History of cotton textile industry in India – Bombay Dying
History of cotton textile industry in India – Company Inside Works
The business of the Bombay Dyeing & Manufacturing Co., Ltd., is to convert ginned, baled cotton and man
made, synthetic fibers into cloth; the latter now represents 40% to 50% of annual turnover by value. In this
objective, it is one of the most successful, diversified and efficient operations within India’s cotton textile
industry, with the single highest concentration of automatic weaving looms and modern machinery. It is the
country’s leading producer of toweling, bedsheets and pillow cases, the first Indian cotton textile mill to weave
filament yarn in polyester-cotton blends on automatic looms, the first to market terry towels woven on Jacquard
looms, the first to install both automatic and shuttle less looms, one of the first to adopt flat bed and rotary
screen printing techniques. It dominates the market for Indian-made shoe fabrics, collar-lining fabrics and
sturdy duck cloths for lifesaving jackets. Its product line of more than 600 fabrics is one of the
broadest in the industry and includes, among those already mentioned, household furnishings, blankets
and comforters, fine damasks and sateen’s, men’s suiting’s and shirting’s, diaper cloth, poplins and flannelettes,
durable drills and twills, huckaback toweling, heavy waterproof fabrics, handsome saris in cotton and pure
polyesters, umbrella cloth, parachute cloth, dress prints, denims, fancy cambric’s, muslins and chambrays.
It is India’s leading exporter of cotton textiles, with clients in 49 countries, chief among them Australia and
New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Economic Community; its annual sales abroad
account for anywhere from 9% to 13% of India’s cotton textile export market.
Through lean years and fat, Bombay Dyeing has consistently registered a profit – and, since 1885, only six
years after its founding, has never skipped a dividend to shareholders, who at present number 33,000.
In the year that ended March 1979, despite a three-year recession in the textile industry, total income reach
Rs 938 million, on which it turned a profit before taxes of Rs 74 million. Shareholders received Rs. 10 million
in dividends; Rs 11 million were spent on workers welfare. Of total turnover for the year, exports accounted
for Rs 161 million, 17% of all sales. Bright as the picture is, Bombay Dyeing continues to earmark capital for further growth.
From 1973, when the first new Sulzer looms arrived, through 1980, it will
have invested Rs 360 million on modernization and capital improvements.
The message conveyed by these facts and figures is that Bombay Dyeing enters its second century in the soundest
condition, prepared in every way for the challenging years ahead.
The Company’s gross fixed assets totaled Rs 541 million. It employs a work force of 13,936 persons and
paid them an aggregate of Rs162 million in the year ending March 1979. On 221,228 spindles and 3,036
looms, all but 472 of them automatic and 308 of which are shuttle-less Sulzer Weaving Machines, its production
of textiles was 100 million square meters. Bombay Dyeing is a composite operation.
This is done at two locations together totaling 114 acres of
land, the Spring Mills and the Textile Mills and the New Bleach Works.
The Spring Mills ( History of cotton textile industry in India )
Largest of Bombay Dyeing’s factories, the Spring Mills began operating in 1908.
The walls of this huge plant, Asia’s biggest textile manufacturing operation under one roof,
enclose 587,272 sq ft of processing area (and another 293,114 sq ft of non-processing area, such as the office
building, canteen, power plant, cotton and cloth godowns and the like.)
The chief raw material of the Spring Mills is ginned cotton compressed into 170-kg bales, of which it con-
sums 45,000 kgs/day. Its only products are grey (unbleached) yarn and loom-state, or unfinished, cloth.
Grey cloth can be sold as such, but more commonly it is sent to the New Bleach Works for further processing
into finished textiles. With a labor force of 5,800, the mill spins 40,000 kgs of grey yarn daily on 130,000
spindles. This is woven into loom-state cloth on the factory’s 2,160 Ruti automatic looms, for a daily pro-
duction average of 160,000 linear meters. The surplus of grey yarn is sold to other textile mills.
Mill visitors are likely to be struck by the high humidity, an essential condition for the processing of cotton,
A system of overhead vents constantly circulates warm air, at a humidity of
80% to 85%, through the loom sheds. As a safeguard against fire, an automatic sprinkler system is installed
throughout the mills.
The Spring Mills’ battery of 2,160 Ruti looms, which average 22 years in age, replaced 3,224 Platt power looms
during 1955 and 1956 – an eloquent statement of the Rutis’ superior capabilities over the non-automatic
Platts. Maintained in good operative condition, the Rutis run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through
all three of the mill’s working shifts.
The Textile Mills ( History of cotton textile industry in India )
This plant occupies the same ground as the New Bleach Works. Opened on 15 March 1896 with 30,000 spindles
(later 71,936), it was originally designed only to spin grey yarn for the dye works and for sale to China of
surplus coarse-count yarns. Today it has developed into a composite operation that, like the Spring Mills, supplies
grey loom-state cloth to the New Bleach Works. The new Sulzer loom shed is part of the Textile Mills. Its full
complement of looms includes 308 Sulzer’s, 472 of the outdated Platts and 96 Rutis equipped with Jacquard
and dobby attachments that hang like string canopies above the looms and equip them to weave toweling’s and
furnishings that require a pattern and a heavy pile. The Textile Mills employ 4,300 and produces 100,000 square
meters of loom-state cloth daily.
