Tamil Nadu takes to non-leather footwear; aims to set up 20 factories in 3 years

In the past few months, Pou Chen, Feng Tay and Kothari-Phoenix Group have pledged investments worth Rs 6,000 crore
Last Updated : 04 May 2023, 03:32 IST

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With footwear majors Pou Chen Corporation and Feng Tay making the state their home in India, the Tamil Nadu government is betting huge on the non-leather footwear sector with a target of setting up massive manufacturing units in 20 locations, especially in rural areas, over a period of three years.

The government feels the labour-intensive industry will provide jobs to at least 15,000 to 20,000 people, especially women, in each location, which will further fuel the rural economy. Of the 20 locations, factories in three are already functional and things are moving fast in another three, while efforts are on to woo major footwear manufacturers from southeast Asia to set up their shops in Tamil Nadu.

“Our goal is to have 20 such units across the state by 2025. We are talking to several footwear manufacturers from Taiwan, and a few from South Korea. Talks with a couple of firms from Taiwan are at an advanced stage and we hope to finalise the deal soon,” a senior government official told DH, refusing to divulge the names of the companies.

In the past few months, Pou Chen, Feng Tay and Kothari-Phoenix Group have pledged investments worth Rs 6,000 crore for setting up non-leather footwear manufacturing units in Kallakurichi, Ranipet, Bargur, Cheyyar, and Tindivanam, which will provide jobs to nearly 80,000 people. The ultimate aim is to attract investments worth Rs 20,000 crore in the sector by 2025.

The state already accounts for 45 per cent of exports in the leather footwear sector and will now be part of the global supply chain for brands like Nike, Adidas, Timberland, and New Balance. Industry experts feel Tamil Nadu has a natural advantage over other competing states like Telangana, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh due to the thriving leather footwear industry here.

“The added plus for TN is the availability of a significant amount of skilled labour in the (footwear) sector. Besides excellent port connectivity, government policies, good work culture, and education level of the available labour enables TN to close the deals successfully,” Israr Ahmed Mecca, Regional Chairman, Council for Leather Exports, told DH.

Not just manufacturing units, the government is also looking to tap into the footwear design segment, said V Vishnu, MD & CEO, Guidance Tamil Nadu.

“It is not just about diversification into rural areas but also moving up the value chain. We want companies that are involved in R&D in footwear design to come to TN. We hope to leverage our capacity with their presence. Another advantage is Chennai is home to some of the best footwear design schools,” the bureaucrat told DH.

Another official said the government has made a conscious decision to take these firms to rural areas, including in the southern part of the state, to further fuel growth as one factory can employ at least 10,000 persons.

“It is very easy to find 150 to 200 acres of land needed for the industry. We will ensure that there is at least 50 km distance between one factory and another. We also view this sector as an avenue to empowering women,” the second official added.

The official said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Taiwan Footwear Manufacturers Association is helping the government reach out to major players in the sector. The state government is looking to woo manufacturers who are moving away from countries like China and Vietnam due to a slew of factors, including rising manufacturing costs.

Mecca, who is also director of Farida Group, said it was a “natural progression” that non-leather footwear companies are coming to India as they realised the need to diversify during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Vietnam, the leader in non-leather footwear manufacturing, now reaching its saturation point.

“The Indian market is also growing very fast, and companies are coming here not just for exports but also to supply locally. And Covid-19 made them realise the importance of diversification, and hence they began looking at India as a source of production. In India, Tamil Nadu has the advantage,” he added.

Published 03 May 2023, 15:50 IST

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