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 liberalized 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:
Sector Total Employment
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
Hides64 million pieces
Skins166 million pieces
Footwear & Footwear Components
a) Shoes100 million pairs
b) Leather shoe uppers78 million pairs
c) Non-leather shoes/chappals etc125 million pairs
Leather Garments6 million pieces
Leather Products70 million pieces
Industrial Gloves40 million pairs
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...