Calcutta, Sept. 9: Mamata Banerjee today announced plans to bring all handicraft and handloom products under a common brand and build it nationally to take products from rural Bengal to a wider market, ignoring questions on the feasibility of such a move in a competitive market.
Now, six Bengal government-owned corporations — Tantuja, Manjusha, Resham Shilpi Samabaya, Bangashree, Khadi and Charmaja — run over 170 stores across the country.
The chief minister wants to increase the number to over 300 in less than three years. The stores will be named after the new brand announced today — Biswa Banga.
“We are building the Biswa Banga brand. It will bring together all corporations under one roof. Business volume will increase because of this,” Mamata said after a meeting of the council of ministers at Writers’ Buildings.
The list of products sold at these stores include handloom sarees, dress materials, jewellery, leather bags, wallets, shoes, upholstery items, showpieces and herbal products. The corporations source the products from co-operatives that have around 10 lakh weavers and artisans as members.
All the stores together generate a business volume of Rs 85 crore every year, sources said. As these independent corporations were set up during the Left regime — and always got generous grants — booking profit has never been the priority.
“The chief minister wants us to increase the business volume to Rs 300 crore a year in two to three years. She also wants these corporations to run professionally so that they rake in profits,” a senior state government official said.
Sources in the state government said that as the procurement and pricing policies were not always linked to market principles, these corporations were incurring losses and were heavily dependent on government grants.
“We want to change all that with this new concept,” an official said.
According to the plan, the concept is setting up shops within a shop with no separate outlet for any of the corporations. All the stores will be called Biswa Banga, where there will be separate racks for products of each of the corporations.
There are also plans to sell “everything Bengali” in states across the country and tie up with private companies selling sweets and Darjeeling tea.
“While bringing all the brands under one umbrella is not a bad idea, one must also add that developing a new brand will be a difficult proposition,” said an expert on brand management, adding that the concept was like a modern avatar of cottage industries.
The government will have to plan a proper campaign to make the brand popular among customers.
“This will require huge outlays and a well-though-out campaign strategy…. Let’s see what the state government finally achieves,” the expert added.
As of now, these corporations have a paltry marketing budget though some of the brands, such as Tantuja, have high recall among consumers.
In an attempt to repeat the same for Biswa Banga, the government is planning to float a tender, inviting marketers to come up with ideas on how to popularise the brand.