What do they do?
The word ‘engineer’ usually evokes an image of someone handling a complicated machine or bent low over a blueprint. A hard hat might also come into the picture. Few associate engineering with some cool new denim fabric or furnishing material, but these, too, have the work of an engineer behind them — that of a textile engineer.
Pranay Sabat, 26, working with the Aditya Birla group facility in Kharach, Gujarat, has a BTech in textile technology from Utkal University and an MTech in textile chemistry from Mumbai. Though he was born in Orissa’s steel town of Rourkela, Sabat was “fascinated” by colourful fabrics, not metal and machines.
Now in Birla Cellulose’s Textile Research and Application Development Centre (TRADC), he plans R&D, sources chemicals, fabrics, etc, instructs technicians to manufacture fabric out of fibre, prepares documentation of all records and deals with client complaints. “Customers send us samples with problems. We analyse these and then give them a remedy,” he says.
Sometimes, they might have to visit a client site. Sabat and team try to develop new textile products based on re-generated or semi-synthetic fibres. The company produces fibre (and sample fabric) which is shown to customers, who might be offered the recipe for manufacture as well.
While Sabat is in the thick of things at a plant, a 2008 graduate from IIT Delhi provides her skills to a Finnish manufacturer of fibre-based materials in a different way. Sudisha Bhola, scientist at Ahlstrom’s Delhi office — the company is setting up a plant in Mundra, Gujarat — is a “bridge between the marketing and operations departments”. She explains, “If a client says, ‘I need surgical gowns of this colour, a stronger fabric or a special characteristic,’ our marketing team would ask me if it’s technically feasible, how much would it cost and how would we make these.”
The pay is lower than what some of her batchmates are getting after going into other fields like marketing or even banking, but Bhola says she is “satisfied” with her job. “I was never interested in marketing. I didn’t want to go into consultancy… I wanted to go for a technology-based company.”
Sabat and Bhola are among the few who stick to their field after graduation in textile technology. At IIT Delhi, the only one in the chain of premier institutes teaching this branch of engineering, Bhola says she was the only in a batch of about 40 who wanted to make a career in textile engineering. Most IIT-D graduates do not prefer the textile sector due to low pay and working conditions. They jump ship and land at all kinds of organisations if the pay is higher there.
However, Deepali Garg, senior manager, product development (kidswear), Reliance Trends, Bangalore, says that textile engineers do have a niche in the industry. “There’s a demand for technical people. You must develop your expertise based on market demands.”
Upcoming areas such as fabric manufacturing and retail are opening new vistas, she adds.
Brand management and merchandising are other areas textile engineers are getting into, say experts.
. An affinity for science
. Aptitude for handling machines
. An interest in fabrics
. Willingness to work hard, as the job involves visiting the plant and checking the fabric being produced
How do I get there?
Take science with physics, chemistry and maths at the plus two level. After Class XII, opt for a Bachelor’s programme in textile engineering/technology.
Typical day in the life of a Textile Technologist
8.30 am: Reach office. Check e-mail. Go onto the plant floor. Instruct workers about the day’s plans — the machines to be run and fabric to be produced
10.30 am: Start documentation work of what fabric has been manufactured
12 noon: Go to the plant floor
1 pm: Have lunch
2 pm: Look at customer complaints. Analyse samples sent by clients
3 pm: Prepare the daily production report
3.45 pm: Meet boss to discuss new plans
4.30 pm: Check fabrics on the floor
5.30 pm: Set out for home