Seminar on Indian Handicrafts
Indian handicrafts impress Austrian businesspeople
In the context of the Festival of India, businesspeople were catered to with special events in the Radisson Blu Palais Hotel at the Parkring. The first of this kind took place on 24 March 2011: In the afternoon, Indian handicrafts companies and Austrian businesses engaged in one-on-one meetings. In the evening, the Indian companies introduced themselves to a larger audience. The strong interest guaranteed a win-win situation for both sides.
“There is a wonderful mix of diverse art forms represented here – for example jewellery, batik, cashmere and textiles”, Monika Fritsch, vice-president of the association Ganesha, was enthusiastic during a visit of the one-on-one meetings with Indian handicrafts companies in the Radisson Blu Palais Hotel at the Parkring. “There are exclusive representatives from the individual branches”, she said. She was looking for items for sale for a charitable event of her association to donate the proceeds afterwards. The probability that she found what she was looking for is great: 44 companies from the various branches presented their crafts.
The visitors were not alone with their satisfaction. The exhibitors were content as well: “I have already established interesting contacts with various Austrians”, says Sandeep Kaalra, director of the Divine Collection Exports. “They are all interested, especially in jewellery.” Kaalra is already exporting to Australia, the USA, South Africa and several European countries. This is the first time he is visiting Austria: “This is a new market for us. And I am very happy to be here.”
Flying with the Indians
A workshop on the Indian tourism took place in the same hotel some time later. The protagonists: Mr. M. N. Javed, regional director of India Tourism in Frankfurt, and Mr. Ratan Bali, regional director Central Europe of Air India in Frankfurt. Javed impressed the audience with his lecture containing impressive figures: 5.58 million tourists came to India in 2010 – in 2011, he expects the number of visitors to grow by 12.7 per cent.
Javed also made a good impression with humour, for example when he showed a picture of the Taj Mahal: “Do you know this building?” he asked the audience – and was rewarded with knowing smiles. Every Austrian knows the world-famous building; and so he won over the audience for further aspects revolving around Indian tourism as well. He presented impressive pictures of lone beaches, old fortresses, colourful festivals and a game of cricket – as fate would have it, India won a decisive victory over Australia on the way to cricket world cup on the same evening.
Javed bestowed new knowledge on the audience when he spoke of the niche areas of the India tourism: rural tourism, wellness tourism or luxury trains. His lecture was rewarded with friendly applause from the audience, which was comprised mainly of businesspeople.
Right at the beginning of his lecture, Ratan Bali of Air India erected an intercultural bridge by greeting the audience with both the phrase “Namaskaar” and “Guten Abend”. He presented the advantages of his airline, which flies from Vienna to India eleven times a week thanks to code share flights – in India itself, all big cities are well connected through the airline as well.
The business people seized the word in the subsequent question session; they asked questions and suggested proposals. Approximately half of the businesspeople in the full hall were Indian, with the other half being Austrian.
Crafts viewed from many angles
The main part of the evening was dedicated to the seminar on the Indian handicrafts. The rich offer of experts and topics was a boon for the audience: S. S. Gupta, Development Commissioner Handicrafts, started by saying that India is global market leader in hand-woven carpets. Rakesh Kumar, Executive Director (EPCH), presented an overview of the Indian export scenario.
Prof. Ebba Koch of the Institute for Art History at the University of Vienna chose a completely different approach, offering an insight into the history of the Indian handicrafts instead of commercial facts. She presented historical items and the production process of inlays with her slides. Dr. Barbara Karl, curator at the MAK, referred to the historical context in her lecture as well. “I didn’t know many of the things I have heard here”, an Indian journalist commented on the two lectures after the event.
Thomas Bernd of the Austrian Workshops complemented the event with a lecture on the Austrian handicrafts; R.K. Srivastava, Executive Director of the Indian National Centre for Product and Design Development, presented Indian products of contemporary design, still hand-made despite their modern design. An approach shared by Mrs. Rita Menon, Secretary in the Indian Ministry of Textiles, in her lecture: The most important thing is a design input to avoid getting stuck in the classical Indian art and instead adapt to the contemporary.
In his closing speech, Raj Kumar Malhotra, Chairman EPCH, thanked all lecturers and participants: “I am convinced that the awareness for the Indian handicrafts has been raised through these presentations”, he said. And the events later in the evening have proven him right: At the Indian buffet, questions were asked, knowledge was exchanged and networks formed – it is highly probable that many participants left the hotel with business cards of new, exciting contacts after the seminar.