The 19th International Technical Footwear Congress of the International Union of Shoe Industry Technicians (UITIC), which took place in Chennai on Feb. 3-5, attracted a record of 560 delegates from 28 countries, and around 170 of them came from outside India. The foreign contingent was twice as high as that of the previous UITIC convention, held in Guangzhou, China two years ago. It was the first time that India held the 44-year-old conference, which is held every other year, although the country is the world's second-largest shoe producer.

The “future footwear factory” was the main theme of the convention, but the speakers also handled other topics such as sustainability and training (more on this in the next issues). Before the event, which followed on the heels of the annual ILFS leather fair in Chennai, the delegates were treated to the visit of the facilities of the Farida and KH groups.

This year's UITIC Awards were given to Deichmann, which continues to work closely with Indian producers, and to Ferenc Schmel, a Hungarian shoe industry expert who has been working for the United Nations International Development Organization (Unido).

The convention was organized by the French-based Centre Technique du Cuir (CTC) and the local Indian Council for Leather Exports (CLE), which played host to the event.

In his opening speech, Yves Morin, president of CTC and of the UITIC, pointed out that the shoe industry has a very promising future, considering that the average consumption of shoes current stands at 3.3 pairs per year on a global scale, compared with an average of 7.7 pairs in the U.S.

Both he and Schmel expressed a view that price alone would not be the main factor in customers' purchasing decisions in the future. Schmel said that shoe manufacturers and retailers should focus more on innovation and service, including the use of smart materials in shoes. More knowledge would be required in Asian production centers to correct the imbalance with the West, he added. Morin pointed out that the spreading use of the internet by the customers will require higher degrees of responsiveness and flexibility.

The next session of the convention is scheduled to take place two years from now in the Portuguese city of Porto. The Portuguese Footwear Technological Center (CTCP) and the Portuguese shoe industry association (Apiccaps) will participate in its organization. Porto already hosted the event in 1996.