India may soon witness increase in casual shoe exports: council

‘Worldwide demand for formal shoes is dwindling’
India would soon start exporting casual shoes with a ‘Made in India’ tag in massive numbers to international markets such as the U.S and the Europe to meet global demand, said a top industry official.

“Worldwide, the demand for formal shoes is dying and the customers have started moving towards casual wear,” said P.R. Aqeel Ahmed, chairman, Council for Leather Exports (CLE). “We have a strong foothold in the formal shoes, accounting for 90% of the country’s export.”

From January to December 2018, India exported leather and leather products valued at Rs. 35,181 crore against Rs. 33,900 crore for the year-earlier period, marking an increase of 3.78%. Of this, leather footwear accounted for 40%. “This year, we will produce two billion pairs of shoes per annum, an increase of 2-3% over the last year. Formal shoes account for 50% of total production, casual shoes 40% and sport shoes 10% respectively,” Mr. Ahmed said.

U.S.-China trade war
“The ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China augurs well for India, as the overseas buyers have started looking for alternative sources,” said Rafeeque M. Ahmed, president, All India Skin and Hide Tanners and Merchants Association (AISHTMA).

Mentioning that the U.S. market was heavily dependent on China for import of footwear, he said a mere 5% shift to India would bring in huge volume amounting to $1.5 billion. Of late, Indian shoemakers were getting several inquiries for casual shoes and the results could be seen in the coming months.

Asked how it would be possible to tackle competition from China, he said: “No one wants uncertainty. Overseas buyers have started looking for alternative sources. The production capacity in Vietnam is full and Indonesia has capacity constraint and the only other option is India.”

“The only trouble with India is that it exports mostly formal shoes, whereas the overseas buyers wants casual shoes. It is a compulsion and we have to change the product mix to meet global demand,” he said.

Mr. Aqeel Ahmed said that formal shoes were hand crafted while casual shoes were mass produced using modern machines. It required huge investment for high production and modernised machinery. “It has a huge potential. It’s time now to capitalise on it.”

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