Special Report

“Our continued investment in the EFI Reggiani digital printing technology has allowed us to remain competitive through innovation and high value-addition.”
Mr. Ahmed Jehangir, Executive Director, Nishat Mills.

Please tell us about the strategy behind the success of Nishat and how Nishat evolved as a leading producer in Pakistan over the years?

Strategy and evolution of Nishat Mills have always been to balance value-added textiles with the intermediate goods. The technological improvements in spinning and weaving do not override investment at Nishat. It is the constant re-investment in the whole chain that does the trick.

The value-added business has always been our focus where it has always been balanced with the intermediate goods of spinning and weaving. When I say value added it is basically yarn dyeing, home textiles designs and the direct retail business.

At Nishat, we take our work very seriously. Either we do things the right way, or we do not do them at all. For example, we do not manufacture towels and bath products and they are not in our portfolio. However, we would provide a complete range including these products if required by our customers by making alliances with other players and local suppliers/manufacturers.

When it comes to the marketing strategy Nishat is different from others, as we are not looking for volumes only, despite the fact that we are already a 80-100 million dollar export division, we believe in high value as the high quality can demand the high prices. That’s why in the field of fashion and home textiles we ventured into digital printing before others.

We seek out demanding and higher brands as partners, where we can stand apart from our competitors, hence our extensive investments including in the digital printing. In tandem with our long-term global partners, we strive to produce the best possible products as per the ever-increasing quality demands in the high-end markets where our customers operate.

We have remained abreast of the coming trends and stayed ahead of others through our research and development. There is no more money to be made by copying. That is why our investments in digital printing allow us to materialize our creations in close collaboration with our customers.

The digital printing allows us to do shorter runs which could be a little more expensive, but if we are able to do that, the better brands are always willing to take you as a supplier.

How did you make the decision to go for EFI Reggiani digital printing technology?

When we bought our first EFI Reggiani machine in 2012 the technology had not matured and I believe it is still evolving to the benefit of the customers. For the last six to seven years we have continuously invested in the latest digital technology and today we have the largest digital printing capacity 5 million metres for fashion. Our fifth EFI Reggiani machine has just been installed.

I must say that the technology is now more stable and provides us with the flexibility of making shorter runs and provides a shorter turnaround time with more precise, captivating and exclusive designs.

We need both wider and narrow width machines for both home textiles and the retail fashion business in which Nishat is one of the pioneers in the country.

What are some of the challenges in this field?

This is all new to us and we had to upgrade our human resource almost completely. Around 80%of the people who had been working in printing with us for decades had become obsolete as the skills set changed completely.

At Nishat, there is constant training learning that takes place starting with our top production team including myself, Hafizur Rehman Siddiqui and Faisal Hafeez and then to our entire team.

We had great difficulty hiring the qualified personnel for the job from the pool of new graduates technical institutes and universities. What they had learned during their technical education has little relevance to the new and evolving digital printing technology.

So many companies who have invested in the digital printing technology are not utilising their machines to their fullest capacity to justify this investment. They are producing simple designs that can be easily done on the flatbed or conventional rotary printing machines.

We really need to bridge these gaps and very fast through webinars and YouTube videos of professionals and companies such as EFI Reggiani, where they can learn and gain practical knowledge. They should make technology centers, where the students and professors can interact with foreign technical teams to stay abreast of the new technology.

Tell us about the local digital printing market?

In term of total fabric printing sector, digital printing is a major part at Nishat. We print about 20 million metres per year. It is about 5 million meters of fashion on digital and 15 million on rotary and other dyeing applications. We are printing more than four hundred thousand meters per month digitally only for Nishat Linen, and more than 750,000 meters per month combined for digital home textiles, fashion and kitchen wear combined.

We originally planned for a four storey set up with 32 machines and then we realized that the technology is not yet mature and therefore postponed the investment. Today, we are gradually increasing our investments in digital printing machines, according to the demands of the market.

How do you foresee the future of digital printing?

In my opinion eventually, all printing will be shifted to digital printing. The other technologies will become obsolete, due to the fact that there is no more investment in the research and development in the conventional technologies.

We went out of the commodity business a long time ago and our home textile business is now at this high level, whereas our products keep changing for the better and our profitability has improved substantially. It is due to the high added value, that we have been able to market our products successfully.

We undertake massive investments in Research and Development and our product development team is now three times the size of any other competitors. Similarly, our CAD CAM department is now twice the size after our recent foray into the digital printing business.

We also provide designing services to our retail business, Nishat Linen, and our design team offers more than twenty to thirty designs every month.

Our customers come up with the concept and then we collaborate with our design teams to create the designs according to the requirements. With complete trust in us, they do not dictate us in the development of the products. It is a mutually reciprocal and beneficial partnership.

In this context, we are not alone who are doing this service. Other good companies, who are also our competitors are doing it at different levels because they are also collaborating with their customers. That’s the way Turkey and Portugal developed their markets.

What were the factors you considered when opting for EFI Reggiani digital Printing machines?

We have a long-term relationship with EFI Reggiani as in the past we bought conventional rotary printing machines. We have confidence in Reggiani brand because their habit of over testing their machines until the results are upto the standards. This is also done by others, but in my opinion, EFI Reggiani is doing it the most diligently and thoroughly for the benefit of its customers.

The digital printing technology was first used in narrow widths and related applications, but today the leading manufacturers are also using it for wider width applications such as home textiles. Home textiles has become a commodity business and our exclusive designs give us an edge over commodity home textile exports.

I would like to attribute our great success to our dedicated and competent team and the higher management. For example, our management team including Mr. Siddiqui and Faisal Hafeez first learned to use this new technology themselves before imparting this highly technical know-how to the entire production team.

Nishat Mills are the pioneers of digital printing in Pakistan. Now we have digital technology in reactive, pigment narrow and wider width to offer the widest range of high quality digital printing to our discerning customers.

Technologically, we have to make many sacrifices in order to get the product right. For example, we may need to reduce our speed which may in turn increase the ink density and its cost. We shall still make money because the high quality of printing always gets a better price.

By printing more than 5 million meters digitally we are saving 20 to 30 percent on water as compared with conventional printing, while obtaining much better results in terms of quality. That is why digital printing is becoming increasingly important every year due to the extraordinary savings plus higher quality. Washing and post finishing are the main limitations in the way of conservation of water, a most valuable resource. I believe digital printing will eventually replace conventional printing in the foreseeable future.


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