By: Rohit Alok
Owners of Dharavi’s glitzy stores offering durable leather accessories including well-made ripoffs of international brands, already struggling to regain a foothold following the long slowdown in business, are now more worried than ever. The once thriving industry could be doomed following the Maharashtra government’s ban on slaughter of bulls in addition to cows.
“Dharavi’s renowned leather market has lost its charm, first because of the high prices and now because political parties object to beef,” said Nazi Sheikh, co-owner of a leather shop on Dharavi’s Sangam Galli.
Half a kilometre away from Sheikh’s store, Shahnawaz, another store owner on 90 Feet Road, echoed the same thoughts. “Our industry is destined to be doomed,” he said, referring to President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent on March 2 to a 19-year-old bill banning the slaughter of bulls and bullocks.
“Maharashtra plays a pivotal role in supplying hide to tanneries in Kolkata and Chennai. Just the Deonar slaughterhouse in Mumbai supplies 450 animal hides a day, mainly buffalo, to these tanneries. This hide was earlier bought at 1,500 a piece but post the ban, tanneries will now have to purchase them at at least Rs 2,000 apiece. From there processed leather is sold to markets such as Dharavi,” Mohammad Ali Qureshi, president of the Mumbai Suburban Beef Dealers Association. Prices of raw material for Dharavi’s leather goods industry are set to rise sharply, as a result.
“In 2012 leather was bought at Rs 45 per foot. Now within a few months it will touch the Rs 100 per foot mark. It will be almost impossible to make purchases at that rate and still sell the items,” said Shehbaz Quereishi. Currently leather is purchased at Rs 80 per foot by the local manufacturers.
Already, shop owners say, Dharavi is undergoing a transitional shift with synthetic material from China flooding the market as a replacement to original leather.
“All sales that we make are not authentic leather. We are forced to cheat our customers sometimes, and especially now after the ban we will have to,” said one shop-owner on Sion-Bandra Link Road.
On Wednesday, Nigerian national Bella D’souza was seen going in and out of at least eight stores. “The staff at my Bandra hotel suggested that me and my sister visit Dharavi for leather shopping. I’m disappointed, nothing is original,” D’souza said. She rejected handbags with famous brand names as ‘too expensive for ripoffs’.
“She (D’souza) was asking for half the rate for every item. Little do they know our businesses operate. One handbag requires 15 feet of leather on an average. The bags are usually made of buffalo leather, so just the cost of leather would be Rs 1,200, the labour cost Rs 500 and the retailer would add an additional Rs 100 and thus the selling price becomes Rs 1,800,” said Santosh Lade, at a shop named First Choice.
“The government will lose money in the form of taxes and we will lose our jobs. Leather will become even more costly and will be purchased at higher amounts in the black market,” said Mobin Ansari of Maaz Leather.