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Suolificio may raise shoe soles output

Our Bureau

Chennai , Feb. 2

SHOEMAKERS are baring their soles. Shoe soles are now a fashion statement and their looks as much as utility play a part in customers' decision to buy or not to buy. Soles are driving shoe sales and the business is booming.

Not to be left behind, Suolificio Chennai, a joint venture between an Indian shoemaker, Forward Shoes, and an Italian sole maker, Suolificio Malaspina, is doubling its production.

Set up in 2001 to produce 5,00,000 pairs of soles, it doubled its capacity last year and is again doubling it this year.

Suolificio Malaspina, which has been providing the expertise, is considering putting money into the business. They are taking an equity stake in Suolificio Chennai, but how much is yet to be decided, according the Suolificio Chennai's Chief Operating Officer, Mr B.K. Sunil Jitendra.

The joint venture initially supplied soles to its parent company, Forward Shoes. But with soles backed by Italian expertise being available in Chennai, more shoe exporters catering to European markets were willing to take the product.

The exporters could get high quality soles locally, the Italian partner, who was providing the moulds for the soles was familiar with the European trends, and knew what sells, and it was cheaper buying the soles here than importing from Europe paying 50 per cent duty.

This year Suolificio, that is Italian for soles, will make over two million pairs of soles and also sell to shoe makers catering to the domestic market.

It will also expand its export market to neighbouring countries and South East Asia.

In tune with their doubling production, turnover doubled to Rs 12 crore in 2003 and is set to touch Rs 20 crore in 2004, Mr Jitendra said.

Soles are no longer the drab under part of the shoe. Soles are being flaunted. Thick chunky soles with patterns that look like the treads on a truck tyre for the tough look, elegant ones for a lady or gay multicoloured ones for a child, there is a sole for every shoe.

The latest, yet to be made in India, is screen-printed soles. In the US, they have the Statue of Liberty on their soles, he said.

Not just looks but a lot of technology go into the soles. They need to look better, last longer and cost lesser.

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