Meeting global footwear needs

Leather footwear exports have grown to ₹6,874.56 crore during 2019-20

April 28, 2022 10:13 pm | Updated 10:13 pm IST

A leather footwear export unit in Guindy Industrial Estate.

A leather footwear export unit in Guindy Industrial Estate.

When you spot people abroad making a style statement wearing footwear bearing the logos of Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Clarks, Cole Haan, Daniel Hechter, Bugatti, Prada, Zara, Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Hush Puppies, Ecco, Daniel Hechter, Johnston & Murphy, Hugo Boss, Piere Cardin or Florsheim, chances are the global brand has a Tamil Nadu connection.

Global brands have either got their footwear and other products made by leather and footwear units in Tamil Nadu or sourced the raw materials from here. The local companies, however, shy away from sharing the names of the brands they are associated with because of the non-disclosure agreements with the companies or for trade reasons in the competitive market.

Data provided by the Council of Leather Exports (CLE) show exports of leather footwear from the State has grown from ₹1,907.35 crore in 2007-08 to ₹6,874.56 crore during 2019-20. The number could be more as only the member-companies are taken into consideration while the data are collated. The CLE has 775 companies registered as members. There are more small and micro units catering to the domestic market, but they are not registered with the CLE.

Leather garment exports from the State have grown from ₹381.17 crore in 2007-08 to ₹761.07 crore during 2019-20. Similarly, the exports of leather goods have also grown from ₹394.10 crore in 2007-08 to ₹1,697.92 crore in 2019-20.

The State also accounts for an estimated 30% in the domestic turnover of ₹90,000 crore of the leather, leather products and footwear (including non-leather footwear) industry in the country. Interestingly, in the last few years, the State government has been signing memoranda of understanding in the leather space, which had never happened earlier. Recently, the government announced it would unveil a policy for the leather sector. Furthermore, the government has identified four spots for opening mega leather parks for leather product factories to attract foreign direct investment.

“What is drawing so many people here is the manufacturing base and to add to that we have an excellent port base. We also have a good workforce and a majority of it are women. This is a great combination that only Tamil Nadu enjoys,” says Israr Ahmed, director of Farida Group, one of the largest players in this space for several decades.

He says the leather policy will help bring in more investment and technology. “The government asked the stakeholders for inputs for formulating this policy, and we have responded. This would be the first time this sector is getting a policy.” Over the next two years, the Farida Group would expand its businesses in Tamil Nadu.

R. Selvam, executive director of CLE, says that once the policy is unveiled, the State will attract more investments and can become the leather capital of India. “In the footwear space, we can be another Quanzhou, the shoe city of China.”

Mr. Selvam says that with an annual export of ₹12,824.29 crore during 2019-20, Tamil Nadu was the number one State in the export of leather, leather products and footwear from India, with a share of 40% in the total exports.

Representatives of the leather and leather product industries in Dindigul, Vellore and Erode feel the government needs to focus on infrastructure around the leather units to attract more big brands. Like the furniture park at Thoothukudi, the government should get some big players to invest down south, says a representative.

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