Birla Cellulose is a trusted name in Viscose Staple Fibre, balancing the power of nature and science. The entire value chain of the business is extensive ranging from from plantations, dissolving grade wood pulp, materials such as carbon-disulphide and caustic soda, power generation and downstream operations such as textile partnerships and consumer products. A fibre company they supply fabrics to brands like Zara, H&M. Liva follows a sustainable, naturally dyed, hand block printing, hand crafted model and focuses on international operations since over 50% revenue comes from international markets. The brand itself is present in 42 countries, with 1.5 million shareholders and they have just had a new launch alongside its annual property called ‘Liva Protege’ that involves designers like Shiana NC, Narendra Kumar Ahmed and more. Little wonder then that the company is ranked No. 4 in the Global “Top Companies for Leaders” survey and ranked No. 1 in Asia Pacific for 2011 (Aon Hewitt, Fortune Magazine and RBL). The market share currently is 21% globally, so there is a conscious strategy to produce beyond VSF and to take pulp and fibre business to next level. Manohar Samuel – President Marketing in Birla Cellulose, the Pulp and Fibre Business of The Aditya Birla Group tells us more in this exclusive interview.
Please take us through Birla Cellulose’s journey from plantation to fibre to lifestyle.
Birla Cellulose of The Aditya Birla Group is a world leader in Manmade Cellulose Fibres and had commenced production of viscose staple fibre (VSF) in 1954 in India. The business has grown steadily across geographies, with operational excellence, deep integration, product innovation and leadership. Today we have 7 MMCF plants, 4 in India and one each in Thailand, Indonesia and China. We also have 5 pulp plants, one in India, 3 in Canada and 1 in Sweden. In our Harihar Unit, we practice Social forestry, unique to the Industry. We have a state of the art Clonal Centre, a nursery with capacity of 10 Mn plantlets/year, in which we practice silviculture and distribute saplings to farmers. The plantations have a six to seven year cycle that results in a green cover, a positive carbon foot print. At Birla Cellulose, the consumer is at the core of our business and therefore consumer insights are critical to our strategy. Market research had shown that the Indian Women’s wear consumer likes fashionable clothing which use nature based fibres and exhibit fluidity when worn. We had launched ingredient brand LIVA in March 15, which stands for fashionable fluid fabrics made using nature based fibres from The Aditya Birla Group and has passed through an accredited value chain. Liva fabrics are great in comfort, have a fluid drape and are liked by fashionable consumers across different brands that have them as an ingredient.
How is the response been globally considering that over 50% revenue comes from international markets?
Liva has first been launched in India and we have not yet launched it globally. However global brands procure garments made from Liva Accredited Partner Forum – LAPF members since they offer innovation every season, have a brand value, offer quality and service. Sustainability is considered important to Global brands and we work closely with Sustainable Apparel Coalition in their modules and partner with global brands for improvement. Top brands all over the world are very conscious about sustainability, and their expectations have helped us align further to deliver most sustainable fibres. We also work with the supply chain of many countries like Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey in addition to India. MMCF based garment exports from India has grown around 27% on account of our collaboration with brands and the supply chain.
Please explain the concept of ‘Liva Protege’
LIVA Protégé is an initiative of brand Liva, to tap into the great Indian talent pool of young fashion designers and support them to get their rightful place in an enterprise. Participants are drawn from leading fashion institutes across all zones in India and they showcase their talent in designing. The format consists of mentor fashion designers who coach and guide design students to design exquisite garment styles using Liva fabrics. This is also to ensure that the talented designer winners are propelled to fashion stardom as much as we have a chance to experience their creativity.
The market share currently is 21% globally, please share details of the actual global market spread.
Birla Cellulose is among the largest in the world for viscose staple fibre and we see us as consolidating our position through various levels of collaboration with customers. MMCF which is around 5 to 6% of the fibre basket has larger market share in double digits with good brands across the world. Our customer spread covers the entire market for MMCF.
What is your strategy beyond VSF, to take pulp & fibre business to next level?
We have consumer and value chain engagement for brand LIVA. Only a few fibre brands in the world have ever engaged directly with the end consumer directly. Innovations in products and services are in the pipeline for deeper collaboration consistently. Sustainability focused partnerships have been initiated and we are seeing good results. Our Spun dyed Viscose has exceptional sustainability credentials. Last week, Loyal Textiles, a leader in Knit fabric exports from India, had launched branded leggings using Spun dyed viscose which leverages technology, is affordable and supports consumer benefits. We see innovations and collaborations with like minded partners as important for faster and responsible growth.
You supply fabric to brands like Zara, H&M – please share your experience working with global brands?
Brands like Zara, H&M, Mark & Spencer’s have their domestic offices in India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, etc. Learning and evolving brand trends is the key to our association with leading brands. We showcase seasonal collections using our fibres for spring summer and autumn winter. We also support brands by working directly in their HQs as well as support in the supply chain. Here innovation is the key which is co created.
What is the future of fabrics?
Each fabric manufacturing company decides as to which yarn and fibre goes on to make a certain fabric, important being the need to spot fashion trends. Value is driven and captured through the co created programs with brands and the fabricators once we understand the trends and leverage our skills and expertise.
How has demand changed?
Demand for Manmade Cellulose garments has been good for the last decade and we expect that to grow for sure. Consumers have adopted MMCF based collections in multiple products like leggings, palazzos, sarees, tops, tunics, etc. Performance of the fabrics has also improved due to the excellent work by the value chain.
This story appeared in the May 2017 issue of Apparel India here: Aditya_Birla_Fabric