The manufacturers had a massive shortage of primary products during the pandemic.
The sales of leather products have still not reached the pre-pandemic level. The leather product manufacturers are still struggling to get back on their feet. A representative from Ashish Enterprises, a manufacturing unit based out of Hebbal said that they had a massive shortage of primary products during the pandemic. “When we were planning to expand our business to other cities, the pandemic happened. Lockdown forced our labourers to return to their home town. We were out of business for some weeks,” they said.
In 2020, the state government provided cash assistance of Rs. 2,000 to cobblers and leather workers in the unorganized sector by bringing them under the Rs. 1,600 crore relief package announced by then CM BS Yediyuruppa.
Addressing the leather artisans, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said “If you do work that will provide many jobs and produce more work, then I will provide more support to you. He also added, “Our leader Yediyurappa had started this transformation for the artisans. In the last 5 years, Rs 237 crores have been allotted to help more than 33,000 businesses in the state.”
The Chief Minister said on Friday that innovating the leather industry will be impossible without technology.
Speaking at the State Level Leather Artisans Convention in Bengaluru, he said, new machines and innovations will enable efficiency in the leather industry. Urging people to educate themselves in different areas, he said, “If one wishes to continue business in this profession without advancement, it will be economically and socially difficult to maintain.”
Emphasizing the state’s policies for leather artisans, Karnataka Social Welfare Minister Kota Srinivas Poojary said, “Our policies have reached the poorest sections of society. From sellers to manufacturers, we have provided them with all the assistance.”
Highlighting the problems of the leather industry, Professor N. Linganna, Chairman, Dr. Babu Jagjivan Ram Leather Industries Development Corporation Ltd. said that he has addressed the issues to the CM. “I have also communicated with the Social Welfare minister. They have assured that they will look into the progression of the industry,” he added.
Varsha Rana, head of spare parts at Focus Machines, a machine producer, said that bringing innovation in the machinery of leather industry in India is tough. “Every product in the industry has a different machine. India majorly imports machines used in the leather industry from Italy and China and without proper training, safety can be a big issue,” she said.
Pandemic and the industry
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortage of labour for garment and leather goods exporters in numerous cities caused challenges for manufacturers.
Several exporters, who sold their products on international markets, feared that failing to meet their deadlines could lead them to look for production in Vietnam and Bangladesh in the future. Subsequently, this would result in losses for their businesses.
A leather product manufacturer from Bellary said that he faced losses in the initial months of the pandemic. “After the second wave, my business was reviving but sales never reached the pre-pandemic level,” he said.
Research showed that Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan are important producers of semi-finished leather and various types of leather products in South Asia.
Among these, India is an important producer of leather footwear as well as leather trunks, bags and suitcases for export and accounts for around 13 per cent of the world’s leather production annually.
With total exports of $ 1.3 billion annually, India also produced 9 per cent of the world’s leather footwear.
Whereas, in 2020-21, Karnataka has contributed 2.03 per cent to India’s total leather production.