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V.M. Khaleelur Rahman

Leather industry in Tamil Nadu is considered to be very ancient and some say it is of more than two centuries old. The art of tanning of hides and skins is prevalent here since time immemorial. Once it was done in primitive tanning methods and passed on with some improvements from generation to generation.

After Independence, the leather industry has made a rapid technical and technological advancement, thanks to the efforts of tanners, technical know-how of the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) and well chalked out policies of the governments in the state and at the centre based on the recommendations of the Seetharamiah Committee report. Many people established modern tanneries and started doing high quality finished leather meant for shoes, garments, goods, upholstery etc. Many modern units also came up for shoes, garments and goods. All these show that a tremendous industrial development has taken place within a period of about 30 years. No doubt, our country is very much on the forward march....


The All India Skin and Hide Tanners and Merchants Association is a 92 years old apex body and various district and regional associations are affiliated to it. Both the central and state governments have recognised it and consult on all policy matters such as labour, taxation etc. It is also in the service of tanners in importing and supplying tanning materials like wattle extract to them. It is also associated with many national and international trade and industry organisations. It celebrated its platinum jubilee in a grand manner in the year 1994. The present President and Hony. Secretary are Mr. M. Rafeeque Ahmed and Mr. Mohan M. Sreenivas respectively.


According to Aishtma, Tamil Nadu is in the forefront in leather with an annual production of more than 1.2 billion sq. ft. of finished leather. It is about 60% share in total finished leather production of our country and 45% share in total export from India. There are about 750 tanneries in Tamil Nadu and the raw material processed per day is 500-1000 tons and annual turnover more than Rs.10,000 crore, number of operational CETPs is 16 catering to 630 tanneries, number of ETPs is 94 and there are more than 56 RO plants in Tamil Nadu. No tannery operates without access to any Effluent Treatment Plant and 100% connectivity to pollution control devices is a speciality of Tamil Nadu.

There are 497 leather products units in Tamil Nadu producing about 59 million pairs of full shoes, 27 million pairs of shoe uppers, 7.1 million pieces of leather garments and 29.5 million pieces of leather goods. The quality of various leathers being produced here is of high standard and comparable with that of any advanced country. Consequently the state of Tamil Nadu once popular for E.I. Tanned hides and skins throughout the world particularly in countries like the U.S.A., the U.K., Italy, West Germany, France, Japan etc. is now popular for leather and leather products in these and many other countries. While Chennai, Ambur, Vaniyambadi, Pernambut, Ranipet, Trichy, Erode and Dindigul are the main centres for leather, Chennai, Ambur and Ranipet are the major hub for leather products such as leather shoes, garments and goods. Our country has earned laurels as a good and reliable supplier of leather and leather products in the world market. Interested persons can contact the following association which is, as said earlier, an apex body of different district and regional associations:

The All India Skin and Hide Tanners and Merchants Association,
“Leather Centre”,
43/53, Raja Muthiah Road, Periamet, Chennai – 600 003 (India)

Telephone: 0091-44-25610636, 25615247 Fax: 0091-44-25615292
E-mail: aishtma@vsnl.com and assn@aishtma.com
Website: http://www.aishtma.com


Dindigul is still a well known centre as before for E.I. tanned goat and sheep skins as most of the tanners here are addicted to doing only this popular item due to various reasons. There are very few tanners in the chrome tanning and no tanner seems to be producing finished leather here. A reliable and traditional tanner who has inherited this trade from his forefathers told me that the present situation is not conducive for switch over to anything like full chrome, semi chrome or finished leather. The association also does not permit it as pollution is involved. Other problems such as labour and water are also there. The progressive policy of the government has not changed this tanning centre much.

While the leather industry has suffered, textile industry has made a good development here in Dindigul. It is said that there are more than 250 spinning mills here.

Other popular centres are Trichy and Erode. There are many tanneries in Trichy where mostly high standard E.I. tanned goat skins are produced and in the Erode tanneries wet blue cow hides are the main items done. Only very few tanners do some other leather items.


This small town has about 35 tanneries where mostly items like buffalo hides and soul leathers are made for local supplies. Some are also exporting these items. Some shoe factories have also been established here. They are mostly doing job works. Much development is not seen here as perhaps there is nobody to guide them for adopting modern approaches for finance and industrial developments.


There are quite a large number of tanneries and leather goods, shoe and garment factories in different parts of Chennai mainly at Pallavaram and Madhavaram where different items of leather and leather products are made and supplied to national and international customers. There are so many highly modern units where high quality leather and leather products are made and exported.


In Ambur, a well known centre for leather, there are quite a large number of tanneries where E.I. tanned goat and sheep skins, S/C and F/C finished leather etc. are produced. Some of the tanneries are very big and modern with all necessary machinery and infrastructure where high class finished leathers meant for shoes, garments and goods are produced and exported. Importers in different countries have close links with Ambur based tanners and exporters and do big contracts as goat and cow leathers are available in plenty here with international standards. There are very few sheep tanners here. This town has also made a name for its well equipped and well infrastructured modern shoe factories where high standard world class foot wears are made and exported to many countries including the U.S.A, U.K, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain.

At the time of writing this two industrialists come to my mind who were instrumental for the industrial development here. If I remember correct while the late Anaikar Abdul Shukoor sahib started doing finished leather silently before the government introduced its progressive policy, the late T. Abdul Wahid sahib was also a pioneer in following the government policy and asking tanners to do it for their better prospects in the industrial arena. The latter had to face even criticism for his well intentioned actions. But now the leather industry realises their importance and their foresight.

Another centre famous for the leather industry is Vaniyambadi. Here again there are quite a large number of tanneries where items such as E.I. tanned goat and sheep skins, S/C and F/C finished leathers are made, locally supplied and exported. There are also innumerable job tanners here. It is the best place for dealing in sheep items. We can say that it is the leather tanning centre with the largest number of tanneries in Tamil Nadu. No other centre has as many tanneries as Vaniyambadi does.

Vaniyambadi is just about 30 minutes drive from Ambur. While there are more tanneries in Vaniyambadi, there are more shoe units in Ambur which are supplying to the best shoe companies abroad. These two neighbouring centres are playing an important role in the development of the leather industry in the country.


Ranipet has a large concentration of tanneries like Ambur, Vaniyambadi and Chennai processing hides and skins from raw to finish. Various descriptions of leather such as lining, upper and suede leathers are made here for supply to national and international customers. There are also some job tanneries here. Besides these, there are many highly sophisticated and modern units where world class shoes, garments and leather goods are made and exported. SIPCOT industrial complex is also here. It is yet another well known place for leather and leather products in the world market.

( Indian Leather, February 2010)


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