Yesterday, Commerce and Industry minister Piyush Goyal had talked about the export potential of Indian indigenous industries like the Kolhapuri footwear industry. He had said that exports worth Rs 7,500 crores can be done by selling Kolhapuri slippers. But the minister was mocked by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, saying that BJP was doing flip-flop on policy.
The Modi government has been focusing on encouraging traditional industries, with an aim to increase employment and also to preserve local industries. The central government is working towards promoting the One District One Product scheme, to identify one product in each district for manufacturing. As part of that effort, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said that India needs to take a unique and innovative approach to boost exports, like identifying districts which are famous for a particular product.
The minister gave the example of Kolhpuri slippers in this regard. He said that if marketed properly, Kolhapuri slippers can become a billion-dollar export product. During a meeting with the chief ministers via video conferencing, Piyush Goyal said that he believes that Kolhapuri chappal alone has the potential to do a billion dollars of exports, if the central and state govts come up with innovative ideas to turn this into reality.
Giving an example of such an idea, he had said, “One of these ideas, in relation to Kolhapuri chappals, could be if we contact all five star hotels around the world and ask them to keep 2-3 sizes of Kolhapuri chappals in the hotel room almirahs the way they keep bathrobes.” He suggested that this way the footwear will be promoted in front of people staying in such hotels who may buy them.
But Shashi Tharoor, the ‘guest artist’ in Congress party, didn’t like the idea, and he came forward to mock the minister for trying to promote Kolhapuri slippers. “Giving a whole new meaning to the BJP’s flip-flops on policy — this time it’s flip-flops AS policy!”, he tweeted.
In an effort to mock the government, the Thiruvananthapuram MP ended up with insulting a successful local industry, which indeed has great export potential as claimed by minister Goyal. The Kolhapuri slippers have great export potential because India has a huge export market for footwear. The country exported more than Rs. 18,000 crore of footwear and related items in the year 2019-20.
India is the second-largest global producer of footwear after China, and the country produces 2 billion pairs of footwear in various categories. Around 15,000 units are engaged in the manufacturing of footwear in the country, with an estimated total turnover of Rs 50,000 crore.
The minister had cited the example of Kolhapuri slippers to showcase that if produced & marketed properly, traditional Indian products have a huge export market potential and can compete and even excel against other categories of footwear.
It may be noted that Kolhapuri chappals were popular in America during the hippie generation of the 1960s and 1970s, and it can again capture overseas markets if the correct strategy is adopted. An official in the ministry said that while even in Americans in 60s and 70s had no problem in adopting Kolhapuri Chappals, now some Indians in 2020 can’t take pride in their own products. The official added that “the present criticism stems from a weak mindset”.
Due to the increased efforts of the Modi government towards local industries, there has been a tremendous increase in the market for Khadi products since 2014. The production of Khadi fabric since 2014 was recorded at 95.05 million square meters in just six years, compared to the production of 103.22 million square meters in the previous 58 years.