Interview with Thomas Ong P S

Thomas Ong P S
Thomas Ong P S
TT: How would you describe the market for nanotextiles? What is the average annual growth rate?

The current status of the global textile industry that we see has been based on research and development (R&D) activities catering to demands. Overall, it had contributed to growth of the sector, as the industry recorded a 3.3 per cent of compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2014 till mid 2018, according to Transparency Market Research. Technical textiles are one of the most profitable segments of the sector.

Nanotextile, being one of main pillars of technical textile, has been projected to continue rising at a double-digit rate during the next five years. Relevant factors that will contribute to market expansion through 2024 are the following:
  • Increasing penetration in large industrial sectors like apparel, fashion, separation,catalysis, biomedical, energy and automotive.
  • Greater utilisation in the fabrication of products characterised by strong demand, such as membranes, photocatalysts, and tissue engineering scaffolds.
  • Growing market penetration of nanotextiles in developing countries.
  • Increasing use of these products in wearable electronics and wearable medical devices.
  • Continued high levels of related R&D activities.

How would you describe the market for nanotextiles? What is the average annual growth rate?
TT: What are the top five applications of nanotextiles?

We drive four major pillars of nanotextiles: nano-finishing textile, nano-fibrous textile, nano-composite textile and non-woven textile. We believe all these four pillars of nanotechnology in textile, serve to contribute to the advancement of textile segments in five major applications: textile for apparels, home textile, industrial /technical textile, medical textile and sports/leisure textile.

TT: Which are your major markets?

Our major sectoral markets are apparel and medical textiles.

TT: How big is the Malaysian technical textile industry? Are investments in this domain increasing?

In 2015, the textiles and textile products industry was among the ten largest export earners with RM13.2 billion, contributing approximately 1.7 per cent to the country's total exports of manufactured goods. In coming years, we are looking at a double digit incremental trend, mainly because of current US-China trade war offering the opportunity of mass import and investment in Malaysia.

TT: What kind of support is the government offering?

Malaysia intensifies export-oriented industrialisation through the Third Industrial Master Plan (IMP3) that runs from 2006 until 2020. Directly related to the textile industry, six strategic thrusts have been set for further development of the industry.
  • Intensifying the promotion of investment in higher value-added textiles and apparel,including key support services
  • Intensifying regional integration of the industry
  • Strengthening the institutional support for further development of the industry
  • Sustaining market share in textiles and apparel and promoting exports of the targeted growth areas
  • Enhancing domestic capabilities and facilitating the utilisation of information and communication technology and new technologies
  • Enhancing skills of the workforce in designing production and marketing
These thrusts had since found its relevance in Industry 4.0, with its associated tax incentives and development funding.

TT: What kind of nano-coating technologies do you use? Do they involve green chemistry?

We have our proprietary technologies and, as I have mentioned, nano-coating using our proprietary and patented formulation and method is one of the four technology pillars we drive in our company. Nano-coating is one of the nano-finishing textiles we employ to add value to textiles and fabrics, and subsequently to the finished products. Our method is adapting green chemistry and a water base with laboratory testimonials showing excellent results in toxicity tests.

What kind of nano-coating technologies do you use? Do they involve green chemistry?
TT: What are the major growth drivers of nanotextiles?

I believe, the main growth drivers of nanotextiles are the increasing awareness of such technology and the functionalities it brings forth. These had created niche demands and its respective market in different textile sub-sectors. For instance, clothing textile is the closest business-to-consumer market and impacts the most in terms of demand and volume. Hence, it creates continuous growth for participating upstream to downstream textile industry players.

TT: What are your competitive advantages over other makers of nanotextiles?

Our proprietary, patented technologies are scientifically proven with results and functionalities. We have got certification in Malaysia as a genuinely nanotechnology-based innovation through NanoVerify Program. Other such certifications are Nanocertifica in Russia, Quality Mark in the United Kingdom, Nano Q in Thailand, Nano-meghyas in Iran and Nano Mark in Taiwan. Most of our technologies give sustainable and high durability in terms of the number of washes for apparel, while for medical textiles, we achieve 99.95 per cent sterilisation of microbes for all identified bacteria-highest among others recorded-. We are the only nanotechnology service provider in the international market that works with both upstream and downstream textile industrial players, where we build a business case to fit the sustainability approach for both our clients and us. We offer the maximum nanotech offerings in terms of functionalities and we use other fabric technology to ensure best solutions for clients.

What are your competitive advantages over other makers of nanotextiles?
TT: What are the types of nanotextiles you manufacture?

We manufacture nanotextiles for kidswear, women's apparel and hygienic clothing. We partner with brand, retailers and manufacturers to avoid duplication of supply chain.

TT: One of the stumbling blocks in the expansion of nanotextiles is the high cost associated with the technology. What are your views on that?

All disrupting technologies will face this obstacle, particularly before those start penetrating and flooding the market. In my opinion, this shall not be viewed as a stumbling block but a challenge we embrace to succeed in the textile industry. Hence, I have never used a one-off approach when dealing with my clients, be it downstream (brands, retailers) or upstream (manufacturers, wholesalers). We build the best feasible business to create a win-win business opportunity through contracts that benefit both sides in an agreed upon time frame.

One of the stumbling blocks in the expansion of nanotextiles is the high cost associated with the technology. What are your views on that?
TT: What innovations can be expected in this niche in the years to come?

We work collaboratively and closely with industrial demonstrators and research institutes. We have several technologies that comply with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards and are going to disrupt the market.

Generally, in advanced material technologies, I believe we expect to see wearable and conductive textile with incorporated sensors to hit the market soon. While we have done prototype demonstrations globally in the last few years, I believe, in a few years to come, several such functional textiles would be improvised and enter the market.

TT: What is the annual production of nanotextiles? What percentage of production is exported and what percentage is for domestic consumption?

We are running at a capacity of one production (nano-finishing) line completing a million units of textile products (average size of 1480-2080 sq inches) a year. We are targeting a three to five times expansion in the next five years. We have also segregated the nano-composites and nano-fibrous textile manufacturing to our respective original equipment manufacturers at the upstream. While we remain the first point of contact with downstream textile players and research institutes, we believe we stand to influence in this complete supply chain.

TT: What finishes and coatings are in demand in the export markets?

Anti-bacterial, self-cleaning and odour-control are the functionalities that are common yet growing. These are also the functionalities that cut across all market segments that have been taken lightly in terms of market penetration. However, several mature market segmentsuch as medical textile and hygienic clothing, have seen tremendous growth in demand in the past two years. We believe that we play a role in creating the awareness to impact and influence the growth of these functionalities in the clothing textile market. (HO)

Published on: 03/09/2019

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