Indian textile and apparel industry is one of the most significant focuses for many multinationals and some of these multinationals are investing in India as they strongly believe in ‘India’s Growth Story’. One such company is UK-based Coats, a 260-year-old world’s largest industrial thread company with a turnover of US $ 1.58 billion, having India operations for the last 145 years. The London Stock Exchange-listed company has mainly three manufacturing units in India (Madurai, Tamil Nadu; Panoli, Gujarat and Faridabad in Haryana) and recently unveiled its state-of-the-art sustainability hub in Madurai. Team Apparel Resources (AR) was in Madurai to have a first-hand feel of this hub. Rajiv Sharma, Group CEO, Coats who inaugurated this sustainability hub with industry stalwarts, is bullish about Coats’ growing operations and revenue in India. Along with the growing Indian textile markets, the growth is also largely supported by plenty of Coats’ sustainable initiatives.
India is highly important for Coats as the company’s one-third of global manufacturing capacity is in India, and as of now, India accounts for nearly 10 per cent of its global revenue. And the same is expected to be around 17 per cent in the next few years. Out of a total staff of 17,000 globally, Coats has a total team of 5,000 people in India.
“I am quite optimistic about India’s growth story. The Government of India has renewed focus on textile and apparel with many incentive schemes put in place. The overall impact is that textile and apparel industry is expanding. At the same time, few of the global footwear companies are investing in India,” says Rajiv who also believes that unlike Vietnam or Bangladesh which are majorly into exports, India’s growth will be mostly in domestic consumption. Indian consumers, especially young India, are aspirational and they like to spend.
In India, Coats caters to mainly apparel exporters, domestic garment manufacturers and tailors spread across the country. Globally, 50 per cent of the company’s revenue comes from apparel and 25 per cent from the footwear industry, which is mainly Asia-centric. Rest 25 per cent is from performance materials which is largely EU- and US-centric.
Material transition strategy – recycled and renewable material is in focus
Coats’ innovation hub in Madurai is the first sustainability hub in India and this spinning and twisting pilot plant will further progress the company’s sustainability commitment. The company already has three large innovation hubs in China, Turkey and in the US.
And this newly established Indian hub will sit alongside the Coats Sustainability Hub in Shenzhen China, accelerating the material transition to recycled and renewable materials. The two hubs will work together to innovate new-generation materials for sustainable sewing threads for apparel, footwear and performance materials.
In future, the hub will also explore innovations with raw material like corn starch, banana and other waste material. Vegan dyes are also another thing on the radar.
This hub is part of a US $ 10 million investment planned over the next five years in scaling up the development of green technologies and materials to accelerate the achievement of Coats’ ambitious sustainability targets.
“We chose Madurai as a hub because we have the best talent here, best-spinning facilities and easy access to all kinds of raw material,” says Rajiv. This sustainability hub boasts a capacity of about 75 kg of samples every day.
It also has the infrastructure to process multiple fibres, blends and high-performance fibres like aramids. It has IOT-enabled machines and hence very less mechanical intervention is required to manage the machines to produce multiple samples.
With all available resources and the focus of the company, the hub will support customers and other stakeholders in creating sustainability in the industry, enabling Coats to streamline sustainability innovation, enhance brand collaborations and facilitate faster sustainable product offers and market entry capabilities
Less water and more recycled polyester
Sustainability is at the core of Coats and it has set a target to reduce emissions by 50 per cent in this decade and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. And its recently issued sustainability report also shows that the company is on the right track to achieve its sustainability targets.
Water saving is another big concern for Coats’ as to make one kg of thread, it uses around 150 litres of water and Coats manufactures this quantity every three hours, so its focus revolves around water conservation. Waterless dyeing is also very much on the radar of Coats. It has also invested in an Israeli start-up that is trying out waterless dyeing.
“The material transition journey is fundamental to the delivery of Coats’ emissions reduction targets. Historically, 95 per cent of raw materials are oil-based plastic fibres. But we are clear to have zero products from virgin oil-based materials by 2030,” avers Rajiv.
The company is highly enthusiastic about the sales of its recycled polyester-based thread as Rajiv informs, “We started with recycled polyester-based thread in 2019 and did about US $ 2 million of sales that year. But last year, we did about US $ 128 million of the same, US $ 250 this year and we want to get to about US $ 400 million next year.”
Coats is expanding the use of recycled polyester from drinks bottles. Using recycled fibres extends the life of the polymers and reduces CO2 emissions in the fibres by 40 per cent. Coats has recycled 723,986,816 PET bottles that have produced 10,790,848 kg of Ecoverde products and this has saved 567 MN MJ of energy and avoided 16,833 tonnes of Co2.
Rajiv believes that the last century was all about oil while this century is all about water. Everyone is now focused on reducing the water intensity and one can see technological breakthroughs in the textile industry in the next few years where the same product can be produced with less than half of the water. Coats in the last four years has reduced water consumption by 40 per cent.
He firmly says that Coats is an organisation where it in the DNA of the company to do the right thing and be sustainable and make sure that the impact is felt on the society while ensuring revenue growth.
“Sustainability is here to stay and is now becoming a licence to operate,” concludes Rajiv.
Coats’ new products in 2023
Going forward, sustainable aspects will reflect strongly in Coats’ newer products as the same in 2023 include Eloflex Eco Verde (recycle stretch thread), Surfilor Eco Verde (recycled nylon textured thread), Dabond Eco Verde (bonded recycled polyester thread) and Bio Nylon PA 11 thread (100 per cent bio-based).
Stalwarts at the inauguration
Planet, consumer and legislation are three major aspects of sustainability. Consumers are young and becoming more aspirational day by day, legislations across the globe are going to be stringent, so innovation is going to be key to decarbonisation. Sustainability can make business better and the more sustainable a company is, more are the opportunities there. Adrian Elliot, CEO, Apparel Division, Coats
From raw materials to processing, cut-make-trim to retail, there are a lot of opportunities for innovations and innovative solutions are critical on the road to net zero. Innovative solutions like accelerating next-generation materials, coal phase-out: dry processing and material efficiency need to be focused upon. Priyanka Khanna, Head of Asia Expansion, Fashion for Good
Sustainability is and will continue to remain ‘work in progress’ at ABFRL. We believe to simplify sustainability and are committed to giving back more than what we take from the eco system. In sustainability 2.0, we have a product-centric approach with a focus on product design and development, customer centricity and supply chain in line with lifecycle thinking. Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited
We follow the 5Rs of Sustainability (Production models and waste management): Rethink, Reduce, Recycle, Recover and Reuse. We reduced 58 per cent GHC emissions from 2016 to 2022. Less than 10 percent freshwater is used in composite operations (spinning to finishing). Our thrust is also on the use of sustainable materials like we use more than 50 per cent BCI cotton, man-made sustainable fibres-Lyocell, Ecovero, Refibra, recycled polyester etc. Arvind Mathur, CEO, Raymond UCO Denim