India’s Leather Industry: History, Economy, Sustainability

28 Mar 2023

The leather industry is an important sector of the Indian economy, contributing significantly to employment generation and foreign exchange earnings. India is among the top five producers of leather in the world, with a history dating back to the Mughal era. The Indian leather industry is known for its diversity and specialization, with different regions of the country excelling in various aspects of leather production. The leather industry has contributed to the growth and development of the Indian economy over time, with its impact being felt across various sectors. In this blog, we will explore the significance of the leather industry in India and its contribution to the Indian economy. We will also delve into the challenges and opportunities facing the industry and the role it can play in boosting the Indian economy in the future.


India’s leather industry has a rich history, with its origins tracing back to the Mughal era. During this time, leather production in India was primarily centered in Delhi and Agra, with skilled craftsmen and artisans producing high-quality leather goods.

The Mughal emperors were known for their patronage of the arts, and they played a significant role in the growth and development of the leather industry in India. They encouraged the development of new techniques and technologies, such as tanning, which helped to improve the quality of leather produced in India.

As the Mughal Empire declined, the leather industry in India continued to flourish, with the production of leather goods becoming an important source of income for many people. The industry continued to grow over time, driven by factors such as the availability of raw materials and skilled labour.

One of the key factors that contributed to the growth of the leather industry in India was the abundance of raw materials. India has a large population of cattle, buffalo, and goats, which provided a steady supply of hides and skins for the leather industry. This abundance of raw materials made it possible for the leather industry in India to produce high-quality leather goods at a competitive price.

Another factor that contributed to the growth of the leather industry in India was the availability of skilled labour. Leather production requires a high degree of craftsmanship, and India has a long tradition of skilled artisans and craftsmen who have been practicing their trade for generations. These skilled workers were able to produce leather goods of exceptional quality, which were in high demand both domestically and internationally.

Over time, the leather industry in India continued to evolve and adapt to changing market conditions. New technologies and techniques were introduced to improve production processes and increase efficiency, while new markets were explored to expand the reach of Indian leather goods.

Today, India is one of the world’s leading producers of leather goods, with a diverse range of products including shoes, bags, belts, and jackets. The leather industry in India continues to grow and expand, driven by rising demand for leather goods both domestically and internationally. With a rich history and a strong foundation of skilled artisans and craftsmen, the future of the leather industry in India looks bright.


The leather industry is a significant contributor to the Indian economy, with its contribution spanning several key areas. Let’s take a closer look at the impact of the leather industry on the Indian economy.

Statistics and Figures:

According to industry reports, the leather industry in India generates over $13 billion in revenue annually. India is also the second-largest producer of footwear and leather garments in the world, with the leather industry accounting for 12.93% of India’s total exports.

Employment opportunities created by the Leather Industry:

The leather industry is one of the largest employers in India, providing employment opportunities to more than 4.42 million people across the country. The industry has a significant presence in states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, where it is responsible for creating numerous job opportunities.

In addition to creating jobs in leather manufacturing, the industry also supports a wide range of related businesses, including transportation, logistics, and retail. This creates a ripple effect, generating even more employment opportunities and contributing to the growth of the economy.

The Leather Industry’s role in India’s foreign exchange earnings:

The leather industry is also an important source of foreign exchange earnings for India. In 2020, the industry contributed $5.5 billion to India’s foreign exchange earnings, making it a critical component of the country’s economy. The industry’s exports include leather footwear, leather goods, and leather garments, which are in high demand across the world.

Furthermore, the leather industry has played a key role in promoting India’s “Make in India” initiative, which seeks to encourage manufacturing and exports from India. By exporting high-quality leather products, India has been able to establish itself as a key player in the global leather industry, boosting its reputation as a reliable and efficient producer of leather goods.

Overall, the leather industry’s contribution to the Indian economy is significant, generating billions of dollars in revenue annually and creating millions of job opportunities across the country. With a strong foundation and a focus on innovation and technology, the industry is well-positioned to continue growing and contributing to India’s economic development in the years to come.


While the leather industry has contributed significantly to the Indian economy, it has also faced environmental sustainability challenges. However, the industry’s potential for growth and the impact on India’s GDP cannot be ignored. Here’s a closer look at the analysis of the impact of the leather industry on the Indian economy.

Environmental sustainability challenges:

The leather industry has faced significant criticism for its negative impact on the environment, particularly in terms of water and air pollution. The tanning process requires large amounts of water and chemicals, which can result in the contamination of water sources and soil. Additionally, the disposal of solid waste, including animal hides and chemicals, can have long-term effects on the environment.

To address these challenges, the Indian government has introduced measures to promote sustainable practices within the industry. For instance, the government has introduced the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) scheme, which aims to reduce water pollution by ensuring that effluent from tanneries is treated before being released into the environment. This has resulted in a significant reduction in pollution levels in areas where the scheme has been implemented.

Impact on India’s GDP:

The leather industry has a significant impact on India’s GDP, with its contribution amounting to approximately 2% of India’s GDP. The industry’s exports have also grown steadily, with a CAGR of 5.57% between 2015 and 2019. Additionally, the industry has a significant impact on the manufacturing sector, accounting for 2.83% of the total manufacturing output in India.

Potential opportunities for growth:

Despite the environmental sustainability challenges faced by the industry, there are several opportunities for growth. The Indian government has introduced several measures to promote the growth of the leather industry, including the establishment of leather clusters and the provision of subsidies for the development of infrastructure.

The leather industry can also benefit from the growth of the e-commerce sector, which has led to an increase in demand for leather products. Additionally, the industry can benefit from the rising demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products, which can be achieved through the adoption of sustainable practices in the tanning process.


The leather industry has played a crucial role in the Indian economy for decades, providing employment opportunities, contributing to India’s foreign exchange earnings, and accounting for a significant portion of the country’s exports. However, the industry has also faced environmental sustainability challenges, including the pollution caused by traditional tanning methods. As a result, the industry has had to adapt to changing consumer demands and regulations by adopting more sustainable practices and investing in research and development to create eco-friendly products. With the growing demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products, the leather industry in India has the opportunity to become a leader in the global market, provided that it continues to invest in sustainable practices and new technologies.

The future outlook for the leather industry in India looks promising, with the government’s support and introduction of measures to aid the industry’s growth and the establishment of leather clusters. The adoption of sustainable practices, technological advancements, and the growing demand for eco-friendly products present potential opportunities for the industry to expand and create even more employment opportunities. However, the industry will need to remain competitive in the face of increasing global competition by improving efficiency, providing high-quality products, and adopting new technologies. The leather industry in India has the potential to continue to be a significant contributor to the Indian economy and a global leader in the industry if it continues to adapt to changing demands and invest in sustainable practices and new technologies.

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