BoF December 2009: Armed with a masters in business administration, he started his career with the oil industry. He switched tracks to move into the textile sector within 4 years, and since then, there has been no looking back. Aamir Akhtar is currently the chief executive officer - denim (fabrics) - Arvind Mills, a $600 million group. Arvind is one of the largest textile companies of Asia, and among the top three denim manufacturers in the world. Akhtar answers a few questions...
I consider myself truly lucky to be a part of the textile industry. This is true for all of us who are associated with the fashion and lifestyle industry. After all, we are not in the business of manufacturing fabric or garments, we are in the business of fulfilling aspirations and hopes!! Our products, to innovate on which we are doing new things everyday, satisfy the consumers’ need of looking good, looking contemporary, as against people in industries who churn out the same products day in and day out. Our products are not inanimate–they have touch, feel, and life.
India is a great country. Ours is one of the four oldest civilisations in the world. We have a 5,000 years old textile heritage. We used to export cottton and indigo 4,000 years ago to Babylon (now in Iraq) and Egypt. At times, I jokingly say we are in the world’s second oldest profession! What a great past, and I am confidant, our country has a great future too. Globally, the textile industry is close to US $500 billion. It is growing at approximately 5 per cent annually. India currently has approximately 10 per cent share of this, which is around US $50 billion. Out of this, approximately 60 per cent is domestic business and 40 per cent is exports. The textile industry contributes 4 per cent to the GDP of India and it is the second largest employer after agriculture. It provides direct employment to about 35 million people. Among natural fibre growing nations, we are either first, second, or third. We are the largest producers of jute, the second largest producer of cotton (this year we will produce a record 30 million bales), and third largest producer of silk.
Till the recent past, we were mere converters for the world. Business was decided based on quotas and quantitative restrictions. Since 2005, the textile world has become a level playing field. Now is the time for the industry to invest in design, brand building and cutting edge technology. This will assure us of our place in the sun that we so rightfully deserve. Here’s wishing all brethren in the industry a great future. Now, for some facts and figures:
The underlying theme running across the broad spectrum of all business activities at Arvind is that of enhancing the lifestyle of people across all diversities and demographics. To serve that end, the corporate vision for Arvind states: “We will enable people to experience a better quality of life by providing, enriching, and inspiring lifestyle solutions.”
Denim: Did you know that Arvind denim has an annual capacity of 120 million meters, the position of the third largest producer of denim in the world, and an export network of 70 countries worldwide. We expect to do Rs 1,000 crore in 2009-10. About 55-60 per cent of the quantity being produced currently is exported. Prominent products in this category include ring denim, indigo voiles, organic denim, bi-stretch denim and fair trade certified denim. This is apart from regular light, medium and heavy weight denims. They come in various shades of indigo, sulphur, yarn-dyed, in 100 per cent cotton and various blends.
With a discerning clientele that includes Gap, VF Corporation, Levi Strauss, Abercrombie and Fitch, Calvin Klein to name a few, Arvind has to stay fashionably ahead. Our designers based out of Japan, Europe and the USA create trendsetting collections for the season, ensuring that heads keep turning for the Arvind name. Good from the outside and from within is the hallmark of a good product. Denim from Arvind offers reliability, quality and value-addition through services like shrink-film wrapping, barcoded labeling of rolls, providing washed and unwashed shade blankets with every order, besides faster documentation. The facilities of Arvind Denim are accredited with ISO 9001, ISO 14001, Oekotex 100, Gots, Organic Exchange Standard, FLO for fair trade and Lycra Assured. The labs are accredited by Dupont, Levi Strauss. Further, there’s excellent infrastructure, state-of-art technology and a dedicated customer counselling team that continuously resolves quality issues and provides the desired wash results. Arvind also has in place an effluent treatment facility, which recycles waste water and converts denim waste to denim paper, in keeping with their eco-friendly production process.
As one of the largest producers of denim in the world, Arvind caters to quality markets of Europe, US, West Asia, the Far East and the Asia Pacific.
At Arvind, we innovate every single day to collaborate with our customers to offer the latest in technology, design, trend and fashion to the denim wearer. We map and provide focused set of products to each market. Some of these are outlined as follows:
- Kato (Japanese denim line): Kato brings in the authentic attributes of denim in his collections, fabrics mostly made on the shuttle loom and with selvedge. For s/s 2011, we have workwear cast in neppy selvedge denim, indigo with indigo-dyed Fill-and-Glen checks denim to name a few. His collection serves as early directions for all brands.
