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Artisans Are The Backbone Of Handicrafts Sector: OP Prahladka, EPCH Chairman

Under the ‘Make in India’ campaign, EPCH is playing a key role in handholding and providing platform for artisans, says Chairman OP Prahladka

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In its 22nd year, the Indian Handicrafts and Gift Fair (IHGF) in Delhi — started in 1994 by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) — is one of the world’s largest trade shows in terms of products and innovations in lifestyle and hospitality sector. The fair boasts of over 3,000 exhibitors, 6,500 buyers including overseas buyers, hoteliers, architects and e-commerce clients. The latest edition, from 23 to 27 February, 2018, will be even bigger and bolder, with more of everything — space, exhibitors, sectors, enhanced facilities. In a chat, EPCH chairman O. P. Prahladka tells Vaishali Dar of his vision and mission for  the organisation. Excerpts:

Tell us about EPCH’s plans for the next five years?

Under the ‘Make in India’ campaign, EPCH is playing a key role in handholding and providing platform for artisans, from cities such as Moradabad, Srinagar, Bikaner and others, to interact directly with international buyers through our biannual Delhi Art Fair. This year, we have introduced the ‘Design and Product Development Technology Mission’, which will give a major push to micropreneurs to produce in bulk and collaborate with skill-based industries and enhance their products and performance. With the support received from the ministry of textiles and the ministry of commerce, an initiative is being taken to promote foreign direct investment and joint ventures for both exporters and importers. The idea is to improve the country’s exports and be known to the world as the country of handicrafts.

How are you supporting the handicrafts industry?

EPCH is enabling market links with artisans by working with micropreneurs who have set up the standards to export innovation and quality products to buyers. Through our skill development council, we provide training to artisans on the latest lifestyle trends, which helps them to grow. Under minister Smriti Irani, the handicrafts industry had grown manifold, and addressed the problems of artisans. We are building capacity to support bulk exports and introducing product innovation and quality through various trend forecasters. Under ‘Design Register’, a member exporter can register designs without any hassle, which means design and product development should not be a difficult task for a common entrepreneur. EPCH has also been engaging artisans, handicrafts promoters, buyers and exporters by offering huge sourcing opportunities to international buyers and agents.

How has GST affected the industry?

We welcomed the government’s decision to ease the procedure for merchant exporters. Handicrafts merchant exporters can now purchase goods from registered suppliers by paying 0.1 per cent GST, which is refunded within 90 days of the transaction.

How big is the handicrafts industry in India?

The total production of handicrafts is approximately Rs 40,000 crore, and exports stand at Rs 24,500 crore. The key markets for India’s exports include the US, the European Union, Australia, UAE, Japan, UK and Canada.

What are the growth figures for EPCH?

It is one of the few sectors in the export segment that has registered consecutive growth for the last seven years. In 2016-17, handicrafts exports rose 13 per cent to Rs 24,392.39 crore. Exports in the April-June quarter of FY17-18 registered a positive growth of 16 per cent, but the second quarter saw a decline on account of certain facilitation, migration and implementation issues pertaining to GST. We are, however, confident that with the passage of time and removal of bottlenecks by the government, the trend will be reversed and we may even register a marginal growth before the financial year ends.

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