CLRI takes leather industry to Ladakh, encourages youth to turn entrepreneurs

Industry and Commerce Department bid to generate employment

Turtuk resident Mohammad Haneef (26) travelled over 200 km to Leh to learn about the leather industry, its scope and the possible entrepreneurship opportunities in Ladakh.

Haneef was among the 45-odd youngsters, most of whom had never worked in the leather industry, who attended a day-long workshop ‘Entrepreneurship Opportunities in leather and allied products’ on Wednesday. It was organised jointly by the Industries and Commerce Department, Union Territory of Ladakh and CSIR-Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), Chennai.

The first interaction between CLRI and youngsters of the region is being seen as the maiden move aimed at employment generation here in this field.

After Ladakh Union Territory (UT) was constituted in 2019, the Industries and Commerce Department here had inked an MoU with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR), under which a number of initiatives are planned for the UT.


“The idea is to create employment locally and share the potential of the leather industry in the region. The UT administration is very supportive and wants to undertake planned development,” KJ Sreeram, director, CLRI, who was at Leh, told The Indian Express.

A similar workshop is scheduled in Kargil on Friday for which more than 70 participants have enrolled.

“We received very good responses from the youngsters who are curious about the industry. We hope to provide supportive income to the locals. Though leather has been traditionally in use here, the effort is to turn it into an organised sector. With CLRI on board, we plan to refine the traditional products with newer designs as per market needs,” said Moses Kunzang, director, Industries and Commerce Department, Ladakh.

This region having a sizable meat consuming population has abundant availability of animal skin locally and such an industry, when supported by experts, could easily flourish.

“If the discarded animal skin remains can be collected, this can serve as raw material at small units or factory processing leather. This is the first time I got to learn so much about leather,” said Haneef, who is a final year MTech student pursuing Civil Engineering at NIT, Jalandhar.

Coming from a family involved in farming, Haneef hopes to gain as much knowledge about leather before turning to some kind of entrepreneurship in future.

Later this month, the Chennai-based institute will host a month-long training programme for Ladakh’s Self Help Groups to enhance their skills in this field. During the course, experts will impart training required for making leather products, besides engaging with traditional designers, helping retain the local flavour. The CLRI scientists have identified a local place, where they will use the existing tailoring facilities to offer training.

“We will train participants in making leather-based products like wallets and purses. They will be introduced to different varieties of leather, their textures and applications in products, sewing and stitching techniques used on leather products and more,” added Sreeram.

Such initiatives, the experts believe, will additionally give a fillip to the region’s tourism.

Safia Qusar (22) may be just in the second year of her undergraduate programme, but she is already thinking big in terms of reviving some of the lost leather-based products of Ladakh.

“There would be a number of leather-based musical instruments commonly found in Ladakh. But that is fast fading away. I want to learn about leather making and bring back these products before they vanish completely,” said the 22-year-old, whose father is a farmer.

Another Leh resident, Norbu Sponbo (24), recalled an instance when he was searching for a piece of leather for Daman, a pair of drums, played locally.

He said, “I went around the local markets and also visited butcheries. That is when I learnt that the animal skin is sent to Kashmir since there is no facility in Ladakh to process it into leather.”

Like Daman, the Ladakhis play Dramyin or Kopong, a six-stringed guitar also partly made of leather.

Being a student of environment studies from Delhi University, Sponbo is also equally interested in exploring the environment-related aspects of the industry.

“Along with knowing about leather, I wanted to understand its scope and limitations, assess it with respect to the environment,” he said.

Kunzang, too, shared that setting up a tannery would pollute the pristine environment.

Ladakh — the high-altitude, cold desert and hostile region, gives a tough test of survival for the non-localite visitors.

“Our biggest challenge will be to carry out all activities and training when there is favourable weather and access to this region, which is for about six months in a year,” the CLRI director said.

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