Tirupur Knitwear Industry: Problems and Prospects

Last Updated on 03/05/2024

Tirupur (South India) Knitwear Industry: Problems and Prospects

R.S. Balakumar
Associate Professor,
Dept of Fashion Design & Arts,
Hindustan University, Chennai, India
Email: rsbalakumar1953@gmail.com



Tirupur is very much famous for the knitwear industry in South India. There are number of spinners of yarn integrating forward to set up knitting plant; textile process house and then further integrating forward to become the makers of knitted garments used for hosiery, sportswear, foundation wear for men and women. Even the fashionable kids and children wear also be produced to meet their needy customers in and world countries.

In present days factors motivate them to continuously upgrade the existing technology to the acceptable international levels. Abroad, in non-quota open competition period starting 2005. In spite of the fact that the Tirupur town is reeling under acute infrastructural shortage, the Tirupur knitwear exporters are able to make a mark in the international sourcing map of the textile industry because they work as a group and help each other for a common cause.

tirupur knitwear industry
Fig: Tirupur knitwear industry

Tirupur textile industry has units all along the value chain of knitwear starting from spinning, knitting, wet processing, printing, garment manufacturing and exports. In addition, there are ancillary units supplying buttons, laces, embroidery, cones and yarn processing etc.

There are more than 500 production units which are involved in exports of knitwear from Tirupur. Entire Tirupur cluster generates direct employment for over 300,000 persons. Tirupur in 1981 had a meager share of 15% of the total knitwear exports from India and by year 2000 its share reached a formidable figure of 51%.

Recent informal surveys indicate that Tirupur accounts for nearly 80% of basic circular cotton knitwear exports from India. In the year 2002-03 Tirupur exports touched a value of Rs.3, 000 crores.

It is expected that Tirupur exports will grow much faster than the rest of India’s export economy. The rapid industrial development at Tirupur attracts workers from different districts of Tamilnadu and neighboring states seeking jobs.

Tirupur Exporters and The Tirupur knitwear industry has been able to book orders from all the sophisticated world market including European Union, U.S.A., Canada, Japan etc. besides increasing its export growth rate in non- quota market.

World renowned companies and labels buy from Tirupur:

  1. Nike,
  2. Lacoste, St.
  3. Michael,
  4. Benetton,
  5. Jockey,
  6. Kiabi,
  7. Marks & Spencer,
  8. C&A,
  9. J.C. Penny,
  10. Wal-Mart,
  11. H&M,
  12. Old Navy,
  13. Quick Silver,
  14. Mother Care,
  15. Oliver,
  16. Tommy Hilfiger,
  17. Adidas,
  18. Carrefour,
  19. Fila,
  20. Diesel,
  21. Nautica, and so on.

The TEA is successful in its efforts mentioned above the battle against competition will be half won since what Tirupur mainly lacks today is a focused marketing device which can constantly give fashion inputs to the industry and will ensure direct sales of competitively priced better end products.

To improve the brand image of Tirupur as a quality knitwear base, various merchandise testing laboratories based at Tirupur have done commendable jobs viz.- ITS, SGS, Textile Committee and other small supporting textile laboratories.

Tirupur is determined to change the fixed opinion of most of the buyers about India especially that of Tirupur that it is a destination for 100% cotton fiber product range with limited variations of cotton blends with polyester or viscose fibers.

The Lakshmi Mills, a leading textile spinning and weaving machine manufacturer, based at Coimbatore has of late joined hands with Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers of textile machinery to upgrade the technology of machinery and tool manufacturing, thus making available advance machinery locally at competitive prices.

The spinning mills in and around Tirupur supplement their cotton requirements by importing from U.S.A, Australia, Egypt etc. to spin good export quality yarn. Normal count range used in Tirupur for manufacturing knitwear products is from 10s to 60s (only ring spun) single ply and two plies.

The range of yarn available is auto coned, electronically cleaned yarns available in mlange, slub, crepe, gassed mercerized, space dyed, grindle apart from normal combed yarns. Mills, Centwin Spinning Mills, KPR Spinning Mills, Prime Textiles etc.

The machine available in Tirupur is from Pai Lung. The machinery includes capability of manufacturing 4 track single jersey, interlock, rib, 8 lock interlock, loop knit, auto striper, electronic jacquard etc. prevailing dia of the tubular fabrics available in Tirupur range from 16″ to 40″.

