| A Durga idol being readied at Kumartuli. Picture by Amit Datta
Artisans at Kumartuli are striving to give shape to Durga idols, though local puja organisers are yet to make the final trip to Kumartuli for negotiations. However, Durga idols have already started leaving the artistans hub for destinations around the globe.
The overseas orders are good this year. Last year, we sent out 45 idols from Kumartuli. This year, we have already sent 10 more than that, said Babu Pal, secretary of the Kumartuli Mritshilpi Sanskritik Samity.
Idol-makers covet orders from abroad, as along with the honour that such assignments bring, they are profitable, too. The profit margin on an order for the domestic market is approximately 10-15 per cent. But for an overseas order, profits shoot up to 30 per cent, said Nemai Chandra Pal, the president of the union.
The only problem is that a share of the profit goes to the middlemen who help the artisans bag the orders. A website of our own would help us do away with the middlemen. Buyers could contact us directly. But we dont have the knowhow and funds, said Babu.
The 300-strong association has no website, though the families of two artisans Amarnath Ghosh and Prodyut Paul run their own websites. If we had a website, we could have distributed the orders among ourselves, said Babu.
A few years ago, when the trend for theme Pujas gained popularity in Calcutta, I thought we could explore the overseas market better. To make our presence felt, we need to use modern technology and market ourselves better. Our email addresses were created in 2004 and in 2005, we created our own website, said Prodyut, who has two e-mail addresses. His website is www.kumartuli.com. In 2004, we got only one order through the Internet, but it grew thereon and in 2007, we have got six orders, said Prodyut.
Prodyut looks after marketing and his uncle Gopal Paul, cousins and brothers make the idols. We have done away with middlemen. Now, the customers contact us directly and we negotiate online. I also keep mailing them pictures of the idols at various stages. They like that, he added.
Amarnath Ghosh was persuaded to set up his website, www.amarnathghoshandsondurgaprotima.com, by his son Kaushik and daughter-in-law Mohua. It has made communication easier but I have been sending idols abroad for many years and have never faced a problem because of middlemen, said Ghosh.
This year, Ghosh has sent 18 idols abroad. I sent an idol to Fiji for the first time this year. The number of Pujas abroad is expanding, he said.
But even as idols are being despatched to foreign shores, there are murmurs of dissatisfaction at Kumartuli.
The union could be a little more active. It has funds, and there is space in the union room. If the union bought a couple of computers and put youngsters on the job, it would help a lot. We will propose it at the next union meeting, said Dilip Pal, a veteran artisan whose daughter is creating a website for him, but Pal doesnt see it materialising this year.