The New Bleach Works ( History of cotton textile industry in India )
This is the destination of nearly all the production of the Spring and Textile Mills. In its capacious interior,
measuring 138,000 sq ft, the grey cloth undergoes the processing that results in the many varieties of textiles
manufactured by Bombay Dyeing. It is the least labor- intensive of the Company’s three factories and its only
“wet processing” plant, so called because of the quantities of water required to bleach, dye and print yarn and
cloths. Its daily consumption of water exceeds one million Imperial gallons. The New Bleach Works
employs 2,200 and finishes 250,000 running meters of cloth per day.
The name of the New Bleach Works, completed in 1957, no longer describes the myriad activities taking place
within its doors. To understand them, and to understand the many steps that convert raw cotton into finished
cloth, requires explanation.
Received at the Spring and Textile Mills, the ginned, baled cotton is sent to the blow room. In this first step
on the way to becoming yarn, the cotton is opened and cleaned by passage through a series of spiked lattices,
beaters and saw-toothed cylinders, emerging in a lap of standard width and weight. The lap resembles a fleece of
fibres very loosely meshed.
Next the laps go to the carding machines, where sharp wire points rake them clean of impurities missed in the
blowing room. Here also begins the fiber separation that, farther along the line, will permit the fibers to be
twisted and spun into yarn. In the carding machine, the lap is stretched into a ribbon of fibers,
For the spinning of finer counts of yarn, a further step is required. This is combing.
Cotton fibers too short to make good yarn are combed out – some 12% to 18% of the sliver depending
on the fineness and quality of the yarn to be subsequently spun. The short fibers, the waste of the combing
process, are collectively call noil. Noil is either sold to waste merchants or used in the manufacture of low-
value coarse yarns.
From either the carding or combing machine, or from both, the sliver is taken to the draw frames, which
combine six or eight slivers and elongate them into a single, more compressed sliver in which the cotton fibres .
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This combined sliver then proceeds to the speed frame, where it is subjected to further elongation and given a
slight twist, to add strength. The end product of the speed frame is roving: a multiple strand of cotton fibres
1/8th to 1/16th inch in diameter. As roving, the cotton is fed to the spinning frame, a high-velocity machine
which twists and winds it onto paper tubes or bobbins.
It is now grey yarn. A series of steps then follows that are designed to wind
the yarn into ever greater lengths to avoid repeated reloading of the looms. The yarn on 20 bobbins is con-
solidated by rewinding it on cones or cheeses (so-called after their shape). the yarn is warp:
rewound from the cheeses or cones onto warp beams carrying up to 30,000 meters of yarn and up to 500 warp
ends, or individual threads. Next the yarn is sized by sending it on the warp beam through a chemical bath.
It emerges from this bath to be rewound on a weaver’s beam, capable of accepting the full number of warp
ends — 3,000 to 8,000 — required by the cloth to be woven. weaver’s beam that is install.
The weft (horizontal) yarn does not undergo this con- solidation process, which is unnecessary since there is
typically only one weft yarn for every 3,000 to 8,000 warp (vertical) yarns. For automatic looms, the weft
yarn is taken from the spinning frame to the winding machine.
which are carried inside the shuttle ferrying the weft thread back and forth across the loom face. On shuttle-
less looms like the Sulzer, rewinding of the weft thread onto pirns is not required.
At this stage, both the warp and the weft yarns are ready to be woven into loom-state grey cloth.
the cloth is subjected to shearing (a process in which fibers projecting from the surface are shaved off to give
the fabric a smoother appearance and, if woven from blended fibers, to reduce the tendency to pill). Every
square yard of it is also inspected for flaws, all of which will be repaired or removed before the cloth leaves
The initial step in processing grey cloth is to stitch it end to end, combining as many rolls as are required for
continuous processing. It is then run through the singeing room, where a gas
flame burns off any fibres projecting from the face of the cloth, improving its smoothness and appearance.
The cloth does not catch fire because it is moving through the singeing machine at the rate of 160 meters per
minute. After singeing, the cloth is led through a quench box, which snuffs out, in a 1% solution of sulphuric or
hydrochloric acid, any sparks shouldering on the cloth face. The acid dissolves the chemicals introduced in
sizing the yarn. As the cloth issues from the quench box it is piled into pits paved with ceramic tiles in the main
processing room, there to remain for up to an hour to give the acid time to dissolve all the sizing.
the cloth is in rope form. It is then washed to remove all residual trace of acid.
Next the cloth is scoured dipped in a 4% solution of caustic soda and steamed for 90 minutes, the purpose
being to remove the last of the impurities and to clean the cloth.
From there it is sent to the peroxide saturator, containing a 1%-1.5% solution of hydrogen peroxide, the bleaching
agent. In this step the cloth absorbs the bleaching liquor and is guided through a J-shaped steam box in which it
is heat to give the bleaching agent time to take effect; the cloth is then washed and removed.
