November 26, 2007
In a neat industrial area on the outskirts of Chennai is the factory of export house Farida Group. Inside the spacious workplace are rows of women in uniform blue jackets and men in blue-gray polo shirts who quietly operate moulding and pressing machines.
At the beginning of the rows are marked-up productivity and quality charts. The floors have markings in paint for the exact position of the tables and machines. It has the look and feel of an efficient, modern auto parts operation, but Farida is in fact a leather factory that makes shoes for export to top brands like Timberland.
About 80% of the workforce is composed of women who sit behind the tables, hand-cleaning and finishing the shoes, lacing them up expertly and then putting them into boxes, ready for the shipping container.