PU (Polyurethane) in terms of product quality, variety, and yield has been witnessing a promising growth. The Indian PU synthetic/artificial leather market size is expected to be valued at $8.14 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research Inc.
It is the largest product category segment. It has several unique properties like being waterproof, softer, and lighter as compared to real leather and can be easily dry cleaned. It is also remains unaffected by sunlight. Its application is getting nearer to genuine leather when it comes to handbags, briefcases, car furnishings, and clothing at a pacing rate. Footwear emerged as the largest application segment and accounted for over 34% of the total market revenue. The price of PU leather footwear is three times cheaper than footwear made from animal hide, which enables large volume purchases, particularly from middle income groups. Also these foot wears have long durability and are offered in several designs.
The market will continue to grow led by variations occurring in climatic conditions of each country, which needs different types of footwear.
Augmented demand in the automotive and footwear industries is likely to drive the market to register an 8.3% CAGR over the forecast period. Increasing penetration of PU synthetic leather materials in the automotive sector, especially in car seats is expected to be a critical factor for market growth over the forecast period. Topline Commodities Pvt. Ltd., a Kolkata-based company has set up a unit of PU leather in Dahej in the state of Gujarat about two years ago with initial production capacity of 10 million meters annually.
Why PU is better than PVC
PU is considered more environment friendly as compared to vinyl-based alternatives, as it does not emit dioxins. Its light weight body makes it inherently more breathable than PVC and allows it to adjust to body temperature more quickly. PU fabrics are much softer than PVC. It is being used widely in the fashion industry due to their stain-resistance and easy- to-clean features.
Challenges faced by industry
The Indian market is invaded with cheap imports from China of substandard of PU leather and the unorganised sector is inclined towards these cheaper imports. Indian manufacturers of PU leather need to change the mind-set of the Indian business and trading community so as to popularise India-manufactured PU leather.
If the government can come out with a supportive policy for this industry, the sector is bound to expand. This will create huge employment as the sector is highly labour intensive.
The author is the Chairman of the Wonder Group of Companies and a senior member of Bharat Chamber Of Commerce.