Tongaat based manufacturing firm, Protea Leather Natal has seen the company growth, diversify and become more efficient since its first application in 2011 to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition’s (the dtic) Production Incentive Programme (PIP) grants administered by Industrial Development Corporation Production. The company recently won the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) tender to supply laptops which have in turn seen more jobs created in the sector.
The company which was established in 1988 by its Chief Executive Officer, Mr Raj Singh in partnership with the Gidish family, has since upgraded the factory floor with more than twenty machines, one digital printing as well as three embroidery machines that have enabled the company to diversify into other areas of manufacturing.
“Protea Leather Natal initially introduced the school range to Waltons. We have also worked extensively with Edcon CNA over the years. When both retailers started to import large quantities of school bags, we diversified into custom designed bags for schools, with school logos and in the colours that the school requires. We diversified further into sport, concentrating on hockey, cricket and fishing. We have also managed to convince promotional houses to have their bags made locally for the local SAB brands,” said a director at Protea Leather Natal, Mr Desigan Ganesan.
Ganesan mentioned that with input from nurses and specialists, they have also developed specialised bags for Lancet Labs and Ampath, and have also grown in the food industry with the introduction of home delivery services.
When asked about the impact of Covid-19 in their business operation, Ganesan said the lockdown had forced all sectors to shutdown leaving them with practically nothing to manufacture. He said they had shutdown completely for March, April and May 2020.
“We reopened in June and continued working with 50% of our staff , 2-3 days a week on a rotational basis. With food delivery services booming and the fishing industry open, we managed to secure enough work to keep 50 % staff working a full three days per week. This also lead to company incurring a loss to keep our staff earning a small wage,” added Ganesan.
Ganesan said the firm had recently planned to go on short time once more. But through the NSFAS tender to supply laptops bags they remained opened through out.
“Thanks to the efforts of the dtic, the laptop bags for NSFAS are being manufactured locally. Due to these efforts, we have not gone on short time but have instead hired 10 more employees on a temporary contract, in addition to 61 permanent workers to have these orders completed. The creation of employment has assisted ten more people that were affected by COVID. The income from this order has been a financial lifeline to the company,” he said.
Ganesan further said the ripple effect of this order has spread through to local fabric mills, packaging suppliers, suppliers of fittings for bags and the transport sector.
Ganesan advised that government should consider higher import taxes on items that can be manufactured in our country. He said all major retailers, international brands, local brands i.e. fashion and sport should have a said percentage of locally manufactured products.
Protea Leather Natal pride’s itself with extensive experience in design and manufacture, high quality products and in house branding. The company employs 61 permanent and 10 temporary workers of which the majority are black women.
In October 2020 the dtic under its Clothing Textile Competitiveness Programme (CTCP) announced Working Capital Interest Subsidy (WCIS) to provide financial relief of R 700 000 per applicant targeted to support 142 CTFL manufacturers in distress due to Covid-19 lock-down disruptions.
The Production Incentive (PIP) forms part of the overall Clothing and Textile Competitiveness Programme (CTCP) and flows from the implementation, by the dtic, of customised sector programmes (CSPs) for the clothing, textiles, footwear, leather and leather goods industries.
The PIP consists of an upgrade grant facility, which is meant to focus on competitiveness improvement and an interest subsidy for working capital facility which is meant to support working capital requirements resulting from past and future upgrading interventions
NSFAS laptop bags manufactured at the Protea Leather Natal with the dtic’s funded machines.
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Issued by: The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)
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