Indian handloom export council on a promotion spree in SA

Friday, 31 January 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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JOHANNESBURG: A delegation from India's Handloom Export Promotion Council is on a week-long visit to major South African cities in a bid to woo business.

"As part of India's Focus Africa programme, we are exploring new markets for Indian handlooms, particularly home textiles," K. Shanmugan, executive director of the council, told IANS.

Shanmugam said the council saw a huge potential in South Africa, with the country having the largest market in Africa.

"Our share of this market is very small, so we have brought out what you might call a trial delegation to visit Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban."

The delegation will be meeting a number of chambers of commerce in these cities.

Towels, bed linen, table linen, place mats, curtains and fabrics are being shown to potential South African importers and partners.

"Two years ago the currency crisis was a serious problem and our trade was declining. Things have improved since.

"Indian handloom products are versatile, so you have all kinds of top-end products with intricate designs. We also have a base of raw materials like cotton, silk and jute to make our value-added products that we want to create a market for."

A presentation to over 30 potential buyers in Johannesburg was described by the delegation as "very successful". One-to-one meetings will follow, to determine South African needs.

About the competitive edge India offered amidst competition from Pakistan and China, Shanmugham said, "In handlooms, India has a very special place because we are the largest operator in the world. Pakistan and China are good with machine-made products, but in the handloom sector India is dominating.

"This is an area which suits the small volume market, because certain products and rich designs made on handlooms cannot be made on mills or power looms."

He said India offered both quality and price.

"We found a great interest in the African print fabrics that we brought here," said J.L.N. Bharthe of Visalatchi International in Tamil Nadu. "We were pleased to see that the South African customers accepted our African prints."

"South Africa is a new market for us, but we think there is a lot of potential here," said S. Selladurai of Chennai-based Shyamali Exports.

"They asked us to develop samples for South African tastes, so that is a good sign for us. The samples will be here in two weeks. Our products, currently developed by our designer in London go mainly to Scandinavian countries and Japan. But the colour trend changes from country to country. So small changes need to be made to suit the African market."

The delegation's visit has been organised by Jagat Shah, a management consultant from Gujarat, specialising in trade delegations to South Africa. He has led several successful delegations to the country, the last one from Gujarat having signed deals worth more than $1.2 million during a two-week tour.
Source: IANS
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