Category: Indian Consumer

Cherish Banarasi Saree

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The Indian handloom and cottage industries have emerged stronger after every unwarranted crisis for years. The past has always sown seeds of hope. The Banarasi saree’s recent geographical indications (GI) status is an achievement worth mentioning.

With this the story of duplication comes under scrutiny as “the GI rights are the intellectual property rights that restrict others from marketing or processing a product in the same name.”

September saw the Banarasi silk product register as the ‘Banaras Brocades and Sarees’ under Geographical Indications (GI) Act.

According to experts “the GI status would benefit about 12 lakh people associated directly or indirectly with the handloom silk industry of the region because it would restrict the misuse of Banarasi saree brand. As per the GI certificate issued by the registrar of GI, the Banaras Brocades and Sarees fall in four classes (13-26) that include silk brocades, textile goods, silk saree, dress material and silk embroidery. The registration is for 10 years and it may be further renewed.”

It is easy to find skilled labour, but maintaining the tradition needs attention and care. Though at the policy level there is a need for protection from cheap silk and powerloom houses, the challenge to reintroduce Banarasi sarees as a brand is not anymore a dream in waiting. The sweat, blood and about eight years struggle of many weavers to restore the lost glory and grandeur of the Banarasi sarees is set to begin a new innings.

Secure Your Valentine Financially

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Valentine’s Day has turned out to be one of the best phases at the time of economic slowdown. If Cupid’s arrow has struck the right chord of love, there are better ways to ensure financial security for a lifetime than just a V-Day special momentary gift.

From financial strength to financial security, the various practical investment practices can permanently bind the hearts for ever.

Of course, winning your partner to listen to you is in your hands. But before you start going ahead with your wise investment plans, do a complete homework to be aware and well informed about the various available investment resources. Also as a novice, taking help from investment consultants is very essential. The final call will be any day yours.

“Where to begin” finds answer in trying out the time-tested investment avenue. “Gold is best suited for occasions like these, as it results in a successful marriage of investment objective and consumption needs,” suggested financial advisors.

Gold as an investment has been resorted by the wealthy families world over for centuries because they are portable as well as compact. “With uncertainty in the stock market and decline in the US dollar, investors are taking a fresh look at gold as an investment option. Gold works as a perfect hedge against investment in other assets,” experts explained.

“In fact, when other investments take a beating, gold investment tends to stabilise.”

There are banks offering gold coins. Other than that, Gold ETFs and gold deposit schemes floated by jewellery houses too fit the bill. Not far in the market, India Post, in association with World Gold Council and Reliance Money, is planning to launch a gold accumulation plan, which facilitates the purchase of small quantities when investors have the money during a particular month.

Indeed, most financial planners recommend gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) to physical gold. “The savings start right from the purchase stage. All sellers, including banks, charge a commission on the actual gold price. This can be 1-5 per cent.

“In case of an emergency, the real value of gold cannot be realised. Banks don’t buy back, they only lend against it. Jewellers buy it at a discount. Gold ETFs have none of these problems,” experts explained.

In comparison to buying jewellery, a gold fund or ETF would be a better option as it has shown steady returns even during the most uncertain times.

Going beyond gold, there are other ways to secure for life. A health or life insurance policy for your loved ones, mutual funds with monthly or yearly returns, or even the monthly income scheme with post offices are a marriage of two souls to financial well-being.

“Like the sale schemes being offered by retailers across the country, the stock market too is in discount mode, with several large-cap stocks being available at extremely low valuations.

Moreover, the ongoing tax-saving season provides you with an opportunity to help your spouse plan his/her taxes as well. An equity-linked savings scheme (ELSS) with a good track record would be the ideal choice, as its lock-in feature would eliminate the chances of making withdrawals before three years.”

The underlying cause for many couples to take the extreme step to separation or divorce has for ages been the aspect of money and wealth. Financial security not only ensures a safe relationship, but also a healthy family reunion. V-Day is only an open invitation to think for a better tomorrow, if still you are not sure.

Gold Wins Valentine

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Gold wins heart yet again. Love is in the air as lovers are lost in thought – “what is the best gift to bring a smile on her face?” – for the special occasion of Valentine’s Day. History be history, love is love, and it comes for a price. The latest survey sums up gold jewellery as the most preferred gift for women across the globe.

“The higher gold price has added to gold jewellery’s desirability despite these challenging economic times. Gold’s perceived value and enduring emotional appeal are not mutually exclusive and sets it apart from other traditional gifts and apparently, holds the key to women’s hearts on Valentine’s Day,” World Gold Council’s (WGC) 2008 jewellery survey said.

“In contrast to jewellery, which has clear financial value, other luxury consumables were viewed as having short-term aesthetic appeal and, therefore, lacked the investment value and the longevity of gold.”

Even the younger generation who are “typically more interested in spending money on gadgets such as mobile phones than spending their disposable income on jewellery, appreciate the romance of gold jewellery.”

Women and gold have a long association. They would love to have gold jewellery if gifted on special occasions – birthdays, wedding anniversary, and festivals to name a few. And they also buy for themselves as and when situations are opportune.

On a more serious note, women especially Indians, regard gold as “an indicator of emotional ties”.

