Stepping Forward Together

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by Riccardo Grisanti

On 24 September 2018, Milan was the location of the first initiative favouring encounters between Italian and Bengali industries attended by the Chief Minister of the State of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, Amit Mitra and important groups such as: Neotia, Goenka, Reliance, JS, Italcertifer, Danieli, Tenova, Foundry Ecocer, Intesa San Paolo and Simem.

The event was preceded by lateral meetings organized by Indo-Italian Milan Hub, an organization active in the field of interconnection between companies and institutions, with the President of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, and Charanjeet Singh, Indian Consul in Milan. The Calcutta Leather Complex Tanners Association (CLCTA) was also in attendance, represented by its President, Ramesh Juneja.
The Italian contribution to India’s leather sector has a long and enduring history, especially in the districts of Tamil Nadu and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. The next new development will be Italy’s cooperation with West Bengal and in its district, organised around the CLCTA and other institutions.

In 2007, following a mission promoted by the former Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, the National Association of Italian Builders of Machines and Accessories for Footwear, Leather Goods and Tannery (ASSOMAC) offered a contribution for machinery to improve product quality.
The Italian operators also appreciated the initiative because West Bengal has a tradition of openness and integration, even in terms of religion, and there are Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Chinese communities.

In 2018, the state of West Bengal modified its laws to adapt them to the current context of the tannery sector, which is to say the process of preserving and working with skins, and it can become a benchmark, not only for the tanning industry, but also for the production of high quality leather goods. Benefits from this will certainly be derived by the tourism and luxury sectors, which over time will increase demand for leather goods and Italy will have to obtain more and more supplies in Bengal.

In this context the ArtValley organisation has proposed a project so that Calcutta will start up a model of integration for training and technologies to create a communal school between Italy and West Bengal, where it will promote the following themes:
a) Ecological and health criteria, both in water purification and in the quality of the leather sector: In this area the improvement that the Minerbe-based Simem can make to the purification of water at the Bantala effluent treatment plant will be significant and guarantee respect for the environment.
b) Improvement of leather coating/painting facilities: Mauro Golin’s Spraytech can offer important technological advances in this field;
c) Strong innovation in the welfare of the industry: The proposal plans for the 250,000 workers in the district to have a degree of welfare that allows them to live with new services such as microcredit and more adequate working conditions.
d) Training of workers in the sector: Offering a large number of Bengali technicians the knowledge and experience of Italian experts in order to improve the quality/price ration and to adapt to European production criteria.

This process of support and integration between Italian industry and that of the Bengal district represents a great opportunity for Italian companies interested in the project but this also involves a great commitment in terms of financial resources and especially human resources, in order to be fully implemented, it would also require the contribution made by European Union funds.

We asked the Consul General of Calcutta, Damiano Francovigh, what were the milestones in the exchange between the Bengali and the Italian leather districts: “In January 2018, during the BGBS SUMMIT, Professor Paolo Gurisatti, President of the Italian Leather Research Institute (SSIP) signed a MOU with the President of CLCTA for cooperation in the Education sector. An educational project for leather sector managers to establish the steps towards a generation of young Indians who are experts in management methods is under consideration. Since 2017 and throughout 2018 there have already been multiple exchanges between operators. The first part of the training project will start in Vicenza in the Summer of 2019.”

Interview with Ramesh Juneja

In Milan, we met with Ramesh Juneja, CEO of the JS Group and President of the Calcutta Leather Complex Tannery Association CLCTA the main Association in the tannery sector of Western India and number three in the country.

Ramesh Juneja, President of CLCTA, what do you think about your cooperation with Italy?
It will be increasingly important. Our association, CLCTA, has become one of the technological and productive benchmarks for Italy and it is preparing, in cooperation with the Italian Leather Research Institute (SSIP), ArtValley, Simem (treatments for processing residues), Spraytech (linked to the industrial coatings sector), and the Confindustria of Vicenza, also to become a technology and training hub.

You are a frequent attendee of our trade fairs: Lineapelle and Mipel
After signing an MOU with SSIP last January, in February and in September our associates were already present at Lineapelle 2018, the biggest international trade fair for the leather goods sector. In February a delegation from Bengal continued talks with the leaders of the leather districts and of Vicenza, Santa Croce and Naples. The meeting also involved representatives from the Intesa San Paolo group, Italy’s largest bank.

Why should we focus on Calcutta?
The tannery sector of the leather industry is the first line of industrial interchange between Italy and India. Only West Bengal has a production in this industry valued at over 2.5bn euros, and it will be the centre of innovation in the coming years as a Hub for Western India. It is necessary to invest in West Bengal, and in its capita Calcutta, which could have a new role, together with India’s other major leather districts in Chennai and Kanpur, if we will place emphasis on the exchange between services and companies. The number of tanneries will rise from the current 400 to over 700 and many international groups will be present.

How will this cooperation be put into practice?
Today Calcutta has already become a benchmark for the manufacture of bags and other leather goods (such as wallets and gloves) for Italian producers, manufacturers, and brands like Tucano, Piquadro, Moleskin, Carpisa and many others that have been producing in Bengal for some time. Therefore, we feel the growing need to improve our quality control in order to grow together and according to the standards that market demands.

And in terms of technologies?
Regarding solid and liquid waste treatment, a very critical facet in leather processing, our introduction to the Verona-based company Simem, played an important role. They were previously commissioned to perform a study. The company can now also initiate the implementation of the restructuring of the common effluent treatment plant.
Another company working in the area of treatment of processing waste is the Milan-based Olimpia Tensioattivi, headed by the entrepreneurs Gianni Franzosi and Salvo Giovoni, which is currently developing a project for the transformation of solid waste into “Regenerated Leather” with the aim of significantly reducing the chromium, minimizing its polluting presence.

But what about cultural exchange and training?
Clearly the most salient point is linked to the education sector, with the goal of creating a communal school that forms the foundation for economic growth, and that is in part sustainable, based on the Indian tannery industry.
Among the proposals is a school for managers in the leather sector that could create the basis for a new generation of young Indian managers who are experts in management methods. In the summer of 2019 the first phase of the project could start in Vicenza with Bengali, Indian, and Italian students and in collaboration with local schools.

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