How entrepreneurs are fighting back onslaught of cheap Chinese goods

When entrepreneur Ally Mathan founded Areev four years ago, she aimed to create natural, handmade bath and skincare products. Two weeks ago, she launched products that eliminated plastic packaging and used lacquered Channapatna wood instead. The lacquer colours also correspond to the products’ fragrance families. Although this increased costs and product pricing, Mathan believes it will be costeffective in future, given the demand, besides being sustainable than plastic.

Currently , she produces 5,000 soaps and a ton of shampoo per day . “The beauty of Channapatna artisans is that their skills can be moulded and refined to create not just toys but products that suit our needs,” she said.

Channapatna toy-making never was a lost craft. However, with most youngsters in the toy town about 60 km from Bengaluru losing interest in the low-yielding craft and migrating to the city , the future of the 1,000-odd existing artisans was threatened. Cheaper varian ..

Designer Atul Johri trains 12 artisans in lacquerware techniques that Channapatna’s toy-makers used. Only , he now creates lights, tableware, vases, towel racks, paper holders and kitchen accessories. Through his networks, artisans have worked with companies including Fabindia, top five-star hotels, the T2 terminal at Kempegowda International Airport and textile companies in Tamil Nadu.Johri said that it is imperative to train them in corporate qualities like discipline, timely deliveries, quali ..

Asif Pasha was a victim of the trade lull in the past decade. Joining hands with Johri, the artisan now earns up to `2,000 per day instead of `700 that he got previously. Some contemporaries have also started their own production units after the training.

Designer Nishi Chauhan infuses Channapatna elements in her lamps that have international buyers while Sumi Gupta, director of lifestyle centre Virtuous Retail in Whitefield, has a Channapatna retail outlet itself. “The key is to raise awareness among the high networth and expat population in the area who have the capacity to spend,” she said.

Karthik Vaidyanathan’s design studio Varnam works with 30 artisans and specially encourages women. The lack of government support to private entities like his that “are keeping the craft alive” is worrisome, he pointed out. “They (government) do not even acknowledge our existence. There are no rebates or service tax exemptions that would in turn help us lower product pricing,” he said.

E-commerce doing its bit

Maya Organic, an NGO which employs and trains over 100 Channapatna artisans, recently went online and also started retailing through Flipkart and Amazon.”60% of our produce is exported to 14 countries including USA, Australia, South Africa, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Singapore, Denmark and Thailand.Out of the 40% domestic consumption, over 25% is through e-commerce portals,” said Subba Rao, sales manager, adding that digitisation was essent ..

Article from The Economic Times (ET RISE)