At this stage, the product is bleached cloth, and is marketable in that form.
After being stored for 30 to 60 minutes in pits to allow some of the wash water to drain off, the wet bleached
Still in rope form, it is drawn into a drying machine after devices called scutchers have spread the rope
again into the cloth’s full width. In the drying machine the opened
cloth is carried round several cylinders heated by steam to a maximum surface temperature of 200°F (93°C).
Fully dried, it is next wound onto rollers called big batches, each capable of taking up to 5,000 linear
One or all of the following steps can be applied to the dried cloth depending on the requirements of the customer.
Dyeing. Many different dyeing techniques are use. In one, the cloth on rolls is dipped through the dye liquor,
then squeezed through mangles for better penetration of the dye into the cloth. dye cloth is then drier.
Another dyeing technique is known as molten metal dyeing. After being dipp into the dye, the cloth is
passed through a molten metal bath, composed of bismuth, cadmium, tin and lead, at a temperature of 158°F
(70°C). The action of the alloy impregnates the cloth with the dye. It is then washed to recover any metal which
has cooled and clung to the cloth.
In still another method, the cloth is dyed on jigs, a process similar to hand-dyeing by soaking the cloth in
a bucket. The undyed cloth, wound on a roller, is carried through a V-shaped trough full of the dye liquor and
is re-wound as it emerges. The process is reversible, and can be repeated as often as necessary to secure the proper
degree of color.
Grey yarn is also dyed, in a manner that represents a quantum improvement over the hand-dyeing done in the
original dye works. Into 500-gallon stainless-steel vessels, resembling giant pressure cookers, carriers are lowered
holding 300 cheeses of grey yarn, together weighing 230 kgs. The cheese cores are perforate to ensure thorough
impregnation of the yarn. The load spends at least four hours in the vessel. First it is detergent-boil at tem-
peratures of up to 212°F (100°C) to clean the yarn and enhance its absorption of the dye. then undergoes two
rinse cycles, one hot, one cold, to remove the detergent bath; after which the load is dye in the vessels at
temperatures ranging from sub-zero to boiling, depending on the type of yarn and dyestuff. the
dyed yarn is cold-rinsed again and softened by the admixture of a synthetic softening agent, to prevent the
yarn from sticking to itself as it is unreeled from the cheese. It is then dried for up to an hour at 250°F(121°C).
Printing. Once again, a variety of ways exists to print cloth, among them flat bed printing with the use of nylon
screens, roller printing and rotary printing, the latter two being very like the techniques for printing paper.
Whatever printing process is used, the product is not yet finished cloth. must go through two or three further
steps — colour fixation, washing, and stentering – and, in some cases, several more: damping, calendaring,
Stentering. This is an essential step to which all cloth is subjected. weaving and finishing, the cloth
undergoes considerable vertical strain, the effect of which is to reduce its width by a few inches. In the stenter,
the cloth is horizontally stretched back to the proper width of the order and here also receives the required
finish – waterproofing, stainproofing, resin finishing, etc specified by the customer.
Calendaring. After damping, the cloth is fed through a vertical series of rollers, which, as the cloth winds
through them, add smoothness and luster. The process is rather like the ironing or mangling that a good house-
wife gives her sheets and pillow cases. The luster added by the calendar is transient unless the cloth has been
calendared on a Schreiner machine, in which event the luster will survive as many as 40-50 launderings.
Sanforizing. In this process, the weft yarns are compacted – brought closer together to eliminate shrinkage.
Raising. Rollers covered with fine wire pick at the cloth face, raising a nap; the rollers work only on the weft
threads. Used when the cloth being processed is required to have the look and feel of flannel. To achieve the
desired effect, it may be necessary to pass the cloth through the rollers as many as 10-15 times.
Sueding. Similar to raising, except that here the cloth passes through a series of rollers wound with emery
tape, which by abrasion applies a suede finish. Denim is commonly subject to sueding and is then known as
Decatizing. A process designed to give blended suiting textiles the appearance and texture of wool. Used only
for suiting material woven of synthetic fibres or blends. Resin finishing. Synthetic resins are apply to the
fabric, imparting crease-resistance and drip-dry properties.
In all these various operations, Bombay Dyeing achieves a commendably high degree of effectiveness. Looms are
maintained at peak condition, with a utilization rate approaching 98%. Scarcely anything is waste in the
bulk cotton’s progress to the folding department, where the finished orders are packed for delivery. Says H.R.
Thanawalla, a Company Director: “We reckon that the invisible loss is between 1% and 1.5%.” From cotton to
cloth, Bombay Dyeing doubles the value of the raw material
Today, a company that began by dyeing cotton yarn is mindful of the growing market for man-made fibers and
cotton-synthetic blends, which have replaced both cotton and wool in the favor of the consumer, especially in
garments, and which have a useful life four times that of pure cotton textiles. Synthetic fiber and filament now
account for 17% of the Company’s raw material; the proportion is certain to increase in the years to come.