13214 Wed, 12/05/2007 - 6:02pm
By Jennifer Quail
NEW YORK--It's difficult to pin down one way of doing business with today's Indian rug community.
The bulk of the product is still brought here by way of importers, who then do business with U.S. retailers, but there are current developments that may alter the future of India's carpet trade with the United States.
Many importers in the states are eager for business practices to remain as is: with them doing the overseas legwork and stateside buyers relying on them to have chosen the best product. Meanwhile, the Indian government, its Carpet Export Promotion Council and new kid on the block International Home Deco Park are looking to boost India's global presence in myriad ways. (See Page 10.)
From the perspective of the individual India-based companies, however, there is an increasing movement to operate offices in both India and the United States. Several companies that originated in India have made the move to opening up U.S. headquarters and believe the arrangement provides a distinct advantage as they are never left learning of U.S. demands or trends from a third party. And with more opportunities for international exposure in India, they believe they are expanding their global presence in multiple ways.
Jaipur Rugs, for example, maintains an office in the region for which it is named, as well as a U.S. headquarters in Atlanta. Regarding markets, Jaipur has a presence in Atlanta; High Point, N.C.; and Las Vegas and has most recently joined the ranks at IHDP in Noida, India. Jaipur also participates in the India Carpet Expo in Varanasi.
"Having Indian and U.S. offices provides an advantage when it comes to working with customers in two ways," said Joe Barkley, executive vice president of Kaleen, which operates here and in India as well. The first advantage, he said is for customers who buy from "country of origin only," meaning they will purchase items from