INTERNATIONAL DESK: Jammu and Kashmir is ready to showcase its potential through government initiatives for a necessary boost to the handicrafts sector in the post-pandemic world.
Starting with export promotion in Germany, the Director Handicrafts and Handloom Kashmir, Mahmood Ahmad Shah held an extensive web meeting with Dr Suyash Chavan Consulate General of India (CGI), Germany.
The online meeting exclusively evaluated the scope of developing end-to-end export linkages to provide quality handicraft products of Kashmir to the German Market along with the rest of Europe. Since the beginning of the century, numerous German delegations, like the Indo-German Export Promotion have visited the valley with a keen interest in the handicrafts, especially Kashmiri carpets, which have immense potential in Europe.
Germany is the largest consumer of Kashmir carpets and in addition imports Chain Stitch, Papier-mache, and Walnut furniture from Kashmir. The country’s cold winters make it an ideal destination for the use of Kashmiri shawls, rugs and carpets.
This liaison will also help to build a community of art lovers – handicraft importers of Germany with exporters from Kashmir – and result in shared knowledge pool to achieve master craftsmanship and connect with art connoisseurs through digital platforms, ensuring long term sustainability for arts like Papier-mache, Sozni, Kani shawl, basket weaving, Khatamband, wood carving, silver and copper carving, carpet weaving, leather, silk and Pashmina weaving amongst other crafts that Kashmir is celebrated for in German markets.
Earlier Kashmir-based firms have participated in the Domotex Hannover Carpet Exhibition, one of the biggest carpet exhibitions held every year in Hannover Germany, and stood out as the show-stoppers. Carpets in the historical backdrop of Kashmir go back to the time of the renowned Sufi Saint, Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (1341- 1385 AD) of Persia. When he came to Kashmir, he carried alongside him exceptionally talented craftsmen and laid the base for the cottage industry in Kashmir. Kashmiri carpets are considered to be the finest carpets in the world second only to Persian carpets.
Kashmir’s participation in upcoming Expos and Trade shows which shall provide international exposure and honor the unsold inventory of Covid days was discussed.
Firstly, GI certified products of Kashmir shall be presented to the Consulate General of India, Germany which includes Pashmina, Khatamband, Walnut wood carving, Sozni, Kani Shawl, Hand knotted carpet, Papier-mache, and Saffron for display purposes in the Consulate General Munich office and in the exhibitions at Germany. The consulate general was acquainted with the export incentive offered by the Government on GI certified goods and about the renewed focus on Handicrafts in view of the recent UNESCO Craft listing for Srinagar City.
He was briefed about initiatives taken to promote artisans through Craft tours, GI Labelling of Kashmir carpets and adaption of block chain mechanism to check piracy and misbranding of Kashmir handicrafts. The Counsel General was assured that digital content like pictures, videos, brochures will be provided to CG for disseminations in the German Market.
The Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC) is playing a catalyst role in connecting international buyers with Kashmir carpet exporters by creating various sourcing opportunities in India and other countries. CEPC has a great hand in skill development, market promotion, establishing key carpet production centres and latest innovation in the carpet industry.
In the previous years, ‘Made in Kashmir’ fairs, culture, crafts and handicrafts shows and exhibitions organized by Safeways Exhibitions in collaboration with the Impact International, a Germany-based company have also proven beneficial. Exporters are being motivated through government initiatives to showcase their talent. Other exhibitions include the Shanghai Handicrafts Fair and other fairs in China, a country which highly values tradition and culture passed through generations.
Through such exhibitions, conferences, and ASEAN Buyer-Seller Meets in the past, handicrafts worth more than USD 1,000,000 are easily booked. Such platforms have served as a breeding ground for attracting handicraft exports and people with a keen interest in handmade items. In Kashmir on an average handicrafts worth Rs 2,100 crore are sold annually with 2.5 lakh artisans directly employed.
The German awe for Kashmiri artisans goes back to the pre-electronic era – after the Second World War when German-made machines made of iron and steel, especially medical equipment, were common in the Valley. Kashmir was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh in the 1940s. Impressed by the craftsmen who got a German tourist’s equipment working again like no one else could have imagined, the Maharaja lovingly named them ‘German Khars’ (workers) owing to their expertise. Kashmiri artisans have exceptional magic in their hands. Although this craft has been preserved for decades, today only one blacksmith, Ghulam Mohiuddin, continues the work.
With promising propositions from various parties Kashmir art exporters are expecting booming sales in 2022 after witnessing a sluggish market for the last few years. This season both production and conceptualisation of new designs is being undertaken which will aid the sales and earn international recognition. Participation of Kashmir art contributors will also be ensured at Asia’s largest gifts and handicrafts fair held biannually and organised by Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH). Dubai’s famed exhibition-cum-trade fair is another major focus area.
Kashmir handicrafts and handlooms are a focal point in Jammu and Kashmir’s Trade and Export Policy (2018-2028), which envisages it to grow almost five times in next five years. The policy provides an e-commerce platform for artisans to foster growth of the handicrafts sector. Just last year in November Union Minister of State, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, launched a pilot project to revive and promote the dying Namda craft in J&K, with impetus on raising the export from Rs. 600 crore to 6,000 crore. Two ambitious projects — ‘Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY) 3.0’ and ‘Upskilling of artisans and weavers of Kashmir under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), a component of PMKVY’, were launched by the Union Minister of State for Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Electronics, and IT. These programs will focus continuously on skilling, upskilling, and reskilling local youth to solidify the foundation of PM Modi’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat. (Prokerala)