From being plagued by high manufacturing costs, the Keral footwear industry has moved on to become a Rs 700 crore sector, producing good quality and low priced range products to gain a prominent place in the domestic and international markets.
The early years in 2000s saw the units in crisis due to heavy spend on raw material and electricity. The trigger for entrepreneurs to the sector was a drastic fall in business of traditional industries like tile making and wood saw in this city, the hub of footwear manufacturing in Kerala.
Nearly 80 of the 125 units in Kerala are in Kozhikode district.
The turnaround in fortunes could be gauged from the fact that a state which was the main market for footwear made in Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore is now producing goods in high demand in other states, says P Sasidharan, President of Footwear Manufacturers Association of Kerala (FOOMA).
He said the sector is poised to become a key player in Kerala's growth story and could address the state's long-term concern of providing employment to women and urged government to help the industry exploit its potential to the fullest.
"Employment opportunities are more for women in the footwear manufacturing industry as it involves a lot of processes that can be handled by them. Going by the current growth pace, this sector will definitely become a leading employment provider for women," he said.
With the industry growing at an exponential pace, FOOMA plans to take up promotional campaigns to take the industry further in the national and global markets.
The association hopes to forge new business opportunities with domestic and international dealers and distributors, riding on the success of the recently concluded 'Brand Kerala Footwear Expo' here.
However, one irritant for the industry is the various taxes imposed by the state government.
"Frequent price hike of raw material is affecting the industry badly. In addition, businesses here have to bear huge transport costs of raw materials, mainly sourced from Delhi and abroad," he said.
Sasidharan opined that Kozhikode is the best placed city to set up a Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
At present, FDDI has institutes at seven cities, including Chennai, Noida and New Delhi.
"While the proposed FDDI would help us understand the global market trends, entrepreneurs have to develop innovative methods to meet local requirements," he said.
The FOOMA president saw a bright future for the sector, saying it would play a leading role in the Indian footwear industry in the coming years.
He said India is second to China in footwear manufacture and exports globally. Indian footwear has high demand abroad, due to high quality, but exports have not kept pace, he said.
"The Rs 700 crore industry employs around 25,000 people and if we can enter the European markets, employment opportunities could be increased as also foreign exchange earnings," he added.