Man­jusha, with its pledge to up­lift the tra­di­tional her­itage of the ex­cep­tional artisan com­mu­nity of the state, is do­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well to sup­port and pro­mote the so­cial up­lift­ment of one of the poor­est sec­tions of the so­ci­ety...

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West Ben­gal Hand­i­crafts De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion Lim­ited, a Gov­ern­ment of West Ben­gal en­ter­prise is prin­ci­pally into the pro­mot­ing and mar­ket­ing of the hand­i­crafts and hand­loom prod­ucts of the ar­ti­sans and weavers of West Ben­gal through Man­jusha show­rooms all over In­dia. Man­jusha has 12 show­rooms across West Ben­gal and one in Delhi.

Man­jusha, with its pledge to up­lift the tra­di­tional her­itage of the ex­cep­tional artisan com­mu­nity of the state, is do­ing ex­cep­tion­ally well to sup­port and pro­mote the so­cial up­lift­ment of one of the poor­est sec­tions of the so­ci­ety. The brand is also nur­tur­ing ba­sic crafts­man­ship with­out de­vi­at­ing from her­itage, as also help­ing the prod­uct reach a na­tional and in­ter­na­tional level.

In an ex­clu­sive chat with IM­AGES Re­tail Bu­reau, Amit Datta, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Man­jusha, talks about how the hand­loom and hand­i­craft in­dus­try is evolv­ing, and also about the con­tri­bu­tion that it can make to the re­tail in­dus­try in East In­dia.

Tell us about Man­jusha.

Man­jusha is an or­gan­i­sa­tion un­der West Ben­gal Hand­i­craft De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, and its duty is to pro­mote and mar­ket the hand­i­craft and hand­loom prod­uct pro­duced by the ar­ti­sans and weavers of the state. We have around 5 lakh mem­bers in this com­mu­nity, mainly ar­ti­sans and weavers, who pro­duce tra­di­tional goods and we help them to mar­ket and sell them. Most of the work­ers are not ed­u­cated so we also do ca­pac­ity build­ing, tech­ni­cal in­puts and mainly bank re­lated things for them. Our main mis­sion is to im­prove the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the ar­ti­sans in Ben­gal. As far as re­tail in­dus­try is con­cerned, the hand­i­craft sec­tor in

East In­dia is un­tapped and un­ex­plored.

How do you pro­mote prod­ucts made by the weavers/ar­ti­sans?

We have few listed steps of pro­mot­ing the thing. Our main fo­cus is to ul­ti­mately sell the prod­ucts that are made by them at good price to the stan­dard cus­tomer who un­der­stands the value of the prod­uct. We have show­rooms pan In­dia, so avail­abil­ity is not a con­cern.

First of all, we get the ar­ti­sans of the West Ben­gal un­der one um­brella trade wise and we give them ca­pac­ity build­ing train­ing and in­put sup­port. We give them de­sign train­ing, fash­ion train­ing, give them ex­po­sures by con­duct­ing fares. This is done so that they can un­der­stand the ac­tual need and de­mand of the mar­ket and pro­duce things ac­cord­ingly. We also sup­port them in ob­tain­ing the re­quired in­puts in mak­ing the hand­i­crafts items. There­after, we buy these hand­i­craft items from them. We make sure that the price of the craft in­cludes the to­tal cost of pro­duc­tion plus profit. The goods are fur­ther taken to our re­tail counter in show­rooms where they are sold in bulk.

We also pro­mote their work by pro­mot­ing and sell­ing them on­line. We have our own e-com­merce plat­form­ where we are do­ing re­ally good. For us, e-com­merce is an­other fo­rum where we sell hand­i­craft items.

