BISWA BANGLA: THE NEW FACE OF HANDCRAFTED & HANDLOOM HERITAGE PRODUCTS IN BENGAL
Biswa Bangla focusses on back-end interventions to develop new products so that more weavers and artisans can be brought under the project; on reviving the art and products that have almost disappeared…
Biswa Bangla echoes the heartbeat of Bengal – in form of its art, craft and culture. Their products are authentic hand-crafted items that connect customers and connoisseurs to the lives of the people along with the deep-rooted elements of the region. Biswa Bangla reaches out to thousands of crafts-persons and weavers in the state to develop handicraft and handloom products that stand out in terms of quality and uniqueness. Their ‘social business’ approach is creating entrepreneurs out of artists and bringing back economic self-reliance to the bottom of the pyramid. This helps sustain the traditional art and craft of the state by creating viable livelihood opportunities. The organization is promoted by the Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles of the West Bengal Government. The state government has been working in improving the quality of weavers,craft-persons and custodians of heritage by Biswa Bangla Marketing Corporation.
In an exclusive conversation with IMAGES Retail Bureau, Partho Kar, Chief Consultant, Biswa Bangla talks about the handloom industry, growth and future of the retail in the region.
Give us an overview of the retail market in Eastern India. What are the factors propelling the growth and evolution of this market?
East India is progressing fast. Increasing affluence and a huge demographic dividend will drive this market. Increasing footprints of malls in the area will drive retail. With new job creation in the region, demand is growing amongst the aspiring middle and lower middle class. There has been a growth of regional retailers in the area that has performed very well. With increase in warehousing facilities the distribution in the Eastern region will further improve resulting in increasing revenues.
What, according to you, are the biggest problems and challenges facing the modern retail industry in East India? How can these bottlenecks be overcome to allow the industry to grow to its maximum potential?
Inadequate infrastructure is the biggest challenge to the modern retail industry in the East. In addition, the slower growth in income is restricting the growth of retail in the Eastern zone. Most malls are fully occupied and therefore, lack of new space creation is a restriction. These bottlenecks can be removed if the state governments re-look at the land availability and facilitate land acquisition with a focus on promoting large scale retail. High street retail development needs a push.
In which areas is modern retail lagging behind in the East and where does it have the edge over other markets?
Due to non-availability of space it will take time for new format retail to create its footprint in the region. It would be a good idea for states to get into discussion with brands like IKEA and help them establish footprints in the region. The Eastern region is relatively cheaper in terms of labour as well as infrastructure costs. In addition, the region has an educated work force that can be trained to excel in retail.
What steps should be taken by the industry as well as the government to lure more brands and retail investment in east?
The government should give a special emphasis on retail in the east through easy laws. There needs to be constant communication between the government and retailers, creation of new spaces dedicated to retail, new parking systems for easy navigation close to retail hubs, creation of entertainment spaces that will increase footfalls and development of high street retail as a public/private initiative. The mantra is to make it easy for the brands to operate in the region.
Where do you see East India’s Retail Industry in the next 10 years?
I foresee the retail industry in the East will grow at more than 25 percent CAGR. There would be an increase in luxury retail with increasing affluence. In the coming decade, Eastern India will the key driver of retail.