Monday, December 05, 2011: 02:16:44 PM

Retailing Guest Column

Retail Industry: Art and artefacts - Gauri Rao, Shaastra

Artefacts and handicrafts sector in India needs more support and exposure to go from small scale to large scale

Retailing of Indian artefacts and handicrafts has been dominated mostly by individual entrepreneurs having small-sized single stores. The category of artefacts is still in the nascent stage, catering to the needs of customers typically over the age of 40 who have a discerning taste and regularly purchase artefacts either for personal use or more for gifting. The average ticket size of purchase continues to be as low as between Rs 2000-3000, asthe customer does not value paying a higher price since it is only used for home decor or for gifting.

 
HNI’s and art lovers however make an exception to the rule and they hunt for good bargains for quality antique artefacts like Tanjore Painting, idols of worship, Bastar Art and Rajasthan marble work, among other paintings, where the ticket size can be anything between Rs 10,000-300,000. This signifies a small section of the handicraft and art industry and the number of individuals willing to value art to this extent is quite rare.
 
Challenges and solutions
 
The retail market is highly disorganised with no national brand dominating this space. Since the overall market size continues to be dismal and the need restricted to home decor and gifting, no large corporate house has ventured into this business. With the average of our population being below the age of 25 years, the market will continue to be niche and small-sized. Educating the youth and encouraging more investment into art can help improve the condition of the existing businesses and also encourage those keen to enter the market in a larger way. The sector does not only need more investment but also visionary entrepreneurship that can ensure a wholesome growth.
 
The Government of India on its part has taken small steps to promote the industry by holding regular exhibitions and road shows in various parts of the country, giving the artisans an opportunity to showcase their products directly to the end users. This not only helps the artisans gain exposure but also allows the common people to witness and gain a better understanding of indigenous art and handicrafts.
 
In the Indian villages we have good skill sets to create high quality Indian handicrafts and artefacts. Without a proper organised support and distribution system these artisans never get their due because of which they are declining in numbers, which does not augur well for our country. Multiple agents who short change these artisans make a killing while the artisans continue to remain deprived. This situation needs to be addressed by the government as a lot of employment is generated in remote villages, thanks to this activity.
 
The most interesting sales insight is that the demand for these items is more from the NRIs and the foreigners than the local Indians. Until the local Indian consumption does not improve, the market will continue to be sluggish and small-sized. While the products on a unit basis offer handsome margins with low volumes and high rentals, the business does not generate sufficient revenues, which makes the business unattractive for investment.
 
Gauri Rao is the founder of Shaastra, a leading retailer of Indian handicrafts and artefacts

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