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Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair 2015
New Delhi, India
16-18 April 2015

Serving The World Market

The 39th Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair was held held in New Delhi, India. After agriculture, the crafts sector, a huge cottage industry, is the secondhighest contributor to the vast country’s GDP

According to reports, Indian officials said 7 million artisans, who were registered with the country’s Export Promotion Council, contributed $4.5 billion (R52bn) to its economy each year in exports.

At the fair, 2 500 export agents spent the three days negotiating deals with 4 500 agents and buyers from 60 countries. The highest number of buyers was from the US (469), followed by Germany (215) and the UK (230). There were also 72 South African buyers.

Sunita Anand, spokesman for the event, said India was making a focused effort to increase trade to Brazil, India, China and South Africa - the Brics partnership. Incentives included duty exemption for the export of handicrafts offered to exporters which, Anand said, had resulted in massive growth in the industry.

To contextualise the magnitude of the event, trade was carried out in three storeys of small shops divided into 12 halls in a building about three times the size of Durban’s International Convention Centre. Trade was brisk and, despite stallholders saying business was slightly down this year because of conditions in the world economy, they were more than satisfied with the business they had concluded.

In an interview published in the fair publication, Vivek Bhola, the general manager for sales at the Mediterranean Shipping Company South Africa said the goods at the fair were well suited for developed countries. He said, however, if the industry were to expand further, exporters would have to adhere more strictly to timelines and keep innovating their products.

Rakesh Kumar, executive director of India’s Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts, said the legacy left by Mahatma Gandhi and social activist Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay, who promoted village crafts to prevent the starvation of millions of displaced people after independence from the British in 1947, had grown into a serious and strategic economic driver for the region.

He said the industry gave India an advantage over its major export competitor, China, as the goods were made by hand rather than mass-produced. The quality as a result was also of a better standard than items mass-produced by the Chinese. Kumar said the economy of scale in the industry also gave the country an edge over any competitors in the market. “At least 26% of the exports go to the US and Canada with 34% destined for the European Union.”

Kumar said programmes to increase the industry even further were particularly focused on those who lived below the poverty line. At least 47% of the production of the goods was undertaken by women in rural villages.

Crafts exhibited at the fair included traditional Indian fabrics and objets d’art, often seen in shops in South Africa. However, high-end household goods such as lighting, jewellery, bedding, furniture, carpets and household decor, particularly Christmas decorations, were more evident and clearly in huge demand.

Anand said there was a major drive to diversify the range for export to satisfy demand from the main importers. “We are also taking the fair to other countries. To date we have held 35 fairs for fashion and jewellery worldwide.”

With a population of more than a billion and a high level of poverty, particularly in rural areas, Kumar said registering more village crafters was critical, particularly as they stood to benefit from government services such as free schooling, health care and other support services once they were under the auspices of the council. Benefits for artisans who registered included free schooling and medical care.