Traders have stopped depending on this season for almost 10 years
The arrival of elephants from jungle camps to the city of palaces heralding Dasara festivities kindles a ray of hope of a ‘season of plenty’ among stakeholders in the tourism sector.
While the hospitality sector, tour and travels thrive on the tourism season that runs from October to February, it’s not the same for the handicraft sector. Retailers specialising in handicrafts, whose turnover fuels demand and helps sustain both the artisans and craft, have been disconnected from the Dasara for the last few years.
The handicraft industry itself is in dire straits owing to labour problem and steep increase in the price of raw materials. Manufacturers are forced to increase the rate, which does not attract customers.
S. Ramu, president, Handicrafts Manufacturers Association and proprietor of Sri Geetha Fine Arts, said, there was no extra work orders in the run up to Dasara. “Each product is painstakingly handcrafted and hence mass production for Dasara was ruled out,” he added.
Though Mysore receives nearly 3.5 million tourists annually, it is fuelled by package tours conducted from Bangalore, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. There is a perception that guided mass tourism on commission basis does not allow visitors to explore the city or shop at leisure, and hence the tourist flow has no bearing on the sale of handicraft items. This is true for textiles too.
“Most retailers in handicrafts have cultivated their own clientele and depend on corporates and international orders for business and it is not true that sale increases during Dasara for retailers in handicrafts,” said Mr. Preetham.
Satyanarayana of Ganesh Industrial and Fine Arts, said, “There is an increase in the number of walk-in clients during the tourism season commencing from Dasara. Though sales do marginally increase, it does not make up for low volumes in the lean season,” he added.
Apart from steep increase in the cost of raw material, the State government too has contributed to its present plight. There is a 5.5 per cent VAT on products and handcrafted furniture items draws 14.5 per cent tax. A few States like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu have abolished VAT on handicraft products.
The State government should follow suit if handicraft industry was to sustain itself, said Mr. Satyanarayana and Mr. Preetham.