14274 Thu, 04/17/2008 - 2:42pm
By Reena Mital
MUMBAI, India–Welspun India, the parent company for Welspun USA and United Kingdom-based Christy, is on a fast track to achieve its target of $1 billion in global home-textiles sales by 2011 or 2012.
“Brands are the way to go for this,” said Anurag Sharma, president of exports. “We aim to become a one-stop shop for the world’s home-textile needs. So we have added to our portfolio, rugs, a whole lot of international brands and value-added products for the premium segment.”
Welspun recently inked a license agreement with Waverly to produce its towels here for the U.S. market. The company already has licenses with Nautica and Umbra.
It also acquired Sorema, the Portuguese bath-rugs manufacturer, in December. “This is a very high-end product, and we will continue with the company’s manufacturing setup in Europe,” Sharma said. “Moving into bath rugs will help us offer an integrated package of sheeting, towels and rugs to our customers.”
Decorative bedding is another area that Welspun feels has huge potential. “For this, we have set up a plant in Mexico,” Sharma said, referring to the company’s recently opened facility in Juarez. “Bedding is a bulky product, and freight costs are unviable. So we will transport the compact fabric and the fiberfill to our Mexican plant, and the finished product will be exported to the U.S.A.”
The company has almost completed investments of $200 million in building world-class manufacturing facilities. “We have in place some of the latest technologies for our existing and new product lines, including rugs and carpets,” Sharma said. “In fact, the rug-making plant is the first of its kind in Asia. This is the beginning of moving Sorema’s production base from Europe to India.
“To give a better push to our brands, we have plans of creating Welspun boutique stores, around 1,300 as of now, in various parts of the world, starting initially with the U.S.A., the U.K. and central Europe. This plan is in a nascent stage. We still have to work out the strategies.”
Welspun currently manufactures around 40,000 metric tons of towels (about 36,000 U.S. tons) per annum, and 8.5 million sets of sheets annually. “The sheeting capacity will go up to 10 million sets by July or August 2008,” Sharma said.
The United States accounted for 65 percent of the company’s $400 million in exports from April 2007 to March 2008, during which Welspun clocked in total export growth of nearly 14.3 percent. “The rupee appreciation and weakening dollar did have some impact on our U.S. business, and has brought into sharp focus, for us and the industry, the need to diversify into other markets, too,” Sharma said. “We want to increase our non-U.S. business from the current 35 percent [of total sales] to 40 to 45 percent.
“We have made concerted efforts to increase our value-added offerings,” he added. “From 30 percent of our products in the high-end segment, we want at least 40 percent in that segment over the next one to two years. The remaining 60 percent would continue to be targeted at the mass segment, such as Wal-Mart. In the mass market, too, we have moved up the chain, and are priced in the upper end of this segment.”