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The use of leather in the automotive sector is rising
Set up in 1953, Kanpur-based Super Tannery Limited is the oldest tannery in north India and is one of the leading buffalo leather tanneries globally. The company specialises in high quality leather for automotive and furniture upholstery, safety and lifestyle footwear, bags, belts, sporting goods and equestrian equipment. CEO Tanveer Amin discusses the opportunities and challenges that Indian leather industry faces.
What is the size of the global tanning industry? What is the percentage share claimed by India?
The global tanning industry is worth billions. India claims around 4-5 per cent of the share.
What is the expected growth rate by 2020?
The expected growth rate in the next 2-3 years should be over 10-15 per cent.
The government is targeting leather revenues of $27 billion by 2020. Do you think this can be achieved?
There is lot of scope to achieve this target. If the government policies are favourable to the industry and if the international market behaves well, which is a big factor beyond our control, then the target is achievable.
How has the Uttar Pradesh government's thrust on shifting tanneries to clean Ganga and the ban on cattle trade affected the tanning industry in Kanpur? Do you plan to move your operations?
The Uttar Pradesh government has been very proactive in assuring that none of the unauthorised or illegal activities concerning live animals take place in the state. It has been quite successful in eliminating lot of malpractices. For instance, the closures of unauthorised slaughter houses that were operating without proper permits in areas they were not supposed to. We have also been able to regulate the slaughter industry a lot to cut down on malpractices that could have potentially affected our reputation as niche suppliers globally.
At the moment, we don't have a designated site for shifting the tanneries. The government is also cooperating a lot in trying not to let the tanneries shift at all. Perhaps the idea is to modernise and upgrade the existing water treatment plants that serve the industry currently. Since the shifting may not be suitable for all the different entities that are processing leather in our region, the government is exploring possibilities to prevent shifting and we can continue smoothly with the existing setup, with some upgradation.
We hope we don't have to move our operations but if the shifting happens on pan-industry basis, then of course nobody will have a choice.
Has the goods and services tax (GST) impacted the tanning industry? What further revisions/steps does this industry require to help it bounce back to normal?
Initially, the tanning industry was affected just like every other sector in the country. But more than the impact, the lack of clarification on many issues and the passage of key information to the public in bits and pieces created confusion and some level of panic among consumers. But the Indian leather industry and the people involved in it are friendly, proactive in their accounting systems, procedures, and are fairly informed. The Council for Leather Exports (CLE), which is very proactive, ensures that any kind of changes in government policies is swiftly communicated to the industry. Because of the council's support, we were able to function normally despite the initial hiccups and panic.
Apart from the council, the Federation of Indian Exporters' Organisation (FIEO), which ensures Indian exporters across all industries are well informed about policy changes of the government, has extended excellent support.
Tanneries, which use raw material from slaughter houses are witnessing a 20-40 percent increase in prices owing to shortage of supply. What do you have to say about it?
I don't think there has been an increase in 20-40 per cent in our raw material price. The raw material in our industry tends to play up and the movement of prices does become a little strange.
Since most of the tanneries in our region are serving the export markets, the behaviour in these markets have a big influence on our raw material.
The second influence is of local factors. For instance, the unavailability of animals in the summer months because animal transporters prefer not to transport them to long distances fearing they will not survive the heat. The farmers strongly believe that animals do not yield as much weight in summers. This discourages the farmers to sell during summer and wait until the monsoons. It is believed that animals start gaining weight as monsoon begins and yield more value.
These two are the main forces that have some impact on prices.
What is the status of the project that was launched, as part of a memorandum of understanding, to train workers for water conservation in leather processing?
It has fared well. It has served its purpose. Any amount of awareness that needs to be spread to the workers has surely added some value to the industry. There has been a tremendous change as far as water conservation at production level is concerned.
Where do you source hides from?
We source our hides from mechanised slaughter houses that are engaged in the export of buffalo meat to various parts of the world.
What is the annual production capacity at your units? What percentage of the production accounts to exports?
It varies a lot. We have good installed capacities. Our production is well influenced by the demand of the international market. We produce about 1.5 million sq ft a month; so it comes to around 18 million sq ft a year. About 80 per cent of our production is exported.
Which segment among footwear, accessories, upholstery, and sporting & equestrian goods generates the most revenue for your company?
Our biggest segment is furniture, i.e., upholstery, followed by footwear and leather goods, like bags and belts.
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