Rising in popularity
The rich and myriad colours of Indian handloom are finding new takers.
Personal presentations by an Indian handloom industries team to every major chain store in South Africa are reaping benefits.
A team from the Indian Handloom Export Promotion Council, led by K. Shanmugan, council executive director, was here in February to create a market for Indian handloom items like towels, bed linen, table linen, place mats, curtains and fabrics.
Since returning to India, a number of manufacturers have sent back samples that local companies had asked them to design to meet South African tastes. The delegation's South African visit was organised by Jagat Shah, a management consultant from Gujarat specialising in trade delegation visits to South Africa.
Shah has led several successful teams to the country, the last one from Gujarat having signed up deals worth $1.2 million during a two-week trip.
"For the first time, each and every one of the seven delegates was able to make a presentation to entire buying teams, who left very impressed," Shah told IANS.
"Most buyers have been dealing with India for the last 10 years, but they said it was the first time they had seen a presentation of Indian products this way.
"We presented a show on the first day of the delegation's visit to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban that was also different from previous visits.
"This helped in following up negotiations with buyers, because they were then discussing items that they had personally seen at the exhibition."
Although some business was done during the visit, more than $1.5 million worth of enquiries have been received since the delegation's visit.
The South African groups that have shown interest in Indian handloom products include Pick 'n Pay, Edgars, Pep Stores, Mr. Price, and Woolworths, who between them control about 90 percent of the market for these products.
Representatives from some of these companies have said that the quality and price of the Indian handloom markets made them more attractive than Pakistani or Chinese products that currently dominate the market here.
Indian manufacturers have also sent samples of items designed especially for the African market, which they feel could create a market for them in the rest of the continent as well.
The Handloom Council has invited representatives of 19 South African companies to visit India for three days in October this year as the guests of the industry there.