- ADL (American Denim Lab): The ADL line is specifically for the US brands. The s/s 2011 collection has special attractions in the form of colour denims, indigos with colour fills and summer lights in excel along with the authentic core line
- Euroline (European denim line): The Euroline is specifically for the brand needs in Europe. The s/s 2011 collection has an introduction of four new indigo shades omega, grey cast indigo, oil authentic blue cast indigo, tribe–green cast indigo and clan–petrol blue indigo, all in fine subtle slubs in compact construction.
- Metro (Indian denim line): The metro line is designed by Arvind’s in-house design team specifically for Indian brands. The collection has the flavour of a true Indian denim. For the coming season, we have a set of fine coated products and a big set of power stretches for jeggings in indigo and black. We have also recently launched a collection in Excel called Excelush in collaboration with Birla Cellulose.
Excelush is a super soft, lustrous and bouncy denim fabric. It is made from a highly refined eco-friendly and sophisticated process after scientific research and development conducted at Birla Research Institute.
- New washes, treatments: We wash our collections in laundries around the world, including LA, Italy, Turkey, Korea, Japan and in our own lab in Ahmedabad. Some of the new washes we are doing presently have crispy raw touch, naturally worn/used look, good localised abrasion, extreme contrast of high and low where some areas still show the depth of colour even after heavy washing, a comeback of acid wash look, fully wash out look with dirty areas.
- New colours: In the indigo family, one can expect green cast indigo, grey cast indigo, greasy oil cast indigo, petrol blue cast indigo, hydron blue, and baby blue. In the pure colour family, one can expect all black, stay black, fade black, gunmetal grey, smoky grey, burgundy, diner green, and coral blue.
Growth story/economic meltdown
The growth story of denim at Arvind has seen a significant rise in the last 5 years. Globally, denim is growing at 3 per cent. Traditional markets like the USA and EU are witnessing a negative growth. Therefore this growth of 5 per cent is coming on the back of growth in Asia–especially China and India.
With the economic meltdown in the global market, the international brands wanted to reduce their cost of goods sold. And for this, they were ready to source from newer places. While reducing the cost of goods, they did not want to compromise on the quality, design and the norms of the brand. Arvind grabbed this opportunity and has been able to capture a significant market share globally. In the domestic market, the strategy of Arvind is to increase its market share. After careful analysis of various segments we have worked out different business models to cater to each segment namely national brands, regional brands, distributors’ segment, Indian exporters, mass market, environment friendly steps.
Organic and fair trade cotton: Arvind has undertaken organic and fair trade cotton farming in the Akola district of Maharashtra. This enables cotton growing communities of small and marginal farmers to improve the economic, social and ecological sustainability of their production through organic farming. This conserves biodiversity by promoting organic farming of healthy foods and fibres.
Sustainable environment: In our commitment to continually improve our environmental management, we strive to go beyond the requirements of the applicable environmental laws and other regulations through optimising usage of cotton, energy, chemicals and water, adopting preventive strategies to reduce the generation of effluents, waste and air emissions, maximising the recycling of inevitable wastes, encouraging suppliers and buyers to become environmentally responsible, maintaining a safe working environment, increasing the green cover, and training employees on environmental issues.
Effluent treatment: All the production/ processing units are provided with adequate wastewater/water treatment facilities.
Air pollution control: Arvind has switched from liquid fuel to natural gas for all heating and steam requirements to avoid air pollution.
Solid waste management: All the effluent treatment plants (ETP) plants are provided with adequate sludge dewatering facilities. Waste oil generated in all the units is recycled.
In the coming two years India is going to see an exponential growth in the denim market. The affirmative indicators are:
- Increase in number of denim wearers.
- The working Indian is becoming younger, year after year.
- Denim is no longer limited to colleges only.
- Clean denims are getting accepted at semiformal workplaces.
- Fashion awareness is increasing in girls/women, eventually an increase in number of women denim wearers.
- Inflow/accessibility of international denim brands like Guess, Replay, Miss Sixty, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ed Hardy.
- Aggressive promotions and mass media advertisements by major national level denim brands like Levi’s, Lee and Pepe, resulting in high visibility, creating aspirations.
- Even the influx of fake Diesel, Replay and G-Star is creating high aspirations.
- High level of styling and accessorisation by regional brands, fulfilling the popular desire of the common man to stand out in the crowd.
- Patronisation of denim by the galaxy of Hindi film actors.
Source: Images Business of Fashion