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More government funding for R&D in leather sought

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, JAN. 28. The annual Leather Research Industry Get-Together (LERIG) here will, for the first time, focus on the domestic footwear market this year.

Industry leaders, addressing the inaugural session of the 39th LERIG at the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) today, pointed out to the increasing purchasing power of the young Indian consumer and the responsiveness of the domestic market to quality, fashion and brand value. The imminent further reduction of import duties will attract more competition from abroad and will at the same time expand the domestic market for quality footwear, they said.

"We should not forget the domestic market even while chasing export targets," said S. Ramachandran, Chairman of the Research Council of the CLRI. He called for increase in Government funding of research and development (R & D) by the industry and bringing technology and skills to the hundreds of thousands of family labour-based artisans in the footwear sector.

Rafeeque Ahmed, Chairman, Council for Leather Exports (CLE), said the Indian textile market was getting flooded with high-value fashion clothing but footwear to go in tandem with the apparel was lacking. This provided an opportunity for the footwear industry in the domestic market.

M. S. Srinivasan, Additional Secretary in the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, said there was little hope of improvements in product quality or diversification without adequate spending on R & D. He cited the example of the U.S., where government funding was now available for developing the potential of hydrogen as a fuel and for application of nanotechnology in storage of hydrogen in association with leading companies in the industry sectors concerned.

M. M. Hashim, a leather industry leader, paid tributes to the role played by the CLRI in helping the industry graduate from tanning to product manufacture and in overcoming the crisis resulting from judicial directives on minimising pollution. He said that out of the 17 parameters laid down by courts in respect of pollution abatement, 13 had been implemented by the industry. Of the remaining, the most challenging norm related to total dissolved solids (TDS), which was well above that fixed anywhere else in the world. He appealed to governments, NGOs (non-government organisations) and other stakeholders to "give a chance" to the industry to honour its obligations fully in two or three years.

T. Ramasami, Director, CLRI, said that for the first time, a "satellite LERIG" had been organised outside Chennai, at Noida, on Thursday.

Awards were distributed on the occasion to students of leather technology for outstanding projects undertaken by them and to companies in the leather sector for selection of their colour in Modeurop for the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

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