Challenges lead to innovations and new opportunities! So, at a time when the medium and small exporters of home furnishings are challenged by issues like sluggish market, price stress, diminishing order volumes, labour issues, the effect of weakening Euro, etc., instead of losing heart, they have turned to product development and innovation to tide over this lean phase. This is indeed a pleasant change from the past and augurs well for the industry, which has largely been seen as a standard product industry with little to show as newness.
The recently held 4th Home Expo India in Greater Noida by EPCH was a perfect platform to observe this welcome change. Most of the collections showcased at the expo, underlined the fact that exporters have realized the importance of creativity and are endeavouring to focus their attention on design and execution of inventiveness to support and bail them out in these trying times. Undeterred, though worried by market conditions, most of the exhibitors were very much focused on the way forward.
Despite the conspicuous absence of regular buyers of EPCH’s other fairs, the expo was attended by many portals for domestic markets as well as some foreign buyers – mainly from Holland, Australia, Norway, USA, UK, South Africa and Australia – both retailers and wholesalers. Nevertheless, most of the exhibitors attending the expo were not happy with the interactions they had with the visitors. If on one hand some could only manage to meet a handful of buyers in these three days, feedbacks/orders from purchasers have not been encouraging either. However, many creations showcased at the expo earned praise from the buyers for their creative innovations, in terms of the design, look and aesthetics.
“The buyers appreciated our efforts, as we did a lot of sampling prior to participation. We specialize in embroideries and also follow themes that are projected by international forecasters. Our products are segregated according to age – kids, young- and mid-age segment. For young segment, our collection is based on the artwork of Frida Kahlo, which is quite different. Similarly, in the mature or mid-age segment, there are lots of beautifully embroidered floral patterns,” shared Rajeev Dhawan of Moradabad-based ABC Home Concepts, who strongly believes if there’s a way out of this grim state of affairs, it is through creation, design and innovation. The company also supports the families of its old employees by giving them home-based work, which the ladies at home can do easily, like cutting threads. This, in turn, augments their family income.
Noida’s Jaitex Exports, a core design-based company which presented its spring/ summer collection, was another centre of attraction for the prospective buyers. In a cushion, embroidered patchwork was used beautifully as leaf, shaded underneath by beautiful needlework, making it an interesting piece of innovation. In another cushion work, there was shading by tie-and-dye on the base fabric, on which embroidery and gather were done to enhance the look. Three different value-added techniques have been employed on a single cushion to achieve this unique look. “In general, we have a very decorative collection that is technique-based rather than just simple printing and embroidery,” maintains Mohit Dubey, Director, Jaitex Exports adding, “As this is the peak season of order placements, many buyers have already placed orders with the company while others are in the process of doing so.” He, however, does not forget to underline that buyers’ interest, this time around is more on creativity and novelty.
Even though the bulk of the company’s business is with France, Italy, North America and Australia, currently it turned its focus on the USA as well. The BSCI-certified company is also looking to shift its unit to such a building where it can complete other compliance and buyer- specific audit, besides educating its labour force to help the management in compliance.
If Jaitex’s focus is technique- based innovations, another Jaipur-based exporter has employed a mix of traditional and advanced techniques to achieve product development. Kalakriti Exports’ digital printing on cotton handloom fabric, wherein thread is being used from Pali (which is of pure cotton) with more count construction, adds to its value.
The FOB price of its products is in the range of US $ 2-5. “Innovation being the essence of the time, we have seen that buyers show interest and come back to us when one is getting something interesting, new or different,” says Nishant Dangayach, Partner, Kalakriti Exports.
However, despite embracing the path of product development or creativity, certain Jaipur-based companies are facing hiccups in translating the same into their products, thanks to designers’ apparent reluctance to relocate and work in Jaipur. “In spite of offering good pay package and decent working environment, designers are not keen to work in Jaipur. They seem to prefer Delhi- NCR region over Jaipur,” maintains Durgesh Vijaivargia, Director, Art Age, Jaipur. Though the company has roped in freelancers and interns to lead way in product development, Durgesh feels that dearth of quality designers is hindering value addition to products in terms of creativity and innovation. Specialized in stone vintage look, Art Age has developed cushions made by dari fabric and block prints with stone wash on them which add to uniqueness of the cushions. The FOB of these products starts from US $ 12. The company also offers rugs of over dye handloom linen into stone wash. It is also into production of bags which are exported to the US, Holland and France.