Among the different lockdown-related curbs and a demand slump, India’s 1st virtual business-to-business trade fair kicked off this week to a somewhat promising start. Constrained by different corona virus-induced lockdown measures to hold a physical fair, an annual ritual for over a decade, the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (i.e. EPCH) used its database of overseas buyers and also domestic sellers to design a virtual platform as an alternative marketing strategy to promote the outbound shipments.
This platform hosted stalls of across 200 Indian exporters of fashion jewelry and accessories as well, to be accessed by importers in key markets like the US and Europe, or elsewhere. The 4 days fair, that got over on Thursday, that generated business opportunities of around Rs 153 crore, down from the usual Rs 300-350 crore, but greater than initial expectations. Importantly, each seller got a virtual stall to showcase their product for just about Rs 10,000, against the around Rs 1.5-2 lakh they would pay for obtaining a physical stall earlier, Rakesh Kumar the director-general at EPCH, told FE. The concept is expected to be replicated by some other export councils as well. The low-fee enabled small exporters, whose cash flow has been battered by the pandemic situation, to participate in the virtual fair and get some orders, as he added. Of course, the EPCH’s own revenue flow, in this process, got dented, as Kumar added.
Additionally, once an overseas buyer clicks on a particular stall, he would get to see photographs and videos of the entire product range of that seller. If he is interested in a product and also has queries, there would be links for an immediate interaction with the seller via Skype / Zoom. business Once an order is placed, then the seller would deliver the products through courier. Across 1,200 buyers from 81 countries, apart from around 500 buying agents, wholesalers, and retailers, also participated in the virtual fair.
Now the EPCH wants to scale it up and have a much larger virtual export fair, covering products across textiles, home, lifestyle, fashion, and furniture, from 13th July, as Kumar told. Around 3,000 exhibitors and 50,000 buyers are expected to take part in this virtual fair, as he added.
Having exceeded official targets in recent years, India’s handicraft exports dropped to $3.53 billion in FY20, against $3.65 billion a year before, as shipments in March were washed out due to the Coronavirus outbreak.