Ben­gal is fa­mous for the fes­ti­vals, and peo­ple cel­e­brate Durga Puja and Kali Puja on a very large scale where huge

pan­dals are set up. To­day, fes­ti­vals are theme-based. To set up these themes, they re­quire a huge sup­ply of hand­i­craft items. We act as a medium link­ing these ar­ti­sans to the event man­agers. The event com­pany places an or­der with us and we pass it to ar­ti­sans. Usu­ally the or­der is in bulk, so it’s good busi­ness for both of us. Ul­ti­mately our profit is trans­ferred to them as well.

What are the fac­tors pro­pel­ling the growth of the hand­i­craft and hand­loom sec­tor in east?

In East In­dia, ba­si­cally the re­tail mar­ket, hand­i­craft and hand­loom sec­tor, the scope is im­mense. The ma­jor­ity of the mar­ket re­mains un­ex­plored. The craft art of this re­gion in com­par­i­son to that in north­ern and western part of the coun­try doesn’t de­pend on the re­tail solely. Hand­loom and hand­i­craft is a very small in­dus­try which has been there since a long time but hasn’t got the lime­light. The in­dus­try needs a good ex­po­sure. There­fore, we fo­cus more into ac­tiv­i­ties and we hope to Ben­gal as the new hub of hand­i­craft and hand­loom in­dus­try.

What are the rea­sons that this sec­tor is lag­ging be­hind?

The ma­jor prob­lem of re­tail in East In­dia is that the pro­duc­ers are not from this part of the re­gion. The main pro­duc­ers and big play­ers of the in­dus­try are based in the western and north­ern re­gion. We are cur­rently in process of ex­plor­ing their prod­ucts need. Soon, we can ex­pect them to move away from their lo­cal pro­duc­tion point and sub­se­quently come to the eastern half as we have cheap labour and re­sources here.

What are the ar­eas in which east has the edge in as far as re­tail is con­cerned?

I speak of east by also in­clud­ing the North

East. This re­gion has a huge va­ri­ety in terms of pop­u­la­tion, cul­ture, pas­sion, lan­guages, dresses, style of liv­ing. It is far ahead in com­par­i­son to the typ­i­cal

South or North In­dian style of liv­ing. It is an ag­glom­er­a­tion of Hindu, Mus­lim and Chris­tian cul­tures. This type of promi­nence nat­u­rally leads to a huge de­mand of prod­ucts, and re­tail flour­ishes in these ar­eas.

How can the gov­ern­ment help?

The State as well as Cen­tral Gov­ern­ments are do­ing a lot in West Ben­gal as far as de­vel­op­ment and in­fra­struc­ture is con­cerned. We have re­cently put up ‘Easto Bangla Haat’, for re­tail­ers and ar­ti­sans to put up their re­tail show­case for the cus­tomers. In Silig­uri, we con­ducted an event ‘Gate­way of North­east where ac­tiv­i­ties were con­ducted by the state gov­ern­ment to pro­mote re­tail. These are the start­ing steps, but the mar­ket is big, and op­por­tu­nity huge. We can hope that in the next two or three years, East In­dia will grow and be­come a big­ger mar­ket.

What is the role of tech­nol­ogy in the re­tail hand­i­craft in­dus­try?

Tech­nol­ogy is the key fac­tor in our de­vel­op­ment. Ear­lier hand­i­craft ar­ti­sans used to do all work man­u­ally, us­ing hands. We have now re­placed this com­pletely by pro­vid­ing them proper ma­chines, tools and de­sig­nori­ented tech­nol­ogy. We are giv­ing them knowl­edge of com­put­ers so that they can do the de­sign­ing.

From the mar­ket­ing point of the view, e-com­merce is the most im­por­tant thing. Store man­age­ment, in­ven­tory man­age­ment and ac­counts man­age­ment ev­ery­where tech­nol­ogy has been im­pact­ful.

Where do you see the in­dus­try in the next ten years?

It will be the best mar­ket in the coun­try. It is my per­sonal view that re­tail mar­ket in the de­vel­oped re­gions is get­ting sat­u­rated, so for the en­tire re­tail in­dus­try East In­dia is an op­por­tu­nity.

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