According to the survey, “81 per cent women claim that the amount spent on gold jewellery reflects how valued someone is.”

For women in the USA and China, there is more of romantic sentiment behind buying gold as a gift. To them gold “is a symbol of love”.

Probably on a more practical note, women in Turkey and Saudi Arabia cite a key reason for buying it as a gift is because “gold will not lose its value”.

The perception of women regarding gold varies across the world. In fact the prized possession is more about the psychology of women. It is therefore, a crucial phase for both the gold jewellery trade and the gold market as a whole to understand the consumer.

Valentine’s Day is an important occasion for receiving gold jewellery for women in different regions around the world. The yellow metal reiterates its power not just as a dead investment but also a matter of pride and heart. Reason: “it is everlasting”.

Published in Merinews.com; Gold Wins Valentine by Deeya Nayar-Nambiar

India Wakes to Chinese Make

The association of Chinese products and Indian market is a long story. History has witnessed material import from China, especially Chinese silk, making way into silk industry. Chinese sarees are not new to Indian woman and so are the Lord Ganesha idols, electronic goods and toys. The six months ban imposed on import of toys from China is a direction taken to protect the domestic industry; a much needed step on the part of government to help the survival of various struggling domestic and cottage industries in India.

Indeed, the Chinese goods have become the current fad everywhere, especially for its low pricing. However, import of Chinese fabric has not struck the right chord with the saree industry.

In fact, sarees, unique to its Indian roots, is today a part of international culture, with blend of foreign material in an Indian connection. But it made news when silk sarees, especially Banarsi, the undisputed queen of every woman’s wardrobe, saw the weavers on a protest march last year as the Chinese sarees, a cheap imitation of authentic Banarsi, enjoyed better sales.

Named after the holy city of Varanasi or Banaras, this exclusive Indian treasure, is today facing the tunes of social and economic change. Though the finance minister has given India an assurance that we belong to secure zone, the industries have started facing the heat. The still ongoing economic crisis is fast spreading its tentacles to every form of business, choking the profit makers.

“Business of Banarsi saree has come down due to economic recession around the globe in many ways. Because all the fabrics made here are luxury items. All those who purchase these are the ones who are rich, either from India or from abroad…. People, who buy the stuff eventually, are affected by this financial crisis. And therefore, this influences us,” said Maqbool Hasan, a Banarsi saree exporter in a news report.

Rich in traditional and Persian motifs, brocades with intricate designs created from gold and silver thread, once upon a time Banarsi sarees found a world wide platform during the rule of Mughals.

The rulers, known for their flamboyance, encouraged silk weaving to that of the cotton. The glorious history survives through some of the traditional patterns and designs that are hard to duplicate; and a saree lover has a variety to choose from, be it pure silk (katan), organza (kora) with zari and silk, georgette, or shattir.

Little wonder then that the millions of people in the city are dependent on saree weaving, which is a kind of cottage industry in Varanasi. These traditional families of weavers burn their midnight oil to make the saree from home.

The poor, mostly illiterate weavers have to confront many a situation to weave the prestigious sarees. From the moneylenders to the climate and the availability of raw material to the laborious working conditions, everything has an impact on the physical and mental state of about 15 lakh people in the Banarsi saree industry.

The specialty of Banarsi saree is, in short, the skilled labour that is as distinct as the place itself. The rest of raw materials, including zari, silk and dye are imported from other places.

Interestingly, the raw silk used for weaving Banarsi sarees has always had a foreign connection. Earlier, it was Japan and now China has taken over the reign. Raw silk is not only imported, but also smuggled and sold in the black market.

Despite the fact that Karnataka and Gujarat have taken over as the primary providers, Chinese silk is still giving a tough competition. According to a 2007 news report, raw silk from China is thought to contribute up to 50 to 60 per cent of the sari-weaving market in Varanasi.

Similarly, when the weavers or artisans are spending days together to weave a saree, powerloom owners have made things simpler with computer-assisted copying of designs. They are producing cheap imitations of original Banarsi at various places. To add to the misery, these imitation sarees are said to be enjoying better profit margins.

With the sale of sarees going down and rising inflation making things difficult for the suppliers to meet the demands, artisans are feeling the heat in their sole profession.

“The business is not doing well. We work for 15 days and often there is no work for another 15 days. Initially, the labour charge was Rs 500 and today, it is only Rs 400,” said Javed, a weaver.

The struggle for existence has taken a toll on such weavers.

Instead of testing their patience further, they have opted for alternate means of livelihood. While some are working at construction sites and as rickshaw pullers, others are migrating for better job prospects.

Thanks to globalisation, Indian goods have better exposure internationally; nevertheless, the doors have also let in scenes of insecurity.

The Indian handloom and cottage industries have emerged stronger after every unwarranted crisis for years and the past sows seeds of hope for the Banarsi saree industry. The decision to ban Chinese toys may be just the first step, but it also goes to show that domestic industry still holds primary concern. It is easy to find skilled labour, but maintaining the tradition needs attention and care.

Published in:Merinews.com… A Merinews Pick…
India wakes up to Chinese make by Deeya Nayar-Nambiar