10 Apr 2020 22:46 IST

Arvind Ltd: From swadeshi roots to global trendsetter

The company prides itself on being the standard for environment-friendly production techniques

Arvind Ltd (earlier, Arvind Mills), the flagship company of the Lalbhai group, is headquartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

The family that founded the company is said to have descended from royal jewellers of the Mughal era. In 1897, Lalbhai Dalpatbhai set up the Saraspur Manufacturing Company for cotton yarn. In the next century, as the struggle for Indian independence started gaining momentum, Mahatma Gandhi called for people to adopt ‘swadeshi’ goods, and three Lalbhai brothers — Kasthurbhai, Narottambhai and Chimanbhai — responded by setting up Arvind Mills in 1931.

Soon, its products were being exported to countries like Switzerland and the UK. This success encouraged Arvind to set up its own dyes and chemicals plant — India’s first — to reduce dependence on imported dyes. The Narottam Lalbhai Research Centre followed two decades later, in 1973, and by the 1980s Arvind was ready with India’s first denim apparel brand, Flying Machine.

Focus on denim

For fabric to be labelled as authentic denim, it should comprise pre-weave, indigo-dyed warp and white weft, with the after-wash look being of crucial importance. Reportedly, Arvind used thick white cotton twill that was printed indigo-blue — on a saree-printing machine, no less — and then washed it to see the effect. The brand became a runaway success.

In 1986, Arvind set up India’s first denim manufacturing plant, at Naroda Road in Ahmedabad, to produce authentic denim. High-value cotton shirting was introduced the next year.

 

For about six decades after inception, Arvind continued to make waves on the textile scene. Beginning with tie-ups that would bring premium brands like Arrow Shirts and Lee Jeans into the Indian market, Arvind went on to consolidate its position as the global leader in denim production. Other brands like Newport, Excalibur and Ruf & Tuf were introduced.

In the mid-1990s, borrowing from financial institutions, Arvind invested heavily in expanding its denim business. By the turn of the century, however, demand for denim spiralled downwards and Arvind was faced with unsold stock and the inability to repay the loans taken.

Despite this, in 2001, it managed to come up with a debt-restructuring plan that pulled it out of the financial crisis. The plan went on to become a touchstone in such situations and is even today a case study in India.

In 2008, the name of the company was changed from Arvind Mills Ltd to Arvind Ltd.

Wide range of brands, fabrics

The following years saw Arvind adding more owned brands (Colt, Ruggers, Quads, Is, Creyate) and licensed brands (Gant, Izod, Elle, Cherokee) and retail formats (Megamart – India’s largest value retail chain, Arvind Store) to its portfolio. It has JVs with Tommy Hilfiger and GAP.

 

 

Today, its businesses cover a variety of categories in textiles and beyond:

— Fabric and apparel: As a pioneer of the Indian denim revolution, Arvind is the supplier for important denim brands across the world, producing above 100 million metres of the fabrics.

— Wovens: With laboratory accredited by names like Marks and Spencers, Gap Inc., Next, Levi’s, INVISTA and DuPont, Arvind produces 130 million metres of woven fabric annually in the print, indigo, solid and colour woven range.

— Knit fabrics: With a capacity to produce 20 million pieces annually, this range covers both high-end and sustainable products.

— Voiles: One of Arvind’s most popular offerings, this category is still in demand by the fourth generation Indian customers, with voiles being exported to Sri Lanka, Switzerland and West Asia.

— Advanced Materials: Technical fabrics for human protection in hazardous situations (for firemen, industrial workers, soldiers etc.), filtration and conveyor belting, seating solutions for automotive & mass transportation, and building & construction. It is said to be the largest fire protection fabric producer in the country.

Apart from these, Arvind has entered the real estate scene (Arvind Smart Spaces), brands and retail, internet, engineering (Anup Engineering Ltd.), telecom and environmental solutions (Arvind Envisol).

Arvind has production facilities at Ahmedabad, Mehsana and Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Pune in Maharashtra and Bengaluru in Karnataka. Its products are available at about 1,500 stores (standalone, departmental, multi-brand) in more than 190 cities and towns across India.

Innovations in apparel, sustainability

Its R&D facilities, the Arvind Denim Lab and Arvind Innovation Lab, have come up with groundbreaking innovations like the Khadi denim, the water-and-stain-resistant Rapid Movement Chino and the minimum maintenance, non-iron, UV ray repellent Traveller shirt.

Arvind prides itself on being the standard for environment-friendly production techniques in the country, with the largest ZLD plant, usage of 65 per cent recycled water and 20 per cent renewable energy, and the largest on-site solar power generation unit. It was also the first Indian company to take up the ‘Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)’ to grow cotton. Arvind Envisol provides water, wastewater and sewage treatment solutions and has 22 registered global patents in this category alone.

Arvind’s ‘Fundamentally Right’ sustainability approach, emphasising input management, has won awards at the Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards 2016.

Arvind’s denim unit has the ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OEKOTEX 100, GOTS and Organic Exchange Standard accreditations. The R &D labs are certified by NABL (ISO 17025 certification). In energy efficiency, Arvind became the first Indian company to achieve the ISO-50001:2011 certification in the ‘Composite Textile Industry-Denim Fabric’ category. Khadi Denim has won the best fabric award at the Global Denim Awards.

On the CSR front, Arvind has focussed on education, women’s empowerment, slum rehabilitation and health. It has also built low-cost toilets for sanitation needs in rural areas and provided employment for differently-abled people. All this was operational through the SHARDA trust till now; the recently set up Arvind Foundation has now taken over this responsibility.

The company’s turnover was around ₹6,400 crore in 2018-19. It plans to double its turnover by 2023.

Recommended for you