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Planning for Progress: Forum of Agra Footwear Manufacturers

Kuldeep Singh

It primarily consists of footwear manufacturers and suppliers that shall change the outlook of business. The key players would be exchanging data, strategic thoughts and share insights on how to navigate business growth in the coming years. The forum proposes to organize trade as well consumer related events to further create a healthy competitive space. No challenge is too big for Kuldep Singh. As Managing Director of Aryman Footwear Exports Pvt. Ltd., he has spent the past 25 years leading one of the largest online footwear brands in India. A strong foothold in the footwear manufacturing space makes him the best choice to lead the forum. This boundless initiative has been brought into reality by him, too. “Challenges exist, from the day we are born until the day that we leave this life. We are here to manage the challenges and to see opportunities during times of crisis,” Singh says. “This platform gives us a chance to reset and completely reshape the industry’s Value chain – not to mention an opportunity to reassess the values by which we measure our actions. Our forum is a boundary-less organization that works on the principle of mutual trust and transparency. Advocating proposals, recognizing risks, superior understanding of buyer needs, continuous innovation, achievement of business success with integrity shall remain the core of this platform.”

Weeks after taking the reins as president of FAFM Singh tells S&A of his priorities for the next two years – from factory safety, to exploring new markets, increasing sustainability, and promoting innovation in the world’s second largest footwear producing country. At the top of his to-do list, Singh is determined to fulfil his key goal of ensuring the industry effectively monitors its growth and standards in which FAFM will play a key role. “This is the time for our nation to rise up and take own responsibility rather than hand-holding,” he believes.

With that in view, FAFM has already formed an advisory council bringing together representatives from the trade, think tanks, the media and government agencies. This will help footwear sector members and partners to deliver goals jointly, rather than focusing on individual accomplishments, he insists. The other members of the core team are Vice President – Chander Daultani, Guru Shoes tech Pvt Ltd & Valentino Shoes, Treasurer – Deepak Poptani, Popsons international (HITZ Shoes), Secretary – Sanchit Munjal, Srijati Shoes Pvt Ltd & Sanjay Kapoor – Wood Chief and Joint Secretary – Nakul Manchanda, Lamos Group.

The new president has a lot on his plate. Besides establishing the FAFM and local monitoring of safety standards, Singh wants to prioritise branding Agra manufacturing industry, exploring new markets, increasing sustainability and promoting innovation. However, to make such marketing effective, the FAFM president says the industry needs to deal with immediate challenges, such as Covid lockdown, soaring costs, weakening competitiveness, a stronger local currency, over-concentration on a limited range of products and markets, insufficient progress in value addition, and preventing labour turnover.

Even so, the next five years will be crucial for India’s footwear industry, he says. In particular it needs to make a “breakthrough” in the areas of product differentiation and value addition, diversification in product-mix, especially moving away from leather-based footwear, diversification of markets, and technology upgrades. As the first president to lead the association, he is mindful of the difficulties he could encounter while carrying out his role in what remains a leather dominant manufacturing cluster. “I’m constantly trying to balance the needs of our stakeholders, customers, suppliers and workforce. These four pillars should always be strong and complement one another, because without them, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve everything we have to date. I’m very thankful to our members for trusting in this forum, and I want them to know that their future is in good hands.”