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Indian Leather Industry Overview

The leather industry occupies a place of prominence in the Indian economy in view of its massive potential for employment, growth and exports. There has been an increasing emphasis on its planned development, aimed at optimum utilisation of available raw materials for maximising the returns, particularly from exports.  The exports of leather and leather products gained momentum during the past two decades. There has been a phenomenal growth in exports from Rs.320 million in the year 1965-66 to Rs.69558 million in 1996-97. Indian leather industry today has attained well merited recognition in international markets besides occupying a prominent place among the top seven foreign exchange earners of the country.

The leather industry has undergone a dramatic transformation from a mere exporter of raw materials in the sixties to that of value added finished products in the nineties. Policy initiatives taken by the Government of India since 1973 have been instrumental to such a transformation. In the wake of globalisation of Indian economy supported with liberalised economic and trade policies since 1991, the industry is poised for further growth to achieve greater share in the global trade. 

Apart from a significant foreign exchange earner, leather industry has tremendous potential for employment generation. Direct and indirect employment of the industry is around 2 million. The skilled and semi-skilled workers constitute nearly 50% of the total work force.

The estimated employment in different sectors of leather industry is as follows:

  • Flaying, curing & Carcass Recovery:8,00,000
  • Tanning & Finishing:1,25,000
  • Full Shoe:1,75,000
  • Shoe Uppers:75,000
  • Chappals & Sandals:4,50,000
  • Leather Goods & Garments:1,50,000

Structure of the industry

The leather industry is spread in different segments, namely, tanning & finishing, footwear & footwear components, leather garments, leather goods including saddlery & harness, etc.

The estimated production capacity in different segments is as under

  • Hides:64 million pieces
  • Skins:166 million pieces

Footwear & Footwear Components

  • Shoes:100 million pairs
  • Leather shoe uppers:78 million pairs
  • Non-leather shoes/chappals etc:125 million pairs 
  • Leather Garments:6 million pieces
  • Leather Products:70 million pieces
  • Industrial Gloves:40 million pairs
  • Saddlery:6000 pieces

The major production centres for leather and leather products are located at Chennai, Ambur, Ranipet, Vaniyambadi, Trichi, Dindigul in Tamil Nadu, Calcutta in West Bengal, Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Jalandhar in Punjab, Bangalore in Karnataka, Delhi and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

Raw material supplies

There exists a large raw material base. This is on account of population of 194 million cattle, 70 million buffaloes, 95 million goats. According to the latest census, India ranks first among the major livestock holding countries in the world. In respect of sheep with 48 million sheeps, it claims the sixth position. These four species provide the basic raw material for the leather industry. 

The annual availability of 166 million pieces of hides and skins is the main strength of the industry. This is expected to go up to 218 million pieces by the end of year 2000. Some of the goat/calf/sheep skins available in India are regarded as speciality products commanding a good market. Abundance of traditional skills in training, finishing and manufacturing downstream products and relatively low wage rates are the two other factors of comparative advantage for India.

Tanning and finishing capacity

With tanning and finishing capacity for processing 1192 million pieces of hides and skins per annum spread over different parts of the country, most of which is organised along modern lives, the capability of India to sustain a much larger industry with its raw material resource is evident. In order to augment the domestic raw material availability, the Government of India has allowed duty free import of hides and skins from anywhere in the world. It is an attraction for any foreign manufacturer who intends to shift his production base from a high cost location to low cost base.

Export Potential

The leather industry, one of the major foreign exchange earners of the country recorded significant growth since the beginning of the decade. Today the share of the value added finished products in the total exports from leather sector are 80% as against 20% in 1970s.

Top ten Indian leather exporters

  • Tata International Ltd.
  • Florind Shoes Ltd.
  • Punihani International
  • Farida Shoes Ltd.
  • Mirza Tanners Ltd.
  • T. Abdul Wahid & Company
  • Hindustan Lever Ltd.
  • Super House Leather Ltd.
  • RSL Industries Ltd.
  • Presidency Kid Leather Ltd.

Indian Leather Footwear Industry

India is the world's second largest producer of footwear; its production estimated over 700 million pairs per annum. At about US $ 300 million per year, footwear accounts for 18 percent share of total exports of leather exports.

Various types of shoes produced and exported from India include dress shoes, casuals, moccasins, sports shoes, horacchis, sandals, ballerinas, and booties. Major production centres are Chennai (Madras), Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Mumbai (Bombay), Calcutta and Jalandhar.

Most of the modern footwear manufacturers in India are already supplying to well established brands in Europe and USA. The large domestic market and the opportunity to cater to world markets makes India an attractive destination for technology and investments. Equally relevant is it for the footwear components industry, at this juncture, it is posed for real growth and diversification.

Indian Leather Goods Industry

Items produced by this sector include, in addition to bags, handbags, handgloves and industrial gloves, wallets, ruck sacks, folios, brief cases, travelware, belts, sports goods, upholstery and saddlery goods.

