Back on global radar

A buyer seller meet has brought international buyers for Kashmir handicrafts direct to Srinagar, building links between Kashmiri traders and the buyers. Haroon Mirani reports.

Orders worth more than ten crore rupees were generated at the first ever Kashmir handicrafts global buyer-seller meet, held in Srinagar this week.
Kashmir trade fraternity is upbeat over the meet’s success which was organized by the Kashmir Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and sponsored by Government of India.
It was the first time after 1989 that foreign buyers had come directly to Srinagar for purchasing Kashmir handicrafts. In the last two decades, buyers have been mostly procuring Kashmiri products from Delhi based traders.
Before the meet, the organizers were apprehensive thinking that global recession may play a spoilsport. However, the response was evidently overwhelming even. On the second day of the meet, carpet traders had already received orders for more than 650,000 Euros.
“The meet has been a grand success and we have done business beyond our expectations,” said Dr Mubeen Shah, Chairman KCCI.
Sheikh Feroz Ahmad of Ferozson Exports said that the purchases had been good. “In the first two days, I sold 700 sq metres of Silk Cotton carpets and 170 sq metres of Silk on Silk carpets,” said Feroz. German traders were the main buyers of carpets in the meet.
There were apprehensions that the traders won’t come as they have always been deterred by security situation prevailing in the valley. Feroz says, “I had been telling my foreign buyers to come to Kashmir even if they did not buy anything. I told them to just come for a visit. But they would never listen and we used to do the work in New Delhi.”
“This meet has brought a sea change in their attitude and now there apprehensions are gone,” he adds.
The traders expect foreign buyers Kashmir visit to become a regular feature.
Traders were feeling short of stock by the demand. “As most of our stock is stored in New Delhi, and here the buyers purchased most of the cherished items, a scarcity was felt,” said Shah.
Mohammed Altaf Dar of Umar Carpets was also one of the happier traders at the meet. “We had never in our dreams thought of doing such a business in this meet,” said Altaf. “Our entire stock in the stall in sold out,” said Altaf, who also had the privilege of selling one carpet to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Ervin Kerikes of Slovakia was all praise for Kashmiri handicrafts. This was his first visit to Kashmir. “Kashmiri carpets are very beautiful with excellent craftsmanship involved in it,” said Kerekes. He was hopeful that these types of carpets in Kashmir would find a good market in Europe and people will surely love to buy them. “I am sure the carpets will find good number of buyers in Slovakia and other countries too,” he said.
Traders say that the final aim of such meets is to bring back Kashmir handicraft trade, particularly carpet trade, back from New Delhi to Kashmir.
“Most of our 1000 Crore trade in carpets is done from New Delhi. From Srinagar, the figure is around rupees 100-150 crore,” said Shah. “This equation has to change and the meet is a step in the same direction.”
The trade, if and when shifted to Srinagar, is expected to give boost to Kashmir handicraft industry creating new jobs and giving more benefit to the local businessmen. “We have to incur huge costs in logistics alone besides rent, employee salaries and other expenses in New Delhi,” said Ahsan Mirza of Mirzasons carpets. “The shifting of trade to Srinagar will save us from hostile weather and give us more time and energy.”
But New Delhi based traders are not happy with the meet. A delegation of New Delhi based exporters visited the meet in Srinagar to see for them what is going on. “Of course they are nervous as we are trying to take the trade from under their noses,” said Feroz Ahmad Bisati of Modern Carpets Company.
A controversy erupted in the meet after some New Delhi based traders were accused of luring foreign buyers with low rates for similar carpets at New Delhi itself. KCCI was later forced to ban their entry into the venue.
KCCI had sent out 6000 communications to prospective buyers during the run up to this international meet. Even to get the addresses of these buyers was a big exercise for KCCI. “These addresses were with national bodies like Carpet Promotion Council and they were reluctant to give it to us,” said Shah. “We had to get the intervention of Union minister Jairam Ramesh to seek those addresses that too at the last moment, which marred the prospects of larger number of participation of foreign buyers.”   
While giving details about the business done during the meet Shah said, “19 buyers placed orders and purchasing negotiations for 21 more buyers are underway.”
“The total orders are in the range of rupees 10 crores and it will certainly increase,” said Shah.
According to Shah, the cumulative orders over the year will increase to over 100 crore rupees as “we have now got a huge contact list and it now depends on our negotiating skills and other factors.”
Buoyed with the success with their global handicrafts meet, KCCI is also mulling to organize such meets at national level in other sectors like food processing and other industries too.

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