Can India's defence export boom bolster technical textile exports?

February 14, 2024 - India

In 2023, India's defence exports surged to ₹16,000 crore, signifying a monumental achievement for the nation's defence sector. This remarkable figure reflects the largest upsurge in India's defence exports ever recorded. With agreements inked with more than 85 countries for the export of defence equipment, India solidifies its position as a key player in the global defence market. Moreover, this increase in defence exports is poised to catalyse growth in production and exports within India's technical textile industry.

Policy support driving potential export boost

India’s technical textiles industry receives strong support from the ministry of textiles through initiatives like the National Technical Textiles Mission (NTTM) programme and the Amended Technology Upgradation Fund (ATUFS), fostering project development.

Notably, India exports bulletproof jackets, vests, and helmets to approximately 34 countries, indicating the industry's global reach. The growth in the technical textile sector, particularly in protective textiles used in defence and firefighting, is poised for significant expansion. With the current surge in India's defence exports, there is a corresponding increase expected in the demand for protective textiles.

Under the NTTM, nearly 109 projects have been approved as of 2024, suggesting a robust foundation for further growth. As India continues to enhance its defence exports, the prospects for increased exports in protective textiles, alongside other categories, are promising.

Surge in technical textiles exports

The current upswing in defence exports is poised to catalyse a corresponding increase in the production and exports of technical textiles. Despite being a significant player in various industries, India currently holds a modest 3 per cent share globally as a supplier of technical textiles. Within this domain, protective textiles account for a mere 1 per cent share. However, with the recent surge in defence exports and the signing of new defence agreements with various nations, there is a significant opportunity to bolster the share of protective textiles within technical textiles.

Figure 1: Share of countries in the global technical textiles market in 2022 (In %)

Source: TexPro

Protech: The unsung hero

The share of protective textiles in Indian production is as little as one per cent. With India signing new defence deals with other nations, there are higher chances that the share of protective textiles production and exports will also increase. Currently, out of the total exports of technical textiles, protective textiles only account for around 1.7 per cent as of 2022. As the nation continues to enhance its defence exports to Africa and countries in Southeast Asia, the likelihood of expansion and an increase in the number of nations to which it exports will also rise.

Figure 2: Share of exports by category in technical textiles (as a % of total)

Source: KPMG Report on Technical Textiles, 2023

Way ahead

The sector is currently experiencing a boom in India and has successfully gained the momentum it requires. It is already growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12.2 per cent in the medium term, according to India 2047: Vision and Strategic Roadmap for Technical Textiles. India holds a relatively small share in the technical textiles sector. However, with the country signing new defence deals, there is a higher likelihood that the sector will grow. Recognising the potential of technical textiles, many major textile-producing states in the country are already taking active steps for the development of the industry and ramping up production in their respective states to diversify the industry. Therefore, it is certain that the industry will continue to grow and prosper further.

Furthermore, increased budget allocations for various infrastructure projects will also contribute to the increased demand for technical textiles. The ministry has allocated approximately 2 lakh crore, reflecting a 2.7 per cent increase compared to the initial fiscal. With an increase in infrastructure projects, the demand for technical textiles will also rise in the domestic market.