The capacity of knitting is also improving with the induction of jumbo knitting machinery having capacity of almost more than double of the available regular knitting machines.

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Most of the conscientious knitters have or are taking technical advice or support from the leading manufacturers of knitting machines in the world to upgrade the existing knitting technology.

The capability and quality is enhanced from previous years for the standard fabrications which include- jersey, rib, pique, interlock, 50/50 Plating (inter lock, Jersey, Pique etc.) herring bone, twill, honey comb, crepe, Bedford cord, 2×2 derby rib, waffle, pointelle rib, flat back rib, rib jacquard, two thread looper, popcorn. In fact, the suppliers in Tirupur are taking advantage of latest highly automated knitting machinery with respect to designing, production and quality.

All kind of ornamental designing is possible in knitwear at Tirupur and such facilities are available at Prem knitting, Centwin, Classic Knits etc. Apart from circular knitting machines about 500 computerized flat knitting machines mainly for collars & cuffs are available. The popular brands of flat knit machines are available.

The climatic conditions are ideally suited for processing of the fabrics. The Process Houses in Tirupur also have shown remarkable changes, keeping pace with the development in other sectors of the knitwear industry. About 600 Processors, having small (1000 kg/day) to large (about 10,000 kg/day)

Modern process houses are using dye stuff and chemicals from multi-national companies (MNC) such as CIBA, DYESTAR, CLARION, BASF etc. to ensure azo free, ecofriendly dyestuff supplies. All these MNCs are having their regional office functioning in Tirupur and apart from marketing they provide good technical support in achieving results of the dye stuff sold, reducing rejection levels, taking trials with new products/fibers etc.

Dyes generally used for processing cottons, viscose/rayon are reactive dyes, bi functional reactive dyes/remazol dyes. High Extortion dyes are also being used to help control the pollution level and ensure good dye absorption. The polyester is dyed by using disperse dyes. Laboratory Test equipment are installed in setting of modern dye kitchen, computer colour matching like spectrophotometer where besides the colored fabrics even the bleached fabric can be tested for Whiteness Index (WI).

The yarn dyeing has shown considerable improvement with most of the process houses opting for the cheese dyeing process. Advanced HT HP yarn dyeing or fabric dyeing vessels are common in most of the leading process houses. The average capacity available with such process houses is about 3,000 kg/day.

Presently tubular processing and finishing is being done but the latest trend is open width fabric finishing completely integrated system ensuring a flawless end product. The leaders in this are Shakthi Mills, Chaya Industries, Victus Dyeing etc. In near future the open width processing will be implemented by most of the leading process houses.

Different kind of garment washes, including perfume wash, pigment dye silicon wash etc., UV protection chemical application on fabric for beachwear and active wear is possible in the leading process houses of Tirupur such as Victus Dyeing, Stallion, PKP Processors, RA Knit Processors etc. the drying of processed fabrics is being done by pole driers or the relax driers and the natural drying is becoming obsolete.

The benefit is quick drying, no handling stains, no crease marks etc. Compacting and stenter the processes which are the heart of the process houses have shown remarkable improvement lately.

The machinery available for tubular compacting are Tubetex (U.S.A), Ferraro, Monti, Sperotto Rimar (Italy), Albrecht, Weiss (Germany), Santex etc. about 200 imported machines are in operation in Tirupur.

All process houses in Tirupur have advanced ETP keeping in line with the buyer’s ecological concerns. Due to the problem of scarcity of water in Tirupur new dyeing techniques have been adopted to reduce the liquor ratio of the dye bath from 1:30 to 1:10.

The printing has advanced from table to semi-rotary to rotary and latest advanced machines are being procured by Victus Dyeing, India Dyeing Mills, SCM Processing Mills, Mithunram Tex, Aar Pee Prints, Venus Printing, Okay Prints etc. to keep abreast with the competition.

Rotary printing offers better process of pigment discharge and reactive prints. Printing processes like tie-dye, batik, and wax batik are commonly available in Tirupur and surrounding areas.

The table and chest printing with all kind of specialized variations like flock, emboss, foil, spangle, transfer, rubber motif, glitter, foam, PVC welding, HD plastisol, gel printing, embossing, caviver bead print etc. are commonly available. The R&D in the wet processes are continuous in the process houses which are aware of latest innovations like Victus Dyeing.

