I have always been a staunch believer of organising the so-called unorganised sectors of India. Not only it makes economic sense but also have a positive long term ripple effect on the society. It helps these unrecognised professionals to have a better and decent life and above all, showcase their produces at national and even the international market. Amidst all the dying industry, one industry which recently caught my fancy was the Kite Industry. Although Kite flying is a very old practice (and tradition) in India but these days one can see them being flown mostly during Basant or Uttrayan or International Kite Festivals.
Recently, the International Kite Festival, like every year, saw kite lovers from across the world gathering at Somnath in Gujarat to test their kite flying skills. This is not the only Kite festival but many such events take place across the nation during various weeks starting from December. However, in spite of such colourful hue this industry is one of those industry which is moving towards its declining stage. Undoubtedly, this industry needs a complete overhaul and lot of attention as many households are surviving on this seasonal industry only. The demand for kites may seem seasonal (in domestic market) but in reality its completely converse. A study of Chinese market and global demand for Kites makes it vivid that this seasonal industry can be made a conventional industry if tapped at global level. As a matter of fact, after declining by 50 per cent over the years, the industry is still worth almost Rs 1200 crore. Moreover, it employees over 70,000 artisans and seasonal workers across the nation with Bareilly, Jaipur, Kolkata, Jodhpur, Ahmedabad and Lucknow forming the major kite-making hubs. Taking about international market, in US and Canada, kite industry is estimated to be around $150 million (roughly Rs 750 crore market).
The kite industry has witnessed a major downfall particularly due to three main reasons. Firstly, Kite is still a seasonal industry in India. Once the festival gets over, business slacks to the point of being almost non-existent. Secondly, rising cost of raw materials along with increased competition from China-made products has made it less attractive proposition. According to a survey conducted by Assocham, “there has been an increase of about 25-30 per cent in the prices of raw materials like paper, string, powder used to colour the strings, sticks and the VAT due to which there has been a sharp decline of over 50 per cent in the business at kite shops.” Thirdly, domestic kites maker are not aware of global demand and different festivals like Weifang International Kite Festival, China; Bristol International Kite Festival, UK; Borneo International Kite Festival, Malaysia; International Kite Festival, France; Cape Town International Festival, South Africa; Washington State International Kite Festival, US and many other such festivals that takes place across the globe.
State governments and Central government may take a lesson or two from Gujarat as the state’s kite manufacturing industry has grown by six-fold during the past five years with the help of annual International Kite Festival that the state has been hosting since 1989 as part of the official celebration of Uttarayan. Replicating Gujarat, other kite making hubs should organise such international festival with grandeur and also make provisions for kite makers to sell their products at other international kite festivals too. At a central level, more footfalls for the same can be made possible by merging our kite festivals with Incredible India campaign. Here, we are just not taking about a dying industry but also about a decade old tradition.