THE annual Indian Handicrafts & Gifts Fair (Spring), 2006, organised by the Export Promotion Council of Handicrafts (EPCH), is considered the `biggest sourcing event in Asia'. This year's event, held between February 16 and 20 at the India Expo Centre and Mart (IEC), Greater Noida, near Delhi generated business worth over Rs.1,200 crores.
This annual event has played a crucial role in promoting the handicrafts sector, which has been registering a steady annual growth of 20 per cent. At present, India's share in the world handicrafts' market is just 1.6 per cent. Efforts are on to increase this to 4 per cent.
The fair's main objective is to present before the world the whole range of handicrafts from India. This year too, it offered a huge business opportunity to exhibitors of houseware, decorative items, general handicrafts, home accessories, Christmas and floral decorations.
More than 4,750 visitors, including overseas importers, buying agents, departmental and chain stores, supermarkets from the United States, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and West Asian and Scandinavian countries, were represented at the fair. In addition, the event played host to a 67-member delegation, consisting members mainly from Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan and Palestine, representing the Federation of Arab Businessmen.
Another high point of the event was the presence of representatives from the A.S. Watson Group, Hong Kong. The Watson Group, with its 2,000 stores in Asia, is widely considered to be the Wal-Mart of the continent. According to Hans Van Hattem, Global Sourcing Director, A.S. Watson International Buying, Hong Kong and Marcus Schlilch, Commercial Manager - Toys, Sports & Outdoor, about 20 to 25 per cent of their textiles and fabrics can be sourced from India as the products displayed at the fair were of excellent quality. The group has apprised the EPCH of its plan to set up a sourcing centre in New Delhi.
The schemes evolved by the EPCH and the Government of India have led to a lot of diversification as well as development of styles and shapes of various handicrafts. This was evident in the products on display at the fair, which have undergone major changes over the years, particularly in the area of design and innovation. From the buyers' perspective, this has undoubtedly made the IHGF more interesting and attractive. The special focus of this year's fair was eco-friendly utility products from the northeastern States and Uttar Pradesh.
IEC, the venue for this year's IHGF, impressed all with its excellent facilities. Modelled on the leading marts in Atlanta, Dallas and Shanghai, the Mart covers an area of 2,35,000 sq. m.
The IHGF, which takes place twice a year, is an effective marketing medium. On an average 5,000 to 7,000 buyers visit each of the two fairs every year, enabling small and cottage industry exporters to obtain orders without having to travel abroad.
In order to boost the credit requirements of the handicraft sector, a credit guarantee scheme has been launched. Efforts are under way to create wider awareness among the banking institutions and potential beneficiaries.
Further, to ensure technology upgradation in the sector, the office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles, has launched a Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme under the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hasthshilp Vikas Yojna. The scheme aims to attract private investment on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis, offering 40 per cent capital subsidy for establishing facility centres.Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay