Sourcing Handicrafts from India: A Guide for European Importers

Whether it is eco-friendly products made of jute, bamboo and other natural fibres, handwoven rugs and carpets,  intricately carved metal figurines made of brass and bell metal, silk and cashmere scarves and pashmina shawls or wooden home decor items, India has a very rich tradition of indigenous arts and crafts. Its cultural and geographical diversity means that each region and state is a recognized centre of excellence for a certain kind of handicraft.

This sector generates a significant amount of employment and contributes visibly to the country’s exports. Handicraft exports from India registered an 11 % growth last year (in 2017) to stand at a value of $ 3.66 billion. Major importers of Indian handicrafts include European countries like France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. The  US, UAE, Latin American countries, Canada and Australia also feature in the list of Top 10 destinations.

While growing awareness means that more and more discerning buyers are interested in procuring authentic Indian hand-crafted goods via export houses, the extremely fragmented nature of this market poses challenges. The 10,000+ member strong Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts EPCH has done a lot of work to help international buyers trade with Indian artists. EPCH is the apex governmental body that operates under the Ministry of Textiles in India. They organize Asia’s largest gifts and handicrafts fair in New Delhi, twice a year. The next five-day long IHGF fair in October will host 2900+ exhibitors and over 6000 buyers from 20+ countries across the world keen to explore unmatched deals and products across 14 different categories.

These exhibitors will represent important geographical hubs in India like Jaipur and Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Suppliers will come from smaller craft hubs like Moradabad known for the production of brass artifacts, Firozabad famed for exclusive glasswork, and Saharanpur noted for its carved wooden artifacts, all from the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Houses selling sandalwood statues, exotic quilts, printed textile, marbled figurines, wrought ironware and filigree silver jewellery or papier mache products from other parts of the country will also be in attendance. The range of products and artistic styles in endless and varied. However, it still is difficult for an international buyer located a continent away to find a reliable supplier producing high-quality artifacts with the finesse and design sensibilities that suit the preferences of European customers, at a competitive price.

Not only do international buyers have to shortlist prospective suppliers based only on secondary research online, but language also poses a constraint in doing business smoothly. European buyers also have to ensure that the products they source are genuine, ethically manufactured and that actual artists are being fairly compensated for their efforts. This requires establishing a relationship of trust and field work to ensure that suppliers follow international guidelines and follow fair trade regulations. We at Arsha Consulting are in a position to be your partner in this journey in finding a supplier, keeping all these requirements in mind.

At Arsha, we have a network of established suppliers and larger factories so we can assure quality, quick turnaround times and compliance to ethical norms. We are able to fulfill large orders under tight deadlines. At times, we also partner with reputable smaller firms to manufacture custom-designed home decor products for a niche audience. Local Indian firms are chosen because of their vast inventory and expertise.

We conduct pre-visits before we shortlist firms to suit a specific project requirement. Our location in Bangalore, India gives us the added advantage of being able to take on physical inspections and arrange factory visits for European customers who would like to meet with the management before entering into a long-term partnership. Our experience of working with European customers and our native French team helps us act as an effective liaison and helps us negotiate better rates for our international clients.

Do contact us if you would like to attend important, upcoming trade fairs like IHGF to be held in October 2018 in New Delhi or if you would like to hire our expert services to shortlist an Indian, local handicrafts supplier to set up your art- and craft-centered business on European shores. And watch this space for more useful intelligence on doing business in India.

Preeti Prakash | Journalist

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