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Business is looking up for the handicraft sector

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Intrinsic to Mysore: Wood inlay items displayed at a shop in Mysore.
Intrinsic to Mysore: Wood inlay items displayed at a shop in Mysore.

R. Krishna Kumar

However, export orders need to pick up

MYSORE: The economic slowdown, which affected the handicraft sector in Mysore, is showing early signs of recovery due to surge in domestic demand. While it may be premature to say that artisans are laughing their way to the bank flush with orders, there are indications that the situation is slowly but surely changing for the better.

S.C. Devaramani, Assistant Director, Handicrafts Marketing and Service Extension Centre, Ministry of Textiles, told The Hindu that the feedback from artisans indicate that there are signs of improvement and the artisans are engaged in meeting the orders. This was not the case about six to eight months ago. Nearly 15,000 artisans find direct employment in the handicraft industry in Mysore and a majority of them were without work last year. “There are indications that the market scenario for handicraft products is turning positive,” said Mr. Devaramani.

This is a view echoed by the artisans. Mr. Ramu, an artisan-turned entrepreneur who runs the Geetha Fine Arts in the city, said the situation has not dramatically improved but was better compared to last year. However, the improvement was fuelled by domestic demand which is high on volumes rather than exports, which give higher returns.

Most of the local handicraft manufacturers sell the products in bulk to retailers. Dhanavantri Road and Sayyaji Rao Road are major sales points in the city for handicraft products and are patronised by both domestic and international tourists. However, the number of international tourists visiting India declined due to the economic slowdown followed by the A(H1N1) scare during 2009.

Exports

However, if the handicraft industry was to thrive, it is the export market which provides the lubricant, according to Mr. Devaramani. He said exports too had witnessed a slight improvement. But this is contested by artisans. Ramsons, a major dealer in handicraft products, admitted that the situation was better but the sales were buoyed by domestic demand and not exports.

“A majority of our customers are foreigners and we have to wait for the Christmas and New Year season as that is when we get international tourists in large numbers. It is only after Christmas and New Year that we can ascertain the export scenario,” said Mr. Raghu of Ramsons. The coming festival season will determine if the worst is over or not, he added.

Mysore has a reputation for handcrafted rose-wood inlay furniture, but export orders are hard to come by these days.

Products from Mysore are exported to the U.S., the U.K., West Asian countries and western Europe.

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