Beauty of beast

The lowdown

A leather technologist works on the different stages of leather production (converting raw hides/skin into leather). This involves preparing, treating and finishing leather using chemical processes such as preserving the hide, removing hair and tissue from it, preparing it for tanning (using various chemicals and vegetable extracts to stop the leather from decaying), dyeing and drying, applying finishes to conceal surface flaws and provide protective coatings like for waterproofing. A leather technologist’s other duties could include supervising operatives (workers) in the factory, researching, testing and sampling chemicals, dyes and products in the laboratory, monitoring waste and by-products to make sure that they fall within safety limits, writing research and operational reports for managers

As a leather technologist, one can be based in a factory, workshop or laboratory, or a combination of all three. The average work day of a leather technologist:
9am: Make calls to the concerned staffs about the inputs of the day, payment, technical details of any specific sample
10am: Apprise the senior personnel of details
11am: Visit the office and leather goods unit
Noon: Check production work — examine every stage of production, every machine
1pm: Visit the main unit — tannery
2.15pm: Engage in techno-commercial matters, trouble-shooting in processes, development, liaison and interaction with different staffs in general and the lead technologist in particular
4pm: Meet buyers to show samples and get clearance for them
6pm: Time for social activities

The payoff
Depending upon the company one joins, the gross salary can vary between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 20,000 per month. Further increase in the pay scale depends majorly on a person’s experience

* Technological bent of mind
* Knowledge of chemicals
* Good communication skills
* Managerial skills
* An interest and aptitude for science, particularly chemistry
* Good organisational and planning skills for projects and lab work
* Ability to work methodically and accurately
* Creativity for developing new ideas and solving problems
* Ability to analyse and interpret lab test results
* Some mechanical and engineering knowledge
* Good interpersonal skills
* A safety-conscious approach to work

Getting there
Take up science (preferably physics, chemistry and maths) in Class 11 and Class 12. Go for a BTech in leather technology from a recognised institution. Diploma courses in leather technology, too, are available. For better career prospects, you may go for a master’s degree

Institutes and URLs
* Anna University, Chennai
* West Bengal University of Technology, Kolkata
* Harcourt Butler Technological Institute, Kanpur
* Government College of Engineering & Leather Technology, Kolkata
* Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai

Pros and cons
* Growth-oriented export industry 
* Huge demand for leather goods in India
* Can work on the product from beginning to end — from the raw material to the finished leather, unlike other engineering branches
* Pay is less than that of other engineering professionals. But if a person is ambitious and passionate, the scope of being an entrepreneur is immense
* Tanning and finishing units are usually located far from cities
* There is scope for blending art and technology

Today the leather industry occupies a prominent place in the Indian economy, in view of its massive potential for employment ---Arnab Jha, president of Indian Leather Technologists’ Association, Kolkata


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