The derring-do of a man in India whose motto in life has been -"There are no ifs and buts. It has to be done" - saw him painstakingly invent a machine that brought in a world of value addition in the form of fuss-free embroidery: Rajkumar Lakshman, the Founder-Managing Director of Nantex Machineries Pvt Ltd, tells Richa Bansal how he came to turn adversity on its head, and what mistakes others should not commit should they venture on the same path.
When he was a child, he did not know from where he would get his first and only meal of the day. He lost his father at the tender age of seven. The struggles continued and after almost 18 years of working as a CAD designer he gave in to a daring thought gnawing his mind - design a machine that could control the fabric both in reverse and forward while doing the embroidery and with the same tension. He approached some Swiss companies. But there was no response. China told him that what he had in mind just could not be done. The thought had now become a fevered brow and he decided to dig into his savings of a little less than two decades.
When he ran out of money in the midst of the project, he borrowed from private financiers. An impressed former employer pitched in when he saw what was being designed and somehow a demo was scratched up. But all this was not enough, and nor was it enough when Rajkumar Lakshman finally mortgaged the only roof over his head. Nothing deterred him, and he continued to work on it bit by bit and it was another four-and-a-half years before he could make the complete commercial fully automated machine - the world's first vertical embroidery machine.
This fully automated computerised electronic embroidery machine can attain speed up to 400 rpm, occupies very less space and requires minimal manpower. But the most unique and beneficial aspect of this invention is that while current technology allows embroidery to be done width-wise, this machine has been devised to do it along the length of the fabric.
Although the machine has since gone into commercial production, giving a turnover of ₹3 crore, Lakshman is still looking for investors. "Embroidering a knitted or mesh fabric was a nightmare. But in our machine this can be done easily and with the look that is required. Furthermore, this machine is capable of giving some value addition in knitted fabrics.
It is so versatile, it can embroider any type of fabric, be it garment, lace, home furnishing, curtains, carpet etc. We have received enquiries from India. My video on Youtube has given me customers from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Argentina and Brazil."
- Believe in yourself
- Clear vision (you should know your goalpost)
- Be prepared to work hard, very hard
- Positive attitude
- Trust in God
In retrospect, what are the five things you should not have done?
- I should have borrowed money in one shot. But I did not have any resource. I don't think anyone should take the kind of risk I did without finance.
- The other mistake was that once I started commercial production, I began selling the machines. The ideal way to go about it would have been to first use it and then explain to the market so that all had a better understanding of the potential of the machine.
- I should have looked for complete funding of the project.
- I should have done some R&D for some small components or a small machine instead of embarking on so humungous a project - it was almost like inventing a wheel!
- I should have had a proper marketing and administration team. But obviously this was not possible due to the acute financial crunch.
Founded in 2009, Lakshman's Nantex Machineries now has its own R&D team that is continuously working to develop software to meet the demands of the textile market.
According to Lakshman, the global market for machinery for embroidery is around $200 million with China alone claiming 60 per cent of the market share. The other countries in this field include Japan, Korea, and Switzerland. "There is no manufacturer in India for embroidery machines, and our target is to claim major market share using the latest technologies and making user-friendly machines."
What are the latest innovations that have come in the machinery for embroidery?
The existing manufacturers are concentrating only on increasing the speed of the machine to enhance production with some value additions like embroidery with additional attachments in the form of sequins, dori and stones.
Which are the countries where demand is the most for embroidery machines? Which are the newer emerging markets?
Major consumers are India and China. The new emerging markets are Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, Central Africa among several others.
What new has Nantex Machineries come up with since the Vertical Embroidery Machine?
We are working on free-hand creativity. Till today there is no machine that runs vertically in the embroidery industry, except for quilting. Existing traditional machines embroider in the wrong direction i.e. against the grain line of the fabric which restricts the design to geometric patterns. Besides, it is done in tight framing which stretches the fabric. It is only after the embroidery that garments are turned along the grain line, and it is while rotating the fabric that the flow goes wrong.
The embroidery on a Nantex machine needles along the grain line and therefore without any restrictions in terms of design or even the type of fabric, which could even be a knit. We are now working on different versions of this same machine to cater to different demands of the textile industry.