A surfeit of modern units in Chennai, Kanpur and Calcutta employing skilled human resources and equipped with modern and sophisticated machinery account for a diversified range of superlative small leather goods including bags, purses, wallets, industrial gloves etc. made of quality leathers of cows, sheep, goats and buffaloes. The products meet the requirement of bulk buyers and consumers in Europe, USA and Australia. 

The major market for Indian leather goods is Germany, with an offtake of about 25 per cent of the leather goods produced in India followed by USA, UK, France and Italy. With products ranging from designer collections to personal leather accessories, this sector has a share of 20.53 per cent in the leather industry, while maintaining an average growth rate of 11 per cent recorded in the last five years.

Indian Saddlery Industry

India is one of the largest producers of saddlery and harness goods in the world. The saddlery industry was established in the 19th century primarily to cater to the needs of military and police. From then on initiatives were taken to develop, the industry and today there are over 150 units in the organised sector, out of which approximately 105 are 100% export oriented units.

Kanpur, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is a major production centre for saddlery goods in India accounting for more than 95% of the total exports of saddlery items from India. Kanpur, because of its specialisation in tanning and finishing of buffalo hides is the only centre in the country where harness leather, which is major input for saddlery industry, is manufactured.

The export of saddlery and harn'ess items have showed an annual growth rate of about 40% reaching DM 64 million during 1998-99. The major importers of Indian saddlery are Germany, USA, UK, France, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Indian Leather Garments Industry

The Leather Garment Industry occupies a place of prominence in the Indian leather sector.  The product classification of leather garments comprise of jackets, long coats, waist coats, shirts, pant/short, children garments, motorbike jackets, aprons and industrial leather garments.

Indian leather garments, which entered the world market only in the mid-eighties with exports of Rs. 15 crores in 1997-98, account for about Rs. 1530 crore in 1997-98.  The major export destination of leather garments from India is Germany.  In 1997, German imports of leather garments aggregated DM 1786 million of which DM 304 million worth of imports went from India.  India, China and Turkey were the major suppliers of leather garments for the German market, as they accounted for about 78% of the market share.

Among the three major exporting nations of leather garments, India maintains a similar level of market share of about 20%, in both German and EU markets.

The main reasons reported for under utilisation of capacity are raw material shortage, high price of raw materials, lack of modernisation, financial constraints, power constraints and stringent environmental regulations. 

Marketing of leather and leather products in Germany & the EU

The leather sector offers a good potential which Indian entrepreneurs can exploit in Germany and other EU markets characterised by ever growing competitiveness in terms of price and quality, on one hand, and the environmental considerations, on the other. With a strong foothold that the Indian leather industry has had for long in these markets, and its advantage of raw material and labour resources, Indian leather exporters can, and should, mount a concerted marketing campaign to wrest a share consistent with their inherent strength and potential.

This has to be done against the background of the well-known salient features of the German market: 

  • The world's second largest import and export market
  • A difficult buyers' market with hyper competition and high expectations
  • A dynamic multi-faceted market with rapid technological development and innovations A market where a considerable amount of buying power is devoted to satisfying individual needs
  • A market influenced by the rising average age of the population and low birth rate
  • A market where environment awareness and eco-friendly production becomes more and more a pre-requisite for successful marketing of products

Recipe for market intelligence

Market information through journals and magazines 

  • Schuhmarkt
  • Schuhkurier
  • Lederwaren Report 

Quick Market Assessment

  • Window shopping
  • Backward calculation of price
  • Catalogues/ leaflets

Trade Fairs

  • GDS – Dusseldorf    »   Herren Mode Woche - Munich
  • Expo-Riva Schuh - Italy  »   Igedo Fashion Fair - Düsseldorf
  • Leipzig Fashion Fair   »   SPOGA - Cologne
  • Lederwarenmesse - Offenbach 

SWOT Analysis of the Indian leather industry 

Opportunities

  • Rising potential in the domestic market
  • Growing fashion consciousness globally
  • Use of information technology and decision support software to help eliminate the length of the production cycle for different products
  • Use of e-commerce in direct marketing

 Strengths

  • High Growth
  • Ready availability of highly skilled and cheap manpower
  • Large raw material base
  • Policy initiatives taken by the Government
  • Capability to assimilate new technologies and handle large projects
  • Continuous emphasis on product development and design upgradation

Weaknesses

  • Lack of warehousing support from the government
  • International price fluctuation
  • Huge labour force resulting in high labour charges
  • Lack of strong presence in the global fashion market
  • Unawareness of international standards by many players

Threats

  • Major part of the industry is unorganised
  • Limited scope for mobilising funds through private placements and public issues (many businesses are family-owned)
  • Difficulty in obtaining bank loans resulting in high cost of private borrowing
  • Stricter international standards
  • High competition from East European countries and other Asian countries
  • Lack of communication facilities and skills