India's footwear industry

From the desk of Director, CFTI Agra - Mr. Sanatan Sahoo

  • From soles to souls, shoes contribute a great deal to our human experience. Whether a pair of bouncy new sneakers, or a pair of bright red pumps, shoes can make anyone smile and can elevate any outfit to the next level. Knowing just how important proper footwear is and inspired by the success accredited to the industry now-a-days, youth across country have taken to filling gap between high-priced Mochi and Jimmy Choo with gusto. Armed with a degree from CFTI, Agra, with specialization in leather footwear industry, worked with best domestic brands and encouraged by friends and well wishers, Meera Samadhiya decided to launch her own footwear company in 2013. Driven by passion, she struck gold and quickly became the blue eyed vendor across Agra.This phenomenal rise of entrepreneurship across footwear industry gives an insight toits transformation into a highly specialized industry from the traditional labor intensive sector.Implementation of the central sector scheme ‘Indian Footwear, Leather & Accessories Development Programme’ (IFLADP)has been instrumental in fuelling the leather and footwear industry; hence,opening up vistas of opportunitiesfor itsdevelopment and promotion on global platform. Being a chic style statement in today's ultra fashion-conscious world, everything from flats, sandals and stilettos to boots and sportswear rule the roost.

  • Footwear styling and growth
  • The historical background identifies the transformation of Footwear from commodity to image, attitude and lifestyle. India being a country of artisans has always been looked upon for its traditional craft of footwear making. Some of the traditional footwear created by village craftsmen include leather chappals in Kohlapur, embroidered Juttis in Jodhpur, Indo-Tibetan felt boots in Sikkim and vegetable fibre shoes in Ladakhor. The footwear industries using traditional methods of manufacture, has clearly taken technology to heart in recent decades, and this has greatly benefited both shoemakers and shoe wearers. Since India is such a diverse nation, the types of traditional footwear found all over the country are diverse too. Small and Medium enterprises in India have a major role to play in the development and advancement of the footwear sector through sustaining and enhancing their export contributionvis-a-vis development of clustering and many more such activities.

  • Attitudinal dimensions

  • India is on the verge of a retail boom fueled by fast evolving lifestyles and behavioural changes towards shopping. With changing retail lanscape and advancing styles, Indian footwear industy is set for a phenomenal growth in future. Indian market is brand driven and organised players dominate the sales.

  • The increasing penetration of internet and social media to the lives of Indian consumers has dramatically evolved their shopping behaviours. Urbanisation is also a major contributor to influencing buying habits of consumers. Rising brand consciousness and increasing discretionary incomes has resulted in enormous growth in footwear consumption. Consequently, it can be inferred that footwear besides being part of wardrobe, has also become a huge status symbol these days.
  • Growing competition among global players is paving the way for the development of innovative footwear with a focus on improving user-experience. The latest technology that is gaining popularity is the use of polyurethane capsules in the manufacture of athletic footwear. Some shoes are also being manufactured with built-in sensors to track the speed, distance covered, and calories burned. There are some innovative running shoe which boasts of a carbon-fiber spring-like flange under the sole that helps propel a runner forward. Growing preference for premium and customized products has kickstarted the trend of customized shoes. Many international brands have launched facilities which allow consumers to
    customize their shoes with patriotic prints of their preference.
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  • Structural reforms for inclusive industry growth
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  • What we wear on our feet matters as much as the clothes we adorn In Indian context, footwear industry is a crucial segment of Leather and Non Leather products in India. In order to help the industry move ahead and expand capacity, MSME have evolved as the nurseries of entrepreneurship by introducing incentives for attracting foreign investments across footwear units. Advent of Footwear park complexes has revolutionized the existing scenario by creating new modernized production centres apart from the existing production hubs at Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Tamilnadu. Moreover, several schemes are being rolled out by Ministry of MSME providing capital subsidies and for capacity building across footwear industry.


