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…

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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.

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