ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Polyester Prince Revisited

The polyester wars of the mid-1980s that pitted one industry group against another are back with us. On the basis of an investigation begun by the United Progressive Alliance government, the National Democratic Alliance government has imposed an anti-dumping duty on purifi ed terephthalic acid, an important input for production of many polyester products. The user companies argue that there is no evidence of dumping of imports and allege that the duty has been imposed to benefit domestic producers of PTA, of which there are only three and of whom the public sector producer has not complained of dumping.

The Polyester Prince is the title of a biography of Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of the Reliance group of companies, India’s biggest private corporate conglomerate, written by Australian journalist Hamish McDonald in 1998. Among other things, the book highlighted  how, during the 1980s, the government changed rules relating to imports of raw materials used in the manufacture of polyester fibre to help the group at the expense of its competitors.

Dhirubhai’s arch rival used to be Nusli Wadia, who headed the Bombay Dyeing group which, like Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), manufactures synthetic textiles. The two fought bitterly to influence government policies relating to the manufacture of synthetic fibres and fabrics. Dhirubhai passed away in July 2002. His older son Mukesh Ambani now heads the Reliance group. But some things have not changed. A new version of an old story is being played out all over again.  

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