  • Ministry of MSME in India has introduced clustering across footwear sector to establish co-operation and joint strategy among the firms and also from the government for the subsistence and growth of the SME sector. The Agra shoe industry is one of the largest leather- footwear clusters with Central Footwear Training Institute and MSME DI Agra as the major stakeholders in the Agra footwear cluster. Agra is the largest footwear manufacturing hub in India with a colossal annual manufacturing value. Cluster development activities in footwear industry has given major boost to private capital flow in the organized segment and enhance capacity to keep pace with future growth prospects.
  • While prospects for India's Leather footwear industry has brightened in view of declining production of leather footwear in the Western European countries, the industry in India has to go in for substantial capacity enhancement in order to fully utilize this opportunity. However, it is disheartening to note that India’s export share to world import for leather footwear hovers around 2-3 percent only given the potential of Indian footwear makers.

  • Footwear industry- The new age career
  • Job creation is arguably one of the most important parameters to judge how successful a government has been in envisaging and implementing its economic policies. The micro, small and medium enterprises sector is one of the major employment generators in several sectors while footwear segment is no exception employing nearly 1.3 million people.
  • Since footwear always has and continues to play an important role in complementing any fashion trend that comes by, whether it is professional, semi-formal or routine, hence the biggest advantage that a career in the footwear industry comes with is that of being non-seasonal and always evolving. Footwear industry offers a variety of bright career options as footwear designer, Product Developers, Footwear Technologists, Marketing Executives, Quality Controllers, Merchandisers, Planning Executives, Trend Analysts etc. Most significantly, the footwear sector has also been instrumental in developing a spirit of entrepreneurship in the country, living upto the time-tested adage of poverty alleviation through self-sufficiency. Those having a knack of creativity and forte for innovation have hit fortunes in the sector by introducing their own shoelines under registered labels.

  • Where to start

  • Leading vocational institutes across the country offer various undergraduate, post-graduate, diploma and certificate courses in Footwear Design, Manufacturing, Management and Technology.To name a few, CFTI Agra stays ahead in the race of producing industry ready professionals. A Govt of India organization functioning under the aegis of Ministry of MSME, Central Footwear Training Institute (CFTI), Agra is one of the oldest institute of its own kind since 1963 developing human resources for footwear and allied industry through various long term, short term and need based training programmes at its campus in Sikandra and outside as ORPs. Equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, CFTI boasts of in-house design studios equipped with computer aided design (CAD) systems and 3D shoe design packages churning out designs in sync with the seasonal global trends. The availability of laboratory facilities for physical testing, established in association with international agencies is also a boon, working in favor of students enrolled in the institute while upgrading the knowledge and skill of the existing staff.
  • Graduates from CFTI have been quickly lapped up by international players and global brand houses. Some choose to go the independent route and set up their own design studio crafting exclusive pieces for boutiques, fashion shows or even personalized to individual clients.

  • Changing dynamics
  • Leather footwear export sector is facing headwinds due to a challenging internal and external environment. Though e-commerce is booming, yet it is difficult to sell footwear via the internet as people still want to get a sense of the fit and feel of a pair shoes before making the final purchase. Time has come to develop the linkages between the large and export oriented units with the micro manufacturing units. Obviously, it can be inferred that M/o MSME is striving hard for the upheaval of footwear sector. Yet, what is of noteworthy importance is to change the mindset of the youth who must realise that entrepreneurship besides being the sustainable way forward for the economy is also a significant means of self employment.

  • Milestones achieved/ footwear towering heights:
  • • India is the second largest global producer of footwear after China, accounting for 13% of global footwear production of 16 billion pairs.
  • • India produces 2 billion pairs of different categories of footwear constituting almost equal percentage of leather and non leather footwear.
  • • India is the third largest Footwear consuming country after China and USA with consumption of nearly 1.66 pairs while average global consumption is 3.0 pairs.
  • • There are nearly 15000 units engaged in manufacturing footwear in India with total turnover estimated at Rs. 50,000 crore including Rs 32,000 Crores for Domestic market and Rs 18,000 Crores for exports.