Kanpur, the “leather city” of India, occupies a place of prominence among the leather clusters with 15% share in India’s export of leather products and over two lakh employment opportunities in the city. While the economic capital of Uttar Pradesh has been consistently contributing to the Leather industry, it is still not able to bridge the skill gap in the Leather sector. The lack of awareness about skill has created a massive demand-supply gap in terms of employment. When the leather city itself is facing the traumatizing skill deficiency which can obviously be resolved, don’t you think it would be engrossing to know about the rest of the leather clusters in the country?
Operating in 9 different states and 14 districts, leather clusters in India is one of the country’s oldest clusters. Among them, Chennai, Kanpur, Agra and Kolkata produce 90% of India’s total leather products and contribute hugely towards the economic development of the country. While Kanpur is crowned as the Leather City, it is Tamil Nadu which is the largest leather producing states in India as it accounts for 40% of the country’s leather production. Kolkata, the biggest cluster in West Bengal also generates a fair share of revenue for the industry.
Job opportunities in the Leather cluster
From being a mere supplier of raw material, to one of the leading industries of its type, India’s leather clusters have witnessed incredible transformation over time. Being an employment intensive industry, these clusters together produce about 2.5 million jobs every year and 30% of the workforce is women. While 50% of the workforce is either skilled or semiskilled, the problem remains in the other 50%. More than half of the cluster workforce are not aware about the importance of skilling.
“Having one of the youngest workforce with around 55% of them below 35 years of age and having the potential to create more employment, the clusters, under demographic dividend, might reach greater heights sooner than we realize. However, in order to optimally use the opportunities and maximize the growth factor, India’s leather clusters need to embrace several reforms. “(Shri. P R Aqeel Ahmed, Chairman, CLE and LSSC)
Bridging the skill gap in the Leather cluster
Though the state and central government has been working towards developing the leather clusters, yet a lot remains to be done to help the leather sector reach to the heights where it should be. As the industry itself is extensively skill-based, lacking the awareness of skill would make it difficult for the youth to work in the industry. Whether it is leather manufacturing, tanning or any other process, they all need different skills. This needs to be addressed immediately and the 50% skilled workforce should reach to a 100% within the next 5 years.
Being identified as a special focus sector by the National Manufacturing Policy, the leather industry is supported by Leather Sector Skill Council (LSSC) which been established with the sole purpose of bridging the skill gap in the leather industry by bringing all the leather clusters together under one umbrella. LSSC is an industry-led organization that provides skilling in various subsectors and contributes to industry through training curriculum standards as per NSQF, job roles, assessments, RPL and other initiatives. The main objective of LSSC is to build capacity for high productivity and to meet global standards.
Besides skill development, India has accorded high importance to leather-based research and higher education. Working in that direction, organizations like the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) and Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) are offering specialized courses to youngsters inclined towards the leather industry. A few of these courses also help the students in getting employed in retail outlets, specifically in chain brand companies.
The leather clusters have humongous job opportunities, the problem lies in the dearth of skills. Continuous awareness and proper skill training can revive the diminishing glory of the industry, mainly in the rural areas and can address the unemployment challenge in a much better way.