23 November 2023

Experience in an Italian Tannery

By Mohammed Arshad Khan

During my recent visit to Italy, I had the privilege of exploring an Italian tannery known for manufacturing leather for high-end fashion brands. Since it was my first time visiting an Italian tannery, it felt like a kid entering a toy store.

So, what caught my attention?

I asked the owner how many people work here. The owner, with a smile, told me to count, and as it turns out, only five people run the whole show—him, his wife, his parents, and his daughter.

Quite different from Indian tanneries, where you usually have a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 40–50 people working together. It got me thinking about the dynamics of the family involved in the business.

When I inquired about how they maintain consistent quality? He replied,

  1. Just give them what they want.
    (reminding me of a simple definition of quality from Dr. Saravanan Palanivel’s TQM class during my b.tech days, Quality is nothing but simply “fit for the purpose”)
  2. Personal connection to the business (accountability)
  3. Meticulous planning.
  4. Automation in their process.


For instance, 90% of the chemicals they use are liquid-based and automated through a system for self-feeding in the drums, while the remaining 10% in powder form requires that personal touch.

This made me remember an incident in an Indian tannery. A technician didn’t bother weighing the leather before starting the post-tanning process. As weighing is crucial to getting the right amount of chemicals, when I asked him how he figures the weight, He said he just guesses based on the number of pieces.

When I asked further, how he’s sure? He just smiled and said, “Experience pa.”

And what is the consequence of this approach?

  • Inconsistent output,
  • Loss of chemicals,
  • Resulting in an increase in production costs, affecting the bottom line.


Now, here’s the thought-provoking part.

As the Italian tannery owner suggested that their family-centric (accountability), systematic planning, and automated approach are the key factors in their consistent success.

This brings me to a question:

  1. Can Indian tanneries, grappling with thin profit margins, benefit from a similar model?

    Perhaps not involving the whole family, but a small, focused team, including responsible individuals such as the owner himself, collaborating closely for efficiency, consistency, and profitability?

    In a business landscape where every detail counts, this approach has made me think, can this be one of the game-changers in Indian tanneries?


What are your thoughts on this?

Let me know; I’m eager to hear and learn from your perspectives!

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