THE leather sector in India is categorised by the government as one of the crust sectors, and it is one of the very few industries that has ...

THE leather sector in India is categorised by the government as one of the crust sectors, and it is one of the very few industries that has a large employment generation potential. Predominantly export-oriented, in 2006-07, the industry earned about three billon dollars in finished leather, footwear, garments and leather article segments, making it the fourth largest export earner after gems, jewellery, textiles, and engineering goods.
Moreover, since the European Union put up an anti-dumping duty on products made by China and Vietnam, India has become a lucrative, alternative source with cheap labour and upgraded technology. Due to technological advancements in the sector special care is taken towards environmental protection. It is no more considered to be a polluting industry. “Most of the tanning industries especially in Tamil Nadu, are equipped with treatment plants, which is a mandatory requirement for the tanning sector to commission an effluent treatment plant and this is one of the industries where the environment pollution board had asked for the setting up of tertiary treatment plants, where the effluents are not only treated but post treatment used for recovery and reuse within the factory itself. This step has made the sector one of the model sectors with respect to environment protection,” explains Dr V Chandrashekar, Head of CLAD division, Center for Leather and Research Institute (CLRI). He further emphasises that during the tenth five-year plan, the focus was to create nearly one million jobs for the leather product sector. For this the GOI has set up a Human Resource Development mission, where an effort is made to promote various levels of training to develop specialised skills across the country, and also to create an interface with the industry in order to understand the nature of demand.

Ironically, careers in this sector are not very popular, perhaps due to the general perception that it is not a lucrative field to venture in. But in reality, the industry is a hi-tech arena, with well-paying jobs, evolving with escalating demands both domestically and internationally.
To many it might come across as a surprise that there scores of good institutes offering a B.Tech or M.Tech in leather and footwear science and technology, footwear fabrication and design, footwear management and a wide range of short and longterm vocational training programmes, diploma and certificate courses.

Students who pursue vocational training programmes learn about leather process technology, leather product technology (under which there are three major classifications, footwear, leather apparel and leather accessories).Vocational programmes are classified into skilled development, and supervisory level programmes. Both these programmes deal with assembly which includes the sewing operations, cutting leather components, and learning about the pattern-engineering module ie, how to make patterns for different products. The modules consist of assembly, cutting and designing. This module is followed for all the products whether it is footwear, apparels or leather products. The vocational programmes are for a duration of six months.
Students who a pursue a BTech in Leather Technology undergo a four-year rigorous course where the first two semesters are the same as any engineering course, the third semester curriculum is similar to that of chemical engineering. In the fourth semester they diversify into leather technology, followed by the next four semesters wherein they can pursue a specialisation in either leather processing, environmental management or leather products.

“Finished leather segment requires high capital investment as is the case in the shoe making sector. However, all four segments: finished leather, footwear, garments and leather articles, remain highly labour-intensive as well. The product-making segment is booming since last year. Also, the companies are taking up capacity expansion of the sector, so there is a huge manpower shortage in the product sector right now. Finished leather and shoe-making requires a lot of knowledge of science and technology, while in the case of footwear, it is design,” enlightens Rajlingam, deputy general manager, leather operations, Tata International Ltd.
Students can opt for either the technical side or the management side in the industry.To begin with they are absorbed as trainees. Some get into material merchandising, which deals with procuring the raw materials and checking their quality while others work in the finishing department, which deals with colouring and texturing leather.
Students with skilled-based vocational education are called master technicians; they get into as technicians in the industry. Diploma holders take up supervisory jobs in the factories. BTech graduates in Leather Technology graduates are the techno-commercial people who begin their careers as management trainees or graduate engineers in various product and leather factories in the country and across the world.
Under the finished category ie finished leather, one can start his career as a technologist. The nature of the job involves manning the tanneries, controlling various processes, developing different types of processes as leather goes through several chemical processes in order to become conducive to make garments, shoes and automobile upholstery.
In case of footwear, one can begin his career as a production or a material manager or a designer. The role of the production manager it to coordinate with materials, labour, marketing, quality control, optimum utilisation of resources, timely delivery of goods, maintaining industrial relations, to name a few. A material manager looks after sourcing the materials at a right price and time. The profile of the designer goes way beyond merely creating innovative designs.He shoulders the responsibility of converting a prototype, concept or an idea into reality. He has to test the viability of the product and make it reach a point of mass production. It is not necessary that each time the designer comes up with a new innovative design, they ideally follow textile trend and fashion, refer to fashion magazines and bring about additions and modifications to a prototype.

B.Tech graduates can earn as high as Rs 25,000 per month, while the industry average is between Rs12,000 and Rs15,000. A diploma holder can expect to earn Rs four to six thousand at the start of his career.
Over the last five years there has been an increasing trend of students with B.Tech in leather technology being absorbed by the IT sector, which is not very healthy for the leather industry. Ramlingam concludes, “There is a huge shortage of manpower to meet the growing gap between the demand and supply, especially in the footwear business. The capacity of production is increasing but the manpower is not rising proportionately. If the government sets up more academic institutes in the future then it will augment the supply of such personnel’s to our trade.”

Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) Chennai

College of Leather Technology, Calcuttta

Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI), Noida

Central Footwear Training Institute (CFTI), Agra.

National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi

AVI School of Fashion and Shoe Technology, Chandigarh.

Shoe Design Centre, New Delhi

Central Footwear Training Institute (CFTI), Chennai

Indian Institute of Leather Products (IILP), Chennai.

Prototype Development and Training Centre (PDTC), Chennai

VTA Institutes of Leather and Leather Products, Vaniyambad



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