An overview of Leather industry in India: Need for skill development

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India’s leather industry is one of its oldest manufacturing industries. It is placed at a prominent position in India’s export operations and is one of the 8 major industries that generate export revenue for the country. From being a mere supplier of raw material, to one of the leading industries of its type, India’s leather and non-leather industry has witnessed incredible transformation over time.

The Leather and non-Leather industry is an employment intensive industry, providing jobs to more than 4 million people. Also, the industry has been identified as a special focus sector by the National Manufacturing Policy.

Key facts about the Leather industry in India

India is world’s second largest producer of leather garments and footwear. It accounts for about 13% of the world’s leather hides/skins’ production. India’s leather industry has major subsectors like footwear, leather goods and garments, finished leather, saddlery and harness. Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are the major production and export centres of leather, leather products and footwear in India. There is a high demand for leather products in the Indian market. This exponential growth in demand for leather goods in the domestic market is majorly driven by other industries like the fashion industry, furniture and designing industries, as well as the automotive industries. There is high demand for fashion accessories like bags, purses, footwear and even clothes.

The major reasons behind the success and growth of the leather industry are-

  • The abundance of cattle and livestock – Leather in India is mostly extracted from buffaloes and goats. Being a major livestock-based country, India has abundant raw materials available for leather production
  • Skilled manpower required for the leather industry – India has skilled manpower required for the industry. Thus, the leather industry is currently thriving with the contribution of skilled and talented workforce

an_overview_of_leather_industry_in_indiaLeather industry and exports

The Council for Leather Exports (CLE) is an autonomous non-profit organisation, which looks after export promotion activities and the development of the Indian leather industry. About 3,500 companies manufacturing/exporting leather and leather products are members of this Council.

Leather exports from India comprise of raw-hide skins, finished leather, leather goods, leather garments, leather footwear component, saddlery and harness. India is the second largest exporter of leather garments and the third largest exporter of saddlery and harness in the world. According to Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS), total leather goods exports from India stood at USD 3.05 billion during April-October 2018.

Exports are projected to reach USD 9.0 billion by 2020, from the present level of USD 5.85 billion. India has trade agreements with Japan, Korea, ASEAN, Chile etc., and is negotiating Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with European Union, Australia etc. Source: IBEF

Leather industry – skill development and education among youth

Indian leather industry has one of the youngest workforces with around 55% of workforce below 35 years of age. This industry, under the demographic dividend, might reach greater heights sooner than we realise. However, in order to optimally utilise this opportunity and to maximise the growth factor, India’s leather industry needs to see the face of several reforms. Indian government is working towards the betterment of the leather industry through introduction of numerous schemes and programmes.

  • The leather industry is extensively skill-based and for a person to work in this industry, he/she must have the requisite skills. Every step of the leather manufacturing process like extracting, tanning and buffing the leather, requires different skill sets. Unfortunately, there is a prevailing skill gap that needs to be bridged. The sole purpose of the leather sector skill council of India is to tackle this problem and to help the leather industry in availing the benefits offered by the skilling industry
  • Leather Sector Skill Council (LSSC) is an industry-led organization that facilitates skilling in various subsectors and contributes to industry through training curriculum standards as per NSQF, job roles, assessments, RPL and other initiatives. The main objective of LSSC is to build capacity for high productivity and compliance with global standards.
  • India has a laser focus on leather-based research and education. Organisations like the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) and Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) are offering specialised courses to youngsters inclined towards the leather industry. A few of these courses also help the students in getting employed in retail outlets, specifically in chain brand companies.

Growth and scope of the industry

As the fashion and apparel industry is growing at a fast pace, demand for leather products has reached an all-time high. Major brands like Clarks, Pierre Cardin and Tommy Hilfiger are importing footwear manufactured in India. Not just exports, India’s domestic market is also witnessing high demand for leather goods. Furniture and automobile industries have introduced a wide range of products and require leather goods in their manufacturing processes. Therefore, a synergy of various industries like fashion, automobiles and furniture, have given the leather industry a great boost, both domestically and internationally.

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