AHMEDABAD: Better known as a hub for diamond and textile industries, Surat will soon have additional feature to its fame as the city-based entrepreneurs are now exploring business opportunity in more natural and high-end fabric material - Linen.

The city-based entrepreneur and veteran in textile industry, Mahendra Chaudhary, Chairman, Pratibha Group has pioneered in bringing technology for linen textile making to Surat. Linen is the latest variety in Surat textile industry. We are the only ones to start operations in this segment here. Linen is made from the natural fiber derived from flax. It has been only a year now since this segment has started here. However not large number of players are entering into the fray as this is a high-end textile variety involving high cost, said Rakesh Chaudhary, Group Director of Pratibha Group of Industries.

Linen, a textile variety that is made from the fibers taken from the stalk of the flax plant, is largely used by higher strata of the society as the fabric made from it is very costly. The luster is from the natural wax content. Creamy white to light tan, this fiber can be easily dyed and the color does not fade when washed. Linen does wrinkle easily but also presses easily. Linen, like cotton, can also be boiled without damaging the fiber.

Describing the characteristics of the fabric Chaudhary mentioned that the fabric is costly because it involves large working capital and processing. The fabric is comfortable and sweat-absorbing even better than traditional cotton fabric. The elite class prefers to wear it especially in summer, he said.

Highly absorbent and a good conductor of heat, this fabric is cool in garments. However, constant creasing in the same place in sharp folds will tend to break the linen threads. This wear can show up in collars, hems, and any area that is iron creased during the laundering. Linen has poor elasticity and does not spring back readily.

In India, linen market is almost monopolized with Birla group being the lone player with significant market strength. Chaudhary is in direct competition with Jaishree Mills of the Birlas. However, the Surat-based textile maker has chalked out plans to take up the challenge with the textile major as it plans for ramping up the linen manufacturing capacity from the existing 18 lakh meters per annum to 25 lakh meters per annum by 2010-11.

Surat's textile industry has shown a dynamic growth-trend over the years. According to industry experts, the textile industry in Surat has witnessed phased growth over past several decades. Initially, known for its yarn making industry, the city has now emerged as a hub for embroidery and value added textile products. From yarn spinning business, the Surat-based businessmen started shifting to other more value-based businesses. Similarly, as long as embroidery business excited the investors, a large number of entrepreneurs ventured into this business. Today the situation is thus that embroidery business has almost become a cottage industry here with about 60,000 embroidery units operational in the city.

However, he ruled out the possibility of larger investor participation to set up linen making facilities, as it involves higher cost and limited market prospects.

Notably, flax-seed is also a rich source for edible-oils having high nutritional value. Better known as linseed oil, it is yellowish oil obtained from the dried ripe seeds of the flax plant. The oil is obtained by solvent extraction process. The oil has lesser acceptance among the common masses due to its strong flavor and odor.

The oil contains the highest level of Omega-3 fatty acids among vegetable oils, especially alpha-linolenic acid, which may be beneficial for reducing inflammation leading to atherosclerosis, preventing heart dieses and arrhythmia and is required for normal infant development.