Aqeel Ahmed Panaruma, chairman and managing director of Florence Shoe Company in the state of Tamil Nadu, became on Jan. 17 the new chairman of India's Council for Leather Exports, taking the place of Mukhtarul Amin. Sanjay Leeka will serve as vice chairman.

The organization, which is sponsored by the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, expects that India's total exports of leather, leathergoods and footwear will show an increase of 5 to 6 percent in terms of rupees during the financial year ending in March. In the seven months through October 2018, they went up by 5.25 percent.

Panaruma's election can be seen as a sign of the Indian shoe industry's determination to modernize itself. Florence Shoe, which works for some major clients in Europe and the U.S., is regarded as one of the most advanced shoe manufacturers in the country, making use of robotics to maximize productivity and quality control. Established near Chennai in 1995, the family-owned company makes its own leather and 1.2 million pairs a year. It is classified by the government of India as a Two Star Export House.

Panaruma, who first joined his family business in 1984, was previously one of the vice chairmen of the CLE. He has already served three terms as the CLE's regional chairman for the Southern Region of the country. He has also served three terms as the president of the Indian Shoe Federation, two terms as the president of the South India Shoe Manufacturers Association and two terms as the chairman of the Indian Leather Industry Foundation. He has also chaired a consortium of manufacturers of shoes and other products.