Organized Retail Sector And Manufacturing

It was shocking and sometimes, humiliatingly depressing to read a news item such as ‘Forget batteries & toys, it’s now Chinese kirpan’ that was put in by Alokparna Das in ‘The Times of India’ of March 13.

Immaculate in its shape, in a neat packet, and fetching sheath, the kirpans (one of Sikhism’s five symbols) in the market of Amritsar, are mostly ‘Made-in-China’ stock today.

China is invading India’s market of traditionally indigenous items too. As reported, Mintai, a Chinese brand from is doing particularly well. Local kirpan manufacturers are worried. Amritsar’s kirpan market, estimated at Rs 50 crore is slipping in Chinese hands. The Chinese kirpans are also denting the overseas market served till date by Amritsar manufacturers. One reputed exporter is reported to have said, “Our exports have come down by 80%-90%.”

Local manufacturers blame it to the cheap labour of China, and are leaving the turf to be easily own by the Chinese. It is certainly not the cheap labour only. The Chinese labour cost today is higher than that of India. It must be investigated. Are the Chinese manufacturers using the same material? Are our manufacturers not wasting too much in the process or taking too much time to complete the task?

Who are behind this invasion of Chinese products in Indian market? It can be the initiative of our traders or the Chinese business groups visiting India to explore and identify the items that they can make and sell. It is mostly the former.

Our big traders visit China, knowing that they can get the supply from the Chinese manufacturers at the price they ask them because of many reasons- even the government subsidy for all exports.

This is the effect of globalisation. Unfortunately, our big retailers even in organized retail sector are not helping rather guiding the local small manufacturers and craftsmen to cut down the cost and improve the quality to compete with the Chinese manufacturers. With single point agenda of making quick money, the traders are following the route to approach the Chinese to get the items in demand in India.

And our manufacturers are too small without required resources to compete with the Chinese, and so they leave turf for the Chinese, and switch over to some other business. As reported, one of the manufacturers said, ” with kirpan exports facing a slump, I decided to venture into the hotel business.”

Outside all gurdwaras, even in smaller places, shacks selling kirpans and other religious symbols are stacked up with the foreign daggers.

Indians preference for the cheapness in purchases is another reason for the Chinese win in all these items. One manufacturers laments, ”A well-crafted medium sized Chinese kirpan costs Rs 50-100. A similar local kirpan is priced at Rs 150-300. Also, youngsters prefer the foreign variety.” But why can’t he benchmark the Chinese kirpans and try to manufacture at their cost?

As reported, many of the Chinese kirpan brands find their way into the country via importers based in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. The importers bring them under the ‘toys’ and ‘decorative items’ categories, without paying the duty for a kirpan that will be higher. Importers pay ”better commission” to wholesalers than those dealing in local kirpans to ensure Chinese kirpans reaching all Sikh centers in nooks and corners of the country.

Once a Swiss knife-making company failed to get a foothold in kirpan market, but Chinese are taking over from the local manufacturers.

Can something be done about it? Can the unscrupulous importers be punished heavily? Can the local manufacturers be made competitive? Can the NMCC come out with some intelligent business solutions? Perhaps, one way to compete will be if the big retailers coming in market support the local manufacturers technically to cut the cost, and help them to make the innovations to differentiate the products from the Chinese ones. It shall be true for all the household items on the racks of the big shopping complexes.

If the big retailers don’t develop and support local manufacturers and producers, India will never be able to compete on low-tech mass consumption items that can create a lot of employment and bring prosperity to many of the craftsmen and small manufacturers that are from rural India.

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