Carpets in India were introduced by the Mughal emperor Babar. It is believed that Babar immensely missed the comfort and luxury in his palace and the court, which led him to bring carpets from Persia. Later, Emperor Akbar set up a royal workshop in Agra, Delhi and Lahore for easy availability of carpets in his kingdom. During this period, the carpet industry flourished in India as more people started to learn the art of weaving carpets. Indian carpets made their first global presence in the 18th century in an exhibition in London and ever since, there’s no looking back and today India is recognised and known for its hand-knotted carpets.
The Indian carpet industry has shown enormous growth since its birth. They are known for their design, unique colour combinations, finishing and weaving method. Each carpet’s wool, silk, polyester, viscous, jute and various blends of different yarns thread represent its unique geographical culture and lifestyle. The modern carpet weaving industry is largely spread over eastern Uttar Pradesh, in the Bhadohi – Mirzapur belt.
Carpets in India
Kashmir is known for its finest silk carpets in India. Indian carpets are known for hand-knotted and hand-tufted styles. Today India holds around 40% of the worldwide export of handmade carpets and export turnover worth Rs11799.46 crores in2019-20 providing employment to over 20 lakh workers.
Like any other industry, the Indian carpet industry has also been severely affected during the pandemic. India, exports 90% of handmade carpets to more than 70 countries in the world, mainly to the USA, Germany, UK, Australia and Canada.
How the pandemic impacted the Indian Carpet Industry
Due to the Covid19 pandemic lockdown seen all over the world, carpet export to the rest of the world is affected mainly due to a halt in cargo flights and shipments. Ready stocks are lying on dockage awaiting clearance. Witnessing the current pandemic situation, most of the buyers have kept orders on hold. Various carpet fairs and buyer-seller meets have been cancelled under current circumstances. According to the Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC), it is estimated that the Indian carpet industry has incurred a loss of almost INR 3000 crores.
The Indian Carpet Industry – source of employment for skilled workers
The Indian carpet industry is highly dependent on skilled workers. Due to the lockdown during the pandemic and with orders kept on hold or hardly any fresh orders in hand, there is no work. This uncertainty has caused huge unemployment in the industry. Skilled labourers who have left their homes for weaving carpets jobs are now forced to return home owing to less or no work. There is a massive movement of skilled labourers from different carpet regions of the country. With the workshops lying vacant, the Indian carpet industry has suffered a huge setback, not in business but also have to let go of its skilled craftsmen.
My connection with the Carpet Industry
I belong to a carpet-making family, and I am so used to the sounds of machines and weavers working in the background, throughout the day. It was a comforting sound. however, during the lockdown, I missed the familiar sounds and suddenly I felt an immense disheartening feeling to see how life has changed. I could relate and feel the stress and tension of not only fellow carpet manufacturers but weavers too, who are deeply impacted and worried about their future. Even after given clearance to work by the state government during the lockdown, manufacturers are struggling with less manpower and forced to work with limited resources. With uncertainty and transportation issues, workers are hesitant to come back to work.
Indian Carpet Industry goes online
If we look at the positive side of this pandemic, it has provided the industry with an opportunity to make its virtual presence stronger. Before the pandemic, there were few companies that had an online presence, but now, the Indian carpet industry is realising the necessity and importance of being online as well. More and more companies are genuinely trying to make their online presence felt through e-commerce platforms and to utilise the social media power to keep up in the race. Also, one of the main reasons why this industry is feeling the brunt during the pandemic is its negligence towards the domestic market.
What’s holding back the Indian Carpet Industry
Old techniques, outdated technology, poor infrastructure facilities in rural areas, labour law problem, government policies and guidelines, lack of awareness and interest in the younger generation continue working in the career in the carpet industry, are some of the major hurdles due to which the Indian carpet industry is less efficient than the other carpet supplying countries.
Giving a new lease of life to the Indian Carpet Industry
The Indian carpet industry is very versatile and has a substantial potential for growth. The government of India under the Ministry of Textile has established, non-profit organisation – Carpet Export Promotion Council of India (CEPC), to take necessary measures to overcome hurdles and bridge the gap between the manufacturer and the government and promote this industry worldwide. Now even manufacturing companies have realised the importance of having social responsibility towards their workers and weavers.
The acknowledged contribution has also been made by CEPC to uplift the Indian carpet industry during this difficult and challenging time. A recommendable effort has been taken by CEPC to identify various overseas market and to organise virtual exhibitions and help sellers meet buyers.
It is heartening to see that an order worth Rs 250 crores was placed by the foreign buyers as an outcome of two virtual exhibitions organised by CEPC. CEPC is also reviewing and initiating various necessary measures with manufacturing associations, buying representatives, industries associates and government associates to tackle the current crisis and work for the betterment of everyone. The best part being, companies are also helping to create more stability by providing financial support to their workers and weavers.
It is obvious that currently, there is not much clarity as to how to boost the Indian carpet industry again. However, making little changes in export policies and guidelines, adaptation to a new medium of businesses will certainly help this industry to survive financially.
Manufacturers, CEPC and the government must work closely to find solutions to various obstacles faced by the industry to get back to some normalcy, revive it and sustain it. It is a good time to accept risks, make changes and consider our roles in shaping the future of our industry and the lives of our staff and weavers.
Contributor: Sonal Srivastava
About our Writing Program Student
A simple yet strong and emotional girl, Sonal a fitness enthusiast firmly believes in healthy living. She loves travelling and exploring new places and being a foodie, loves to cook! For her, spending time and energy reading, listening to music, watching movies with friends and family is a an investment of a lifetime.