LAHORE: Javaid Iqbal Siddiqui is the chairman of Pakistan Footwear Manufacturers Association (PFMA). He is also the CEO of Stylo Shoes that manufactures and sells these shoes from over 100 Stylo outlets spread around the country. Here are excerpts of the interview he gave to The News on the state of footwear industry in the country.
Q. What is the position of Pakistan’s footwear industry in the world?
A. Despite having numerous advantages Pakistan has not been able to make a mark in the global footwear industry. With yearly exports of only $110 million, our share in global footwear exports is only 0.001 percent. All other countries in the region are exporting much more. These include India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Indian exports are $10 billion per year, Vietnam exports footwear worth $6.23 billion. India is five times larger than Pakistan and its leather profile is similar, but our footwear exports are only one percent of the Indian footwear exports. However, we have the potential to multiply our exports.
Q. What makes you think so, and why the potential is not being achieved?
A. The main strength of the footwear industry is the availability of top quality leather in Pakistan. Leather shoes are stitched by hand and we have the human resource with this expertise; all they need is a little training. Moreover, we lack technology to exploit this advantage. We lack skilled labour and even those that have skills have low productivity. The Chinese shoemakers for instance are twice more productive than the Pakistani cobblers. The greatest disadvantage is the absence of ancillary industry. We have to import lasts, heels, trims, and buckles. The industry is highly fragmented. Only 20 percent of the footwear industry is in the organised sector, and the rest is in the cottage sector. The organised sector imports quality ancillary products, but 80 percent of the footwear producers have to buy inferior quality imported inputs.
The PFMA has launched a programme to establish the footwear ancillary industry in Pakistan, and the production of plastic lasts from the funds provided by Australian Market Development Facility is underway. Similarly, a German NGO is helping the footwear industry in developing skilled human resource for the industry. There is a long way to go as the industry needs to be restructured horizontally. Investments are needed in technology and skill development.
Q. Can you tell us how many pairs of footwear are produced in Pakistan and how much are imported?
A. We estimate that the total footwear market of Pakistan is worth Rs250 billion, out of which footwear worth Rs100 billion is imported mostly from China. We are in fact eyeing sizable investment in footwear from China under the CPEC. The Chinese will look for low wage human resource available in Pakistan as the wages in China are four times higher.
The share of domestic producers in the Pakistani market is Rs150 billion out of which only 20 percent is produced by the documented sector. The total requirement of footwear in Pakistan is around 600 million pairs per year. Our estimate is that women buy between 4-6 pairs of footwear per year and men 1-2. For children the average is 1-3 pairs. This usage is very low as the global average is 8-10 pairs for women per year, whereas 2-4 pairs of footwear are purchased by men every year.
Q. What is the proportion of leather and artificial leather in the footwear used locally and exported?
A. Pakistan is a poor country; this is the reason that most of the buyers cannot afford leather shoes or chappals. Most of the ladies and gents footwear are made from plastic and artificial leather. Leather footwear is bought by the affluent only. All the footwear imports in Pakistan are non leather pairs. As far as exports are concerned, it is exclusively based on leather based footwear.
Pakistan’s export potential also lies in leather footwear. Unlike the synthetic or artificial leather footwear, in leather shoes, the upper and lower parts of the shoes cannot be fused with chemicals or heat. It requires skilled workers; masters in stitching.
Q. What are the major centres of footwear industry in Pakistan?
A. The industry is predominantly located in and around Lahore, where almost 80 percent of the documented sector of the country is located. Other regions where shoe making activities are good include Karachi, Faisalabad, and Multan. The productivity of Lahore based workers is higher than the rest of the country; still it is half the productivity of Chinese leather shoe workers.
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