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Leather Industry in India

History of the Leather Industry in India

Leather Industry in India is a mixture of both the organized and the unorganized sectors.  About 75% of the leather output in India is generated by the small, cottage and artisan sectors (unorganized).  Leather making in India dates back to pre-historic age.  However, the modern method of leather production was introduced to India by the English and the French in 1857. Traditionally, the leather industry in India produces hides and skins. However, there are also the secondary leather industries such as leather shoes, leather garments and other leather goods such as ladies' bags, gloves, travel cases, wallets, belts and desktops.  

There are over 2,000 tanneries in India.  Many of them are scattered in small scale and cottage sector all over India especially West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Uttam Pradesh.  It is anticipated that the leather industry in India will generate an estimated $7 billion by 2011.  It is no wonder that India is one of the top exporters of leather along with France and the UK.  

Challenges Facing the Leather Industry in India

Even though India is one of the top exporters of leather, the pace of the exports did not keep up with other developing nations such as Argentina or Pakistan.  When evaluating the leather industry environment in India, one would assume that India has the prime conditions for a world leading leather operation.  India has the highest cattle population in the world.  Leather production requires lots of low skill labor which India has an abundance of.  

Historically, government legislation prevents the slaughter of cattle in India due to the animal's sacred status.  Unlike other developing nations where leather production is associated with meat production, the legislation severely inhibits the supply of cattle as a raw material for leather production.

Leather producers in India must wait for the cattle to die from natural causes such as old age, starvation or diseases.  Unfortunately, cattle with diseases cannot produce high quality leather.  Also, cattle died from natural causes must be quickly processed to prevent decay and hide deterioration. This makes it challenging for leather producers because the dead cattle must be processed wherever the carcass is found instead of doing it within a leather production facility.

The scarcity of cattle is not the only restriction to the leather industry in India.  For vegetable dyed leather, the supply of chrome salts used in leather production is limited in supply to the leather producers.  When producers tried to switch to a chemical dye, PCP (Pentachlorophenol), it was eventually banned in India due to the chemical being a carcinogen.

Import Opportunities Within the Leather Industry in India

Even though most of the leather and leather products from the industry in India are exported, the opportunity exists for those interested in importing. Look for raw materials used for the production of leather and leather goods.

Leather shoe manufacturers or exporters in India for instance, will import soles, insoles, shoe lasts, counters, toe puffs, polishers and stiffeners. The value of such imported items can make up 10% to 20% of the total value of the leather goods.  

Real Experiences!

Kumar S.  - Import from China to India

“I want to do business with china importing leather jackets and other goods. I didn't know how to receive the goods until I found your web site. Thanks.”