Roughly a hundred years ago, British officers living in Kanpur started the British India Corporation (BIC) in the ‘Harness Factory’ presently known as the ‘Ordnance Equipment Factory’ at Kanpur to cater to the needs of the British Army and Police. They taught local tanneries to make saddles for their horses. Years later, some of the big saddlery brands from Walsall in England which has traditionally been considered to be the world’s saddlery capital began to source products from Kanpur. The reason was very simple – rising costs forced saddlery makers in the West Midlands to outsource production to Kanpur in India and little did they know that one day Kanpur tanneries which is a remnant of the British Raj will catch up with the masters and possibly beat them to the race as well.
Premium harnesses and saddlery goods (horse riding and driving equipment) manufactured under the umbrella of small industries for over a hundred years in Kanpur has made it eligible for the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2014. The superior quality and pristine finish of the saddlery goods made in Kanpur has made it the hub for saddlery products not only in India but also in Asia.
The saddlery industry comprises of products such as the saddle and the whip that is used to control the horse. This is a wide industry and a lot of products related to the horse are manufactured over here. As it is one of the main industries, a lot of workers in Kanpur are associated with it. The easy availability of raw material which is the skin of a buffalo is an added incentive. The best thing about the saddle industry is that it is pollution free and does not harm the environment. The workers are mainly involved in making the products by hand.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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