is one of the market leaders in innovation and excellence, as it has been supplying specialty anti-microbial fabrics to multiple brands, both domestic and abroad, and has now launched NEO TECH® technology wherein the products are high quality, utilitarian and have a shield against bacteria and viruses alike. The technology is developed by the Donear Group and perfected by brand GRADO at its manufacturing units.
Apparel Resources had an exclusive conversation with Rahul Rajendra Agarwal, Director, Donear Group, about the intricacies of this technology and also the way forward for the firm.
Elucidate on the NEO TECH® technology and the rationale behind launching this.
Rahul: NEO TECH® is the culmination of extensive efforts in research and development, done with the intention of bringing a paradigm shift in the Indian textile industry. Post the acquisition of GBTL (formerly known as Grasim Suiting) and OCM, the Donear Group formally carved a niche for an R&D wing – and that was the advent of the NEO TECH® Center of Excellence.
The Group has been a pioneer in introducing a lot of innovative products in the market in the past as well with products such as Streeza (4-way stretch fabric), Ice-touch (making you 5 degrees cooler) and Uncrushables (for wrinkle resistance) amongst others, which are continuing to fare extremely well.
However, in the wake of COVID-19, a cross-functional/cross-discipline team was formed with industry stalwarts, illustrious chemical suppliers and technological institutions, with a goal to develop fabrics that are high quality, utilitarian and have a shield against bacteria and viruses alike. The fabric is revolutionary and has been certified by top laboratories such as NABL accredited Bio Tech Services. In addition to the anti-microbial collection, NEO TECH® Center of Excellence has also incubated a host of different performance products which are set to change the game of fabric as well as apparel industry.
What are the different range of products being manufactured using this technology? What are their USPs?
Rahul: Leveraging NEO TECH® techniques, the Donear Group has developed specially designed anti-viral and anti-bacterial fabrics that inhibit the growth and retention of micro-organisms, making them safe and hygienic. NEO TECH® anti-viral fabrics have been certified safe to wear and can be used for any kind of garment – suits, jackets, trousers. These fabrics retain their properties up to even 50 washes and are suited for everyday wear. A clear extension based on the need-of-the-hour was PPE kits and masks which we wholly dived into.
Also Read: What goes into making a body coverall?
Donear Group developed a unique fabric for PPE coveralls that are lightweight, breathable, have anti-microbial, anti-fungal and blood repellent properties. More importantly, it can be reused in our local municipalities/communities and for healthcare workers. This fabric can be customised for coveralls, aprons, ponchos, protective wear for commuters, etc. This fabric is certified by SITRA for blood penetration as per ASTM 1670 standards.
The Donear Group – Donear, GRADO by GBTL (GBTL was formerly known as GRASIM) and OCM – have also ventured into manufacturing PPE products using NEO TECH® technology, under their ranges – CARETEX, PROTEX and SHIELDTEX respectively, offering PPE kits, masks, sanitisers, face shields and healthcare apparels. These have also been approved by the Government authorised labs.
Understanding the need of the healthcare segment, the Group has also developed specialised fabrics with anti-microbial and blood repellent finish. These fabrics are made with NEO TECH® technology, and are especially for PPE coveralls. One of the USPs of these coveralls is that they are reusable. Another USP is the comfort factor for wearer, which is why the fabric is made with a breathable water-proof chemical.
What is the process that goes under for getting certifications for producing PPE kits?
Rahul: There are only nine labs approved by the Ministry of Textiles for getting PPE coveralls and fabrics tested in the country. Our fabrics and coveralls are tested separately at the Government-approved labs. The product goes through stringent blood penetration tests as per ASTM 1670/ISO 16603 standards. Once approved, the company gets a unique identification code for their product that can be used by them for authenticity.
Elucidate on the overall process of manufacturing a specialised product like PPE kit.
Rahul: In the beginning of this year, our country hardly had any infrastructure or expertise to produce PPE products. However, in the past 3 months, as a nation, we have ramped up our production and become the second largest PPE coverall producers in the world.
We have made sure that throughout manufacturing, extra precautions are taken by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and gloves while in production lines. A technical specialty one needs to produce these kits is the usage of heat seam sealing machines to bind the stitched seams. Another important factor is the use of right base fabric which is water-proof but at the same time breathable and lightweight. These are some measures we have actively taken across the supply chain to ensure the safety of our employees, and the superiority and quality of our product.
What will be your distribution or retail strategy for these product categories?
Rahul: For our PPE product range, we are engaging with medical distributors. We are also approaching hospitals/medical care facilities directly and through our established network of agents. For our NEO TECH® anti-viral fabrics, we are using the current distribution network of our group companies to supply to end-consumers and institutions alike.
How are these product categories priced like?
Rahul: We have launched a range of non-surgical fashion masks with NEO TECH® technology which have anti-microbial and water repellent finish on the outer layer and anti-microbial finish in the inner layer. We are making different variants such as – a pack of three of single layer, 2-layer and 3-layer masks. The pack is affordably priced at Rs. 99 for single layer pack of three, Rs. 189 for 2-layer pack of three and Rs.229 for 3-layer pack of three.
What are your plans in terms of such technological innovations in the days to come?
Rahul: We have always believed in staying relevant and providing with solutions to our customers. We will continue striving to make more technological breakthroughs for the benefit of consumers and to meet the evolving needs of tomorrow.
How is it helping the firm in revenue generation or what is the speculated revenue generation from this range, at a time when businesses are going under due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown?
Rahul: Since the launch of our NEO TECH® and PPE products, we have received strong support and acceptance by our trade partners. We will see the actual conversion into sales once the lockdown is lifted and there is movement of goods.