For a third generation in the carpet business, he says the business literally runs in his blood. From carpet manufacturing to weaving to export, he knows carpet business like the back of his hand. What has changed however for the past one and a half years – says Darpan Baranwal the youngest board member of Carpet Export Promotion Council, and member of All India Carpet Manufacturers Association, Bhadohi – is how the carpet business is now evolving. He spoke to Fasttrack on the changing face of the carpet industry in India and the challenges ahead. Excerpts of the interview.

You are the third generation in the carpet business. What is the kind of changes you have observed over years?

After my school from Dehradun, I was doing my BBA when my father died in a tragic road accident. And that is how I had to take over the reins of the family business, overnight. For the past 18 years, I have observed the business change drastically. Orthodox methods of doing business have changed and the new selling strategies have been adopted, this of course includes the online route. Besides this, new designs, new products, new colours and patterns – a lot has changed.

As the youngest board member of CEPC, what are some of the changes you are proud to be a part of?

To begin with, I have to say it has been an absolute honour to become one of the 17 directors in CEPC board. It has been a great learning experience since the carpet industry is currently in an active growth-focused mode. Meeting officials, focusing on growing the business, putting one’s point across, it is wonderful.
The Covid years were very challenging for every industry and ours was no different. It is not easy for a handicraft focused industry to forge ahead. But we have been at it, with support from the Government.

There was a first of its kind International Carpet Fair in October 2021 in Bhadohi. Please tell us more about it.

To begin with, we are very proud to say Bhadohi has got a GI tag as a carpet hub of India. It has been a moment of pride. The fair was a step in that direction, and we are extremely happy of how it turned out.
The prices for exhibitors were far less than they would be for a fair in a big city. The idea was to encourage smaller manufacturers besides the big ones. With the kind of national and international presence we saw, the fair proved to be a huge success.
Other than the manufacturers in Bhadohi we also had presence from other states. For the fair in 2023, we have even bigger plans.
Besides the fair, we are trying to work on showcasing Bhadohi as the destination to buy carpets. Afterall it is one place where you can buy carpets anywhere from Rs.2,000 to Rs.2 lacs. We also want to build on the “Carpet for Everyone” concept so that it isn’t seen only as a pure luxury product. So, the idea is that everybody should have carpets at home.

How have authorities been supporting Carpet Manufacturers?

The challenges are plenty. There is a war between Ukraine and Russia, there is a 30 per cent inflation in the US, container freights have gone up several times. All these factors have impacted the export market for carpets.
That said, the Government has been very supportive. There is a GST exemption on carpet exports and for Domestic we get a rebate of 7 per cent.
Also, if we have to send samples abroad, we get financial support up to Rs. 2.5 lacs and Rs. 1.5 lacs for domestic samples. Besides this, there is a support of Rs. 25,000 for website development and the benefit of one window clearance.
At state level, Uttar Pradesh government’s One District, One Product (ODOP) approach is a brilliant programme and we hope Bhadohi gets the attention it deserves as the carpet manufacturing hub.
We need immense support in terms of infrastructure, connectivity, transport subsidies and incentives to grow to our best potential.

The world seems to love carpets from India. What keeps us ahead?

Even though carpet making in India came from Persia in the 16th century, we mastered the art and Indian carpets are much loved throughout the world. From Buckingham palace in London to USA, to Parliament in Turkey to President House in Doha to innumerable other notable places, Indian carpets have made it to all these places and more.
What makes us a favoured destination are a host of reasons. To begin with, our artisanship is very good. Secondly and most importantly, we are a labour-intensive country. Through ages, labour has become an integral part of several lives. It not only helps them earn a living and support their families but also carry on a family tradition.
Also, since the labour is much cheaper in India, it works well for us to be able to export. A lot of other countries which either have very high export rates or have embargo on exports. This makes it impossible for them to think of supplying their carpets to other countries. India on the other hand, is very blessed because of its friendly export policies.
Another strong point that goes in are our favour is the adaptability factor. Indian carpet manufacturers are very good at customising the product in terms of colours, size, and designs and this helps us to be a favoured carpet destination.

For several years carpet making was a male dominated industry. This has been changing for the past decade or so. What would you attribute this to?

Over years there have been several changes. A lot of men started migrating to cities, child labour was abolished. All of this led women to step in, to support their families, contribute to augmenting the family’s income and getting self-dependent. The government meanwhile has been very supportive of promoting women weavers. All these things over time, have led to a growing number of women weavers. For us as manufacturers, it feels great to see women not just doing great work but also becoming independent. Also, women are more efficient workers and are usually several hours ahead of men. In Bhadohi only, over 10,000 plus women have been trained in carpet weaving so far.

About eight years back Carpet industry drew a lot of flak for use of child labour. A lot seems to have changed since then. Please tell us more.

As a responsible body, All India Carpet Manufacturers Association, Bhadohi, works hard to make sure no one under 18 is employed by any manufacturer. There are strict norms and protocols in place that are monitored regularly.
Besides this, along with CEPC, AICMA organises training every quarter to generate employment. A big support in this are our NGO partners.
Also, there are health camps, hospitals for the community and school and creches for the weaver’s children. Besides this, there are mid-day meals at school and skill training.
The Carpet industry in India is in the right hands and with the right support we will only grow further.

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