“Use-And-Throw Philosophy Is Not For Vintage Items” – Suryabali Mishra (Owner, Amar Carpets)
A prominent name in the world market, Amar Carpets is known for producing some of the best handmade Indian floor coverings since 1976. Souvik Ganguly, on behalf of SaleBhai, tried to get a closer view of the brand in a frank interview with Suryabali Mishra (the owner of Amar Carpets).
Question: How does it feel living your dream of creating demand for handmade Indian carpets in the global market?
Answer: (Smiles) It feels great to be honest. The dream of promoting handmade Indian carpets to the entire world was the main driving force behind starting Amar Carpets in 1976. With time, our business has expanded immensely and our products have managed to gain a lot of popularity in Europe, US, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia.
Question: Why did you choose Bhadohi for setting up your base?
Answer: There are two reasons behind this. First, it is my native place and second, it is the centre of Mughal art. Some Mughal artisans had stayed back in Bhadohi, making it the original hub of Mughal craftsmanship.
Question: How has your journey been so far? Did you come across any specific difficulties that you may want to share?
Answer: Our journey has been good. However, I have always felt that the government can be a bit more supportive in preserving this age-old art of carpet making. The entire process requires tremendous level of professional expertise and that cannot be attained over a short period of time. This has forced people to look for other professions. The government needs to come up with better strategies to encourage the artisans and the art form.
Another major difficulty is the lack of proper awareness in the Indian market. Indian consumers still prefer to buy cheap carpets imported from Belgium. It is very difficult for a normal customer to know the difference between a high-quality item and a cheap alternative without structured awareness programs.
Question: What is so special about Indian carpets as compared with the ones made in other parts of the world?
Answer: The best thing about the Indian produce is the fact that, we can make multiple identical carpets in a short period of time. Iranian carpets lack heavily in this regard. And if you ask me about the quality, I would just suggest you to search portrait carpets of Indira Gandhi. Can you imagine the skill level of the Indian artisans? Getting a hand-woven portrait done is no joke!
Question: What are your strengths as a brand?
Answer: Well… (pauses) our biggest asset is our excellent group of artisans. We have the capacity of producing up to 245 knots per square inch in terms of quality. We source our raw materials directly from Bikaner and we make sure that only the best is used for making our carpets. Our quality has been appreciated in almost all parts of the world and we work very hard to maintain that reputation.
Question: Does the demand increase in any particular time of the year?
Answer: Yes, winter is easily the best time for our sales team. The colder it gets more is the shift of carpets from luxury goods to necessary items.
Question: What is your most-sold product?
Answer: See, our main market is still the global one. The original idea was to produce carpets that are solely meant for export. It is only after 2001 that we thought of entering the Indian market. In the world market, the elderly tend to look more for Persian carpets while the younger generations look for hand-tufted ones. In India, hand-tufted carpets are the most-sold ones mainly because of their cheaper price tag.
Question: Which type of carpet demands maximum effort and why?
Answer: The 14-70. It is the best quality that we produce and it boasts 245 knots per square inch.
Question: How much time does it take to make an average carpet?
Answer: That depends a lot on the quality that we intend to make. The lower grade ones (30 knots per square inch) take approximately one month. The 14-70 (245 knots per square inch) carpet takes between three to four months, if three artisans work on it simultaneously. They have a map in front of them, stating the colours and the design flow, as the only guiding tool.
Question: Has the designs changed with time?
Answer: Not really. Designs usually follow a cycle of 15 years. Some modifications keep happening, but the basic design remains intact.
Question: Anything you wish to mention about your artisans?
Answer: Carpet making is completely labour-oriented and the skill level of the artisans dictates everything. I am lucky to have a highly-skilled group of artisans who have managed to create a global impact with their work. However, like I said before, the government can do a lot more in this segment. Many people are leaving this art for strict government policies. I strongly believe that the concerned authorities should try to encourage more people to take up carpet-making as their profession.
Question: How do you find your business growing with the changing times?
Answer: After 2001 the global market went slightly down, thanks to recession. Honestly, that is the main reason why we chose to enter the Indian market. In India, the demand for quality carpets is still not that high, but it is growing. Hopefully, people will get out of the use-and-throw philosophy and start looking at vintage items differently.
Question: What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Answer: 98% of our products are exported to different parts of the world. That for me is our biggest achievement. We wanted to show the world the real quality of handmade Indian carpets and I think we have been able to do that.
Question: How do you compare the markets– Indian and global?
Answer: Production wise, the Indian market is right up there (points at the sky). India alone holds a staggering 80% share in terms of production. China, Pakistan, and Iran together contribute the remaining 20%. However, the irony is that the Indian consumption market is limited to just 4%.
Question: Do you see a rise in demand for your products in India?
Answer: There is a demand and it is on the rise, but that is still limited to the major cities. The main problem is that India doesn’t have much of a cold weather. Thus, people look at carpet as more of a luxury item than a necessity.
Question: How do you plan to expand in coming days?
Answer: We have already started our expansion in India through ecommerce platforms. You will be happy to know that SaleBhai is the first Indian website where we have showcased our products.
Question: How is ecommerce helping your business?
Answer: Honestly, I expected more. But then again, I can understand. Demand for genuine high-quality carpets is still limited among a very small percentage of consumers because of the high price tag. The brighter side is that ecommerce has managed to create a positive shift in the minds of the users. Users are starting to consider quality and not just the price tag, when it comes to product selection.
SaleBhai: Thank you for your time and we wish you the very best for all your future endeavours.
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