Meerut scissors struggle to cut through Chinese competition
The Meerut scissors are straining to cut through the intense competition being offered by low-cost Chinese scissors that are flooding the domestic market, say local businessmen. Despite being a WTO geographical indication (GI) registered product since 2013, the scissors are still to find the national and international recognition that is deserved, they say.
“Meerut scissors have a unique identity. For centuries, this was a popular product across the country. But the industry received a set back in the past one year with the imposition of 18% GST. That and the inflow of low-cost Chinese’s scissors in the domestic market badly impacted the sales, and there is no sign of improvement,” said Sharif Ahmad, a seventh generation craftsman and the owner of Asli Akhuji Scissors Works.
“The cottage industry that used to manufacture around two lakh pieces a month, has declined to almost 40% of its size now,” he added.
Octogenarian Saeed Ahmad, who has been running ‘Sheikh Scissors’ since 1965, agrees. “I have never seen such a bad condition of the industry in the past five decades. This is due to imposition of high tax and Chinese scissors flooding the market,” he said.
Manufacturer Farmanuddin said that many clients in South India cancelled orders for Meerut scissors over the past few months because of “escalated prices”. “We manufacture scissors ranging from size of 3 inches to 18 inches. They are priced from Re 1 to Rs 1,000. Our problem is that buyers have now started demanding our quality product at the price of Chinese scissors! We don’t know how to deal with this situation,” he said.
A 350-YEAR-OLD COTTAGE INDUSTRY
Scissors manufacturing is a 350-year-old cottage industry in Meerut.
A local blacksmith Akhunji is said to have combined two swords to cut leather in 1645 during the Mughal period, creating the first scissors in India.
“Since then, our family has been in the business,” said Sharif Ahmad who represents the seventh generation of the family. “Scissors manufacturing is still our family business. Gradually, the sizes and designs of the products changed. Today, our scissors are used for multipurpose cutting,” he said.
At present, Meerut has 225 small and medium scissors manufacturing units, out of which there are 30 registered units that feed only the domestic market. Although there are some vendors who cater to the overseas markets too, they don’t export directly.
More than 25,000 artisans and their families depend on this industry.
GI TAG IN 2013
Sharif Ahmad said the scissors manufacturers collected historic evidence for over two years to represent their case in front of the GI committee that examines documents before declaring a product GI certified.
Ahmad, who is also the vice president of the Meerut Scissors Manufacturers’ Special Purpose Vehicle -- an association of scissors manufacturers -- said that officials of the association worked hard to plead their case in front of the committee. “With our combined efforts, Meerut Scissors was certified as the country’s first GI scissors,” he said.
Association president Farmanuddin added, “We provided the GI committee with printed packing material, copy of Gazette and other evidences to support our claim that the scissors first originated here (in the country).”
However, he added that although it was a great achievement and a matter of pride for the city and the state, “very few people are aware of the Meerut scissors’ international status”.
Uttar Pradesh has only 20 GI products. Out of these, 15 are handicraft and two are agricultural products. Only three products from the state figure in the ‘manufactured’ category of GI products.
To recall, after the Meerut scissors received the GI tag, the then state government had established a scissors cluster at Lohia Nagar here in 2014. However, manufacturers assert that unless the issues of heavy taxation and competition from Chinese scissors were addressed, the industry would not revive.
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