How India Footwear Industry is Beating China Potentially When you think of Atmanirbhar Bharat, an industry that is in full swing to make the most out of the current situation is the footwear industry

By Harkirat Singh

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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When you think of Atmanirbhar Bharat, an industry that is in full swing to make the most out of the current situation is the footwear industry.

Most countries are sharing a common sentiment of resentment against China due to the COVID-19 pandemic and many brands are even withdrawing their manufacturing plants from there. In this case, India is providing land to be explored for business growth and manufacturing units with reasonable terms and conditions.

Under the "Make in India' initiative of the government of India, the footwear industry seems to be one of the focussed areas. The footwear sector in India is close to 75 per cent production in India but it lags much behind China in terms of export of footwear. Data shows that nearly 95 per cent of footwear manufactured in India fulfills the local demand, leaving less left to export and earn profits.

The reasons were identified as lack of locally available raw materials in enough quantities, lack of manufacturing of shoes and sandals of a higher range, lack of focus on a specific style/type. Vietnam, for instance, had started focussed production of athletic shoes two decades back and has become the hub for the same now.

The supply chain of certain raw materials had already broken in January 2020 due to the ban on flights from China. This allowed the footwear industry to relocate the supply chain locally in India. Having said that, even before COVID-19 breakout, there were footwear brands that sourced their raw materials like leather from tanneries in Jalandhar, Punjab to manufacture their leather shoes in Noida and other parts of India. This pandemic has provided the footwear industry an opportunity to explore the supply chain in India to a greater extent.

The statistics say that India is sufficiently producing leather footwear but still needs to work on non-leather footwear. The focus on manufacturing non-leather shoes would also bring great revenue to India as a country as data suggests that 86 per cent of the world wears non-leather footwear. The need for a thrust or a push in the production of non-leather footwear has also been identified by the national president of the Confederation of Indian Footwear Industries. The leather footwear industry is already employing nearly 4.2 million people in India and now the employment generation program needs to be extended by the non-leather footwear industry as well.

Many footwear brands are working towards specializing in specific varieties of non-leather shoes. Making a hundred percent eco-friendly product is in the work-sphere of many brands. Hence one additional aim of the footwear industry is also to expand the manufacture of biodegradable shoes, children's footwear, and expensive women's footwear above INR 1,000 price range, by establishing a sustainable supply chain from the whole of India and setting up the manufacturing units in those cities that provide favourable environments.

A venture in footwear industry focused on high-priced shoes will also give a boost to the export of footwear from India and would bring revenue for the country.

The pandemic has also called for stakeholders to come together and chalk out plans so that the industry can grow and explore the business opportunity to the fullest. The need for amendments in GST, labor laws has also been identified and is worked upon. An increase in the establishment of a complete local supply chain and local manufacturing, production and packaging units in India itself can make India the largest producer and exporter of footwear.

The silver lining of this pandemic is the thrust towards the "Make in India' mission, especially by the footwear industry where the said industry has already geared up to take over China in terms of produce and export.

Harkirat Singh

Managing Director, Aero Club (The maker of Woodland & Woods)

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