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NEW DELHI : Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said India has the potential to become a world leader in the footwear and leather sector.

Addressing the gathering at the Council for Leather Exports National Export Excellence Awards here, Goyal asked the organisers to explore the possibility of encouraging new companies, entrepreneurs, startups and those who come up with innovative ideas and enter into uncharted territory with newer markets and products, by recognizing them through these awards.

The Minister said the industry hopes to achieve higher exports than last year - both in goods and services.

Goyal asked the leather industry to utilize the Free trade Agreement (FTA) being signed by India with various countries to grow. He cited the example of the UAE, where exports in the sector registered a jump of 64 per cent in November last year as a result of the new agreement.

The Minister noted the concerns of the leather industry about import duties on certain types of leather and assured that it will be taken up for consideration. He also urged the industry stakeholders to avail MOOWR scheme by the Department of Revenue, wherein no duty is to be paid on goods which are being imported for the purpose for exports.

The Minister emphasised that the Indian Industry has huge untapped potential. He noted that while the quality of products manufactured is good, more focus is required on packaging and branding to get better value for the product. Indian Mission across the world can help in providing support in terms of outreach and can help connect them with international companies engaged in the branding business, he said.

He encouraged the industry to aspire to set new goals. The Minister said the government are trying to enter into more FTA with other developed nations of the world. He urged the leather and footwear industry to aim for significant increases over the next 25 years and draw up a plan to achieve those goals. He asked them to look up at expanding horizons- explore new territories and manufacturing new products in India for import substitution.

Goyal reassured that the Government is open to amending any standards which are hurting the interests of the Industry. He also assured full support in terms of setting up testing facilities and laboratories anywhere in the country to meet the needs of the industry.

He said the government is willing to engage with the industry on ease of doing business and asked them to give ideas on how to bring improvement in different areas where the industry faces difficulty in business.

Goyal informed that the government is working on formulating a new scheme to support the manufacturing of machinery required in the industry. He asked the industry to take advantage of all the schemes of the government.

He asked the industry to look at innovation and sustainability in their products. He also called for new collaborations with international companies to bring high-quality products into India. Minister spoke about a few areas of immense potential such as Kolhapuri Chappals and asked young entrepreneurs to go beyond the routine and explore new designs/ branding in this area.

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