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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

India's handicrafts make for great heirlooms

Indian handicrafts enjoy global recognition. They sell India's culture to the rest of the world. The sheer variety dazzles shoppers, whether they are buying from the Cottage Industries Emporiums or from open air markets in Rajasthan. Here are a few options to explore, so that you take home something unique - customised handicrafts.

Unusual Handicraft - Idol worship
There are two idol showrooms in Mumbai that I’ve visited called Aakaar and Hari Om, which are owned by two brothers - Aakaar by Sudhir Shah and Hari Om by Haresh Shah. Their products are made mostly of marble even though at Aakaar they stock things made of black granite and a polished rose-quartz stone, which they call ruby stone.

Hari Om said their best selling idol is of Lord Ganesh. At Aakaar, they have a larger collection of idols comprising Ganesh, Shiva, Lord Krishna, Sai Baba, Buddha, even some paintings of Buddha and Ganesh. They sometimes keep idols of Durga and Saraswati as well but these are infrequent.

Prices at Hari Om range from Rs 500 to Rs 10,000 while at Aakaar they have larger idols priced as high as Rs 5 lakhs.

These shop owners, when asked, didn’t divulge the money they make – either domestically or via exports. But since they are in such a niche segment, it’s bound to be a fair amount even though the inventory turnover is not very high because people will buy an idol for their entire lifetime and not keep upgrading. So, these stores do factor this in and maintain high margins.

Customisation: Another value-added service that most handicraft manufacturers are offering is tailor-made products. For instance, at Aakaar, you could order a Ganesh statue in plain marble and then have it painted over – from making the eyes more expressive with a kohl-like look to giving the impression that the crown on the God’s head is really gold studded with precious stones in them.

Weave your own carpet

A carpet maker in Agra will weave carpets for you with any design that you choose to give him. He actually told me that he had custom weaved carpets for the Manchester United football club’s locker room. I didn’t find this claim unbelievable because I saw the quality of the work right before my eyes.

Place to shop: For intricately hand knotted, lusciously soft, customised carpets. Contact Java Handicraft Export, Bansal Nagar, Fatehabad Road, Agra – 282001, Uttar Pradesh, India. Telefax: 0091-562-2333716. email: javacarpet@yahoo.com

Bring home the Taj Mahal

Similarly, another work of art is the stunning mosaic inlay work that Agra is known for – the Taj being a world famous advertisement of this art form. There are descendants of the artisans who worked on the Taj, who are now creating products for tourists to take home. Here again, you can get them to make anything from coffee tables to dining tables to even garden seats out of marble with inlaid work on them. The stones used are corals in shades of green and red and for the blue stone, they use lapis lazuli. The price tags are high for the larger products but the workmanship is exquisite and one-of-a-kind. So if you have the budget for a Rs 1 lakh dining table that will be talked about by everyone who visits your home, then this is the place to buy it from.

Place to shop: For beautiful marble inlaid furniture: UP Handicrafts Palace, Fatehabad Road, Agra – 282001, India. Tel no: 562- 2232660/61/62/63. Fax: 91-562-2330193. email: upcrafts@sancharnet.in Website: www.upcraftspalace.com

The government offers subsidies to these industries; so pick up gorgeous stuff from here at much cheaper prices than anywhere else in India. Despite the implementation of VAT, with the export subsidies these industries are entitled to, the goods still work out cheaper.

Smart Shopping for handicrafts

This is something I did last year during Diwali, so I’m passing on the tip to you to use. A supermarket near my home was keeping dryfruit gift boxes which were actually beautiful silver boxes with minakari work and a print of a miniature painting on it. These were in two sizes – in rectangle and square shapes. I waited till Diwali got over and on the last day when they were about to remove the unsold inventory, I walked in and bought one at a 10 per cent discount. I did give away the dryfruits – people anyway eat it throughout the year - but kept the box with myself. It was too good to just give away.

Today, I can put anything from dried flowers, scented candles, potpourri and chocolates and leave it in my living room for people to admire. The store sold this silver box to everyone for Rs 900, I purchased it for Rs 810.

Similarly, bide your time and strike and you’ll get away with good stuff and at reasonable prices. The last day of trade and handicraft fairs (like the one at the Bandra Reclaimation Ground in Mumbai, the Surajkund mela in Delhi, Delhi Haat, Jaipur Haat etc) is a good time to go and pick up stuff at bargain prices. They want to sell as much as they can at the venue and not haul stuff back home.

Another time, I got an unusual handicraft item free of cost was when I had gone to Kashmir with Kesari Travels. They gave everyone on that trip a houseboat – a replica of the ones we all stayed in. It was made of plain wood but I painted mine, once I brought it home. It’s a lovely, colourful reminder of a wonderful holiday in a stunningly ethereal place.

1 comment:

aishani said...

Indeed a very nice post.Your post is really very valuable and I have now subscribed the same, keep up the good posting.

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