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    Eastward shift: Indian handicraft in modern retail outlets

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    Our tradition, our handicraft, our handmade or home-spun products… All that had a greater value and been admired across the globe for their aesthetic designs and exceptional craftsmanship were probably losing their essential identity amid the pull and push of modern retail environment.

    The wheel is, once more, starting to move; products that were largely being exported or were being retailed in the closed environment of a particular town in the country are ‘out’ for good. The unique traditional details have been identified and now find a defined place on the shelves of modern shops in modern cities, for modern consumers.

    Be it wooden handicrafts from Saharanpur, Moradabadi metal pieces, Panipat ke mashoor pardein (popular curtains), or Kolhapuri chappal, everything is a brand in itself or a private label of the ‘thinking’ modern retailer.

    For instance, , a newly-launched concept store that retails home décor products, houses Indian handicrafts that have been sourced from different parts of the country. Speaking to Indiaretailing at the launch of the outlet, Christine E Rai, founder of , said, “We strongly believe that the range of products that we have sourced from places such as Meerut, Saharanpur and Panipat, will act as the differentiator from other outlets in this category. Our products will establish us as a brand across the country.”

    Rai is also the founder of Indian Inc., which has been creating and sourcing products in India for the European and American markets for 15 years.

    Foreign companies that are eyeing the Indian market look bullish on sourcing Indian handicrafts for their outlets. In an interview with Indiaretailing, , chairman, , the company that operates Rosebys home store chain in the United Kingdom (to be launched in India next month), said that Rosebys will house Indian handicrafts that will be sourced from different parts of the country. He also confirmed that these products have been appreciated in other parts of the world, and do have many potential admirers in India. “Though the country has a rich heritage in handicraft, the proper environment to retail or make it accessible to the right consumer is not there. We hope to create such shopping destinations,” said Dalmia.

    Sharing plans about branding Indian traditional or ethnic products, , CMD, Vishal Retail, had told Indiaretailing that this is a commendable idea and the company appreciates this as a viable business proposition. “We can think of this as a unique traditional SKU in the store. We have not yet planned anything as such, but will certainly look into the potential of retailing handicrafts. We can actually use our chain of stores for promotion of our heritage crafts,” Agarwal conceded.

    Meanwhile, companies that are manufacturing and exporting Indian handicrafts also opine that these products are now in greater demand as more retailers are planning to open or are already operating home furnishing stores in the country. Speaking to Indiaretailing, Anjali Kashyap, international exports manager, Worldwide Export Centre, said, “Our products are being increasingly sourced by the Indian and foreign retailers who are eyeing the Indian home décor market.” Though Kashyap did not reveal the names of the companies, she did say that leading Indian and foreign home décor retailers have approached the company for their products. Worldwide Export Centre is a New Delhi-based manufacturer and exporter of horn- and wood-crafted consumable handicrafts and jewellery.

    Speaking to Indiaretailing about the growing demand of their products, Rais Ahmed, business head, National Handicrafts, said: “With the growth of the retail sector in India, our products are more in demand as they are being sourced by various retailers across the country. Retailers from India as well as some foreign countries are doing business with us.” National Handicraft is a major manufacturer and exporter of handicrafts based in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

    The well-travelled Indian with his extra disposable income is starting to show a palpable eastward shift, at least in terms of fashion. Be it apparel, accessories, or home décor, it’s the ethnic, Indian and traditional product that is coming back into demand. Though limited to the elite or the classes, the trend will soon move on and will find place in the commoners’ houses, streets and towns.

    Will all Indians buy a branded Kolhapuri sandal and move in the atrium of a premium mall to buy a handcrafted piece of flower vase, or sleep on a branded bedsheet with high-end curtains drawn in a specially (traditionally) customised bedroom? Let’s keep a close watch.

    By Ranjan Kaplish and Satrajit Sen