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Johan Berlin
Johan Berlin

Interview with Johan Berlin

Lack of converting capabilities inhibiting growth of nonwovens in Asian markets

Investkonsult Sweden AB has been buying and selling second-hand textile machinery since the early 1970s. In the mid-1980s, it started focusing on technical textiles - nonwovens and hygiene sectors. It is one of the few companies that specialises solely in these two fields. Investkonsult works as a consultant and broker of machinery in the nonwoven and disposable hygiene industries, supporting existing companies as well as start-ups. InvestKonsult Managing Director Johan Berlin discusses threadbare with Technicaltextile.net (venture of Fibre2Fashion), the state of the machinery industry for nonwovens and absorbent hygiene in India and all over the world. Mr. Joakim Blomqvist assisted Mr. Berlin with the answers, and is associated with InvestKonsult Sweden AB.

TT: It has been about two decades since Investkonsult shifted its focus from conventional textile machinery to nonwoven or hygiene machinery. How much has demand for nonwovens and hygiene machinery gone up? What is the growth expected in the next two years?

We have seen a continuously increasing demand for used nonwoven and absorbent hygiene equipment during the last decades, particularly used nonwoven machinery. In recent years, we have made efforts to expand our network of existing producers and potential new ventures. In addition to constantly strengthening and broadening our network, we strive to improve our ability to match buyers and sellers of equipment. By keeping ourselves updated and constantly gathering information, we increase our knowledge of producers' current production resources and their possible procurement and/or divestment needs. This strategy and a strong focus on increasing our knowledge of the players in the nonwovens and absorbent hygiene industry naturally generates more business. We believe that the market for used equipment will continue to grow, and the potential for growth is especially strong in India - both in terms of absorbent hygiene products as well as nonwovens. However, what is worth noticing is that in terms of quantity of single machines sold, it was much larger in the conventional textile business. During those days, we completed may be 30-40 deals over a year in conventional textiles. In the nonwovens, it may be 10-20. So, the difference is quite big. Of course, investments are also higher, and the need to deliver a more precise solution is also higher.

TT: Nonwovens/hygiene machinery has different criteria for selection as compared to conventional machinery. Which are the criteria one has to abide by for setting up a unit?

The most important criterion concerns deciding which market you want to break in to. The initial question to pose is which product you want to produce. Before selecting a production line and starting to produce a certain type of roll goods, you must have a clear idea of what the final product should be. For nonwovens, this process can be a bit more complex compared to the choice of conventional textile equipment. To start a weaving mill, it is enough to know that there is a demand for woven material. To start the production of nonwoven rolls, you need to know that there is a need for specific end products like air filters. Then, you also need to know that there is access to converting industry that can transform the nonwoven rolls into filters.

TT: Apart from hygiene or nonwovens sector, which other sectors do you feel has huge potential in the Asian market and would recommend to be started?

The composite materials will of course be large in Asia. Apart from that, it's difficult to point out at anything special. But anything that comes up with a good solution to the issue of waste management can probably make a fortune.

TT: Most of the nonwoven products when invented did not have much of a market, unlike conventional textiles. What are the bottlenecks that decelerate the growth of technical textiles in Asian market?

The obvious obstacles are the lack of a market, partially due to lower income levels and partially due to lack of knowledge about the products. One large obstacle inhibiting growth of nonwovens in India and other parts of the Asian market is also a lack of converting capabilities. With more converters that would know how to market and to whom to market the various converted nonwoven roll-goods, the better it would be for everyone. Now we see a tendency that some converted products are imported into India, even though the basic roll-goods are already manufactured in this very country.

TT: How is the market in India shaping up for this category of machinery? What trends do you expect?

We see that great investments have been made - both in the absorbent hygiene industry, eg SCA and in the nonwoven industry, eg Global Nonwovens, running India's first six beam spunmelt line. We believe that the investments in the absorbent hygiene industry will continue. Due to demographic factors (high birth rates), rising income levels (growing middle class) and increased awareness regarding the health benefits, we see an increased demand for baby diapers, sanitary napkins and incontinence products. The automotive industry will also continue to grow, with more cars and transport vehicles being manufactured in India and a larger part of the materials being continuously replaced with nonwovens. The same goes for the filtration market; in pace with or in line with sharper regulations concerning emissions from heavy industries, more filter products will be needed. And last but not least, the geotextile market should grow, although the problem is again regulations. There's no real benchmark on which kind of geos should be used for various projects, and even if there is, it is not actively controlled or enforced by the purchaser (often government or other state body).

Published on: 19/02/2015

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.


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