Leather industry recognises its potential18 September 2003
The current buoyancy in the Indian leather industry is based on a responsible industry-wide and governmental approach which has involved building on natural strengths, creating relevant policy frameworks, and aggressively working towards providing customers with 'total solutions offerings', from design to shelf-ready end products. India has among the largest livestock populations in the world, providing a strong raw material base in goat, buffalo, cow and sheep leathers. The country's acknowledged strength in tanning and its ability to produce a wide variety of fashion leathers has ensured that Indian finished leather is a much sought after raw material by premium leather product brands. At the Modeurop Autumn/Winter 2004-05 Roundtable, the Indian industry once again established its dominance in fashion forecasting - all 17 colours selected for shoes, and all 9 colours in garments were from Indian tanners. With a workforce estimated at 2.5 million, of which 30% are women, the industry carries a large social responsibility. Progressive manufacturers have implemented best practices in worker welfare and occupational safety. Independent bodies on behalf of leading buyers audit these processes. In addition to the enormous man-years of experience already available, there is a growing base of qualified technical and managerial personnel, critical to meet the needs of Indian manufacturers in expansion mode. The Indian leather industry is credited with the highest number of qualified leather technologists in the world. Traditional craftsmanship is paying rich dividends when combined with design engineering, fashion forecasting, the use of automation, and the development of production facilities that compare with global standards, in scale and work process. Policy initiatives by the Indian Government are engineered to propel industry growth. The component industry is seeing rapid development. Government policy on investments has dismantled earlier restrictions. There are no blocks on Foreign Direct Investment, and 100% FDI is now permitted. Special Economic Zones in different parts of the country are being set up to serve as super efficient trading hubs. Compliance with environment standards is mandatory in India. All operational tanneries are connected to an independent or common effluent treatment plant. Indian leather industry majors are striking up strategic alliances, making overseas acquisitions and investments in the sector. Several international brands have already set up operations in India. And an estimated 15% of total purchases of leading global brands in footwear, garments, and goods & accessories in Europe, are sourced from India.