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About 900 imported multi head computer embroidery machines are installed and functional in Tirupur such as Barudan, Tajima, ZSK, Happy, Albrecht etc. 9 to 12 colours are possible in a single design with these machines. Import of computerized chenille, chain, bead fixing embroidery machines is the latest trend. There are single head computer machines also installed for customized logo embroideries.

The traditional manual embroidery machines like Aari and Chikan are also operating in Tirupur. There are clusters of hand embroiders in and around Tirupur who excel in better than basic hand work.

Various latest software packages are available with most of the leading suppliers of Tirupur like Lectra, Gerber, and Tuka Tech etc. for speedy accurate pattern making & grading and efficient laying to optimize fabric consumptions. The Tirupur industry is emerging from hand cutting to CAM cutting facility to improve the all-over cutting room efficiency.

Also, the cutting room, sewing floor and garment finishing machineries are continuously being upgraded thanks to Mehala, IIGM, Turrel and others involved in garment machinery consultancy and sales.

Presence of Hari Chand Anand & Co. is noticeable in Tirupur recently, especially in providing inputs for specialized sewing machinery and or providing required attachments to sewing machines of various origins for better efficient end product. The machine layout and choice of machinery required for the targeted customers is excellent at Eastman, Well-knit besides others.

The stress is also felt on the value addition to the garment by installing latest computerized embroidery machines from Tajima, Berudan and others. Also, Geena Garment and other Tirupur suppliers have gone for Savrosky, pearls, sequins etc. attaching laser guided machines.

Suppliers like Eastman, Trinity Fashion, Piper International and others have excelled in hand embroideries, sequence and beads attaching etc. from cottage industry network. The embellishments easily available to the

Tirupur suppliers to value add their knitwear products are:

a) Knitted Collar & Cuff: Jacquard knitted and other customized collars & cuffs are being manufactured in Tirupur area on Taiwanese and other advanced machinery.

b) Ropes & Tapes: A variety of rayon polyester tapes, silk ropes, twill tapes, cotton ropes as well as rope tipping (heat sealing) and all sizes of stoppers and rubbers are now locally available. Added attraction is the production of jacquard name twill tapes in multi-color, rubber badges and Trans prints.

c) Hangers: Novelty hangers for the finished garments are locally available in a wide range. In some cases, hangers are offered with additional attachments such as plastic clips and clamps as per buyer requirement.

d) Accessories: Full range of accessories like- 3D patches, embroidery patches with/without iron-on-fix, special reflection badges, night glow radiant buttons, reflection zippers, diamond zippers and motifs such as beads, studs, stones and foils (gold and silver) are being manufactured locally.

However, following accessories imported from Korea and Japan is easily available- quality buttons, rubber laces, printed Velcro, creative buttons, rubber labels, jean denim patches, woven labels, metal logos, metal boxes, leather printed patches, PVC labels and embossed patches.

e) Labels: With the help of computerized Rapier looms and cut & fold machines good quality woven labels are locally manufactured on imported machines. There are a range of printed label machines with attached sticker and die cuttings for foil embossing. 5 color-printed labels are also locally manufactured.

The nearest port from Tirupur is Tuticorin about 8 to 9 hours by truck from Tirupur and has a list of frequent daily sailing feeder vessels service to Colombo, where the mother vessels berth and is about 10 hours/overnight journey from port to port by sea.

From Colombo it takes about 13 days sailing time to Amsterdam. Maersk Logistics from Tuticorin has weekly FCL sailing to Salala in the middle-east, cutting down the sailing time to 11 days. Tuticorin has yet to develop strongly in the infrastructure for efficient loose cargo (LCL) handling. Chennai has better infrastructure and is about 12 to 14 hours.

By truck, from Tirupur. At Chennai LCL cargo handling is much better and presently is the preferred port of the buyers of the Taffles Group for their orders placed with the south suppliers. Other option for port is Mumbai which is about 40 hours from Tirupur and about 30 hours from Bangalore by truck. In Mumbai consolidation of LCL cargo can be optimized as cargo from Delhi is routed to Mumbai. Very few buyers prefer Mumbai port to Chennai or Tuticorin for cargo from Tirupur.

Tirupur is the ideal place for the knit wear manufacturing and caters the requirement of tee-shirt, banian, briefs, trunks, camisole, lingerie and foundation wear of men and women throughout the year. It is true that Tirupur will fulfill the basic requirement of Indian citizens’ foundation garments of briefs and banian forever due to the continuous productivity. Labour force is always available and the productivity also considered to be the best one.

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