A growing hub for non-leather footwear in India
It takes 19 hours from Kozhikode, a tier-3 town in South India, to reach Dongguan in China, the world’s largest footwear manufacturing center by volume. Other than a once-robust ancient trade link and its associated academic research, Kozhikode hardly had any connection to China – until recently. A group of footwear manufacturers in Kozhikode have found an increase in export enquiries, thanks to a price rise in Chinese footwear.
“We are getting more enquiries these days, particularly from the Middle East. And I understand that there is an increase in the price of China-made footwear,” says Abdul Samad, owner of DSign Footcare.
Mr. Samad’s company is one of the footwear manufacturers in Kozhikode, which is slowly becoming the non-leather footwear hub of India. With nearly 200 manufacturing units and roughly 500 ancillary units within a radius of 30 to 40 km, what used to be an ancient seaside trading city is now churning out close to a third of India’s non-leather footwear output.
From 2010 to 2014, the annual growth of footwear manufacturing in Kozhikode rose to 50 percent, says V Noushad, vice president of the Confederation of Indian Footwear Industry (CIFC) and managing director of VKC, a top-tier footwear brand in the state.
Because of this progress, manufacturers like VKC have had talks about the global market, international designs and Italian and Taiwanese machinery. Some – who have active trade links in the Middle East – have also started exporting to Malaysia, Singapore and even African countries.
Only few manufacturers with a valid export license and a steady stream of orders, however, are able to export to other countries. Having a neighboring country as a top competitor is always a constant challenge to manufacturers, considering China makes nearly $40 billion off exports, while India only makes $2 billion.
Despite this, Kozhikode remains to be a promising export zone. It has contributed 30 percent to the $2-billion export – not to mention, there has also been an outpour of export enquiries and top footwear brands looking for new manufacturing centers. The $16-million footwear park project of the Kerala Infrastructure Development Corporation is also expected to boost the town’s growth and bring in jobs to 2,000 to 3,500 people.
About the author – Chandu Gopalakrishnan