'Ultra-Fresh technology is based on the power of silver to fight bacteria'
Thomson Research Associates (TRA) specialising in the development of
anti-microbial treatments for textiles and polymers, is the technology partner
of the Bangalore based Resil Chemical, a leading silicones and finishes company.
In an exclusive interview with R Baby Manoj, Mr Barrie Clemo looking
after global sales operations, TRA, discusses the potential of anti-microbials
for the textile industry.
Could you tell us briefly about Thomson Research Associates?
Our company is based in Toronto, specializing in anti-microbial, anti-fungal
and anti-dust-mite treatments. In the case of garments, there are certain advantages
in controlling bacteria. When you sweat, what smells is not sweat, it is water;
what smells is the gases given out by bacterial activity. By controlling them,
we can control perspiration odours and thus ensure, cleanliness, freshness,
hygiene, and give comfort to customers. With our advanced technology-based products,
that is what precisely we are doing.
In order to make consumers aware of the benefits of anti-microbial
treated cloths, considerable amount of education is required, especially, in
a developing country like India. How do you tackle this problem?
The way we do it is obviously through articles, talking to the media etc. We
also use trade-advertising, and we closely work with our customers. We are first
selling the concept, all the way along the customer chain. Our anti-fungal products
are useful for outdoor clothes like that used for making tents. We have recently
developed a product (launched in Bangalore)-Silpure using our Ultra-Fresh
technology popular the world over. Our third product category fights dust-mites,
which cause severe itching, asthma, sneezing etc, mainly live in mattresses,
doormats, curtains, carpets and other such places. Our anti-dust-mite product
plays a very important role here. The idea is to create an environment inhospitable
to dust-mites; especially in the bed. Sleepwell mattresses popular
in India, use our Ultra-Fresh anti-microbial technology. The foam inside the
mattresses is treated with Ultra-Fresh.
Could you tell us about your presence in other countries?
Apart from Sleepwell, are you associated with any other popular
Our brands are international. We sell in around 40 countries across the globe.
Ultra-Fresh is truly an international brand. Like Sleepwell, we work with Bombay
Dyeing, which has a line of sheeting products treated with Ultra-Fresh.
Could you explain the technology involved in Silpure?
Is the technology cost-effective?
Ultra-Fresh Silpure uses proprietary nano-technology to produce
the ultra-fine silver particles essential to ease of application and long-term
protection. The technology is based on the power of silver to fight bacteria.
It, thus fights contamination and maintain freshness. With our technology, silver
can be reduced to small particle size necessary for optimum performance. This
has considerably reduced the cost and mass application is now possible.
How many washes will it survive, if treated on a garment?
The excellent adhesion of the silver to fibres means that anti-microbial performance
remains strong through repeated washes. In real-life in-plant tests on 100 per
cent polyester and on cotton polyester blends protection remained high even
after 50 washes. Because Ultra-Fresh Silpure can be applied by the padding process,
every fibre in the fabric is treated, maximising protection through the life
of the garment.
What is the increase in cost due to this value addition?
The total cost would be less than 5 per cent.
Who are your distributors in India? What is the nature
of your association with Resil Chemicals? Could you elaborate on your Indian
activities? Do you endorse your products using brand ambassadors?
Resil Chemicals is our sole distributor in India. We have been working together
for more than two years. We have some obvious successes. Apart from supplying
to brands like Bombay Dyeing and Sleepwell mattresses, we deal with non-branded
cloth makers. We are providing this technology to a Tirupur based company who
are exporting knit shirts to Canada. It is sold in general department stores
aiming at golfers. (In Canada, the champion golfer is the brand ambassador for
the Silpure T-shirts). There are three levels of these knit shirts. Even after
they perspire a lot, they feel comfortable in these shirts. The golf season
in Canada is in April. There will be marketing efforts coinciding with this.
What are the reasons behind choosing Resil as your business
partner? How many distributors do you have globally?
Resil is a very strong technical company. It has a research lab here in Bangalore.
We have our own laboratory in Canada where we can test the efficacy of our products.
Resil, also can test at its laboratory. The company can also do textile application
testing. It has good coverage through offices all over India. Wherever, somebody
needs our product, we can provide that product through them. We have 19 distributors
around the world.
What is the size of the anti-microbial market globally?
What is the size of the Indian anti-microbial market? Could you tell us about
the trends in this segment the world over?
The total anti-microbial market including those meant for swimming pools etc,
will be half a billion to one billion US dollars. Textiles and polymers would
account for USD$100 to 200 million. Indian business is five per cent of our
global business. We are seeing the shift in growth in India, Pakistan, China
and all these places. Our share varies country by country. We are dominant players
in some markets like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and United States. In developing
countries, the market is quite small. In India, the total anti-microbial market
is a few million dollars. I would expect a business of 20-30 per cent of the
business for us, because customer interest in us is so strong. And we are adding
newer applications. Our goal is to sell the concept and then take the market.
Our products have a very long life in the market. Last of our products has been
selling in the market for the past 20 years. Every year, we are developing new
How does India fare vis-a-vis China in textile chemical
segment as a business destination? Which are the other countries you are interested
India is a very easy place to do business. In China, bureaucratic hurdles are
more. It can take 6 weeks to get your goods cleared. When we come to India,
we are treated like any other business. A foreign business in China is treated
differently. They want more money from foreign businesses. Indian business environment
is not much different from that in North America. I think the middle class is
much farther along here. In China there are a few pockets of very rich people
in places like Shanghai and the coastal belt. But the middle class is not so
formidable as is in India.
One of our strongest marketing presences will be in India, Australia and New
Zealand. These countries have tremendous allergy problems like asthma due to
dust-mites and other micro-organisms. The climate in these countries is very
much conducive to it. The captain of the Australian women water polo team, a
national heroine, who is also an asthmatic, is our brand-ambassador for our
Dont you think that aerosol sprays would be a better
option than industry application in the case of anti-microbials, as a business
proposition, owing to the potential for B to C marketing?
There is a technical problem with aerosol sprays. People do not put enough on
so as to get it effective. It is awkward too. Imagine every time you spray your
Polo shirt with anti-microbial!
Instead, when we add it at the manufacturing stage, it is permanent; it will
last for 40-50 washes. The safety aspect also has to be taken care of while
introducing a consumer product like a spray as there is a chance that the chemical
may go into the body, whereas, industrial applications like Silpure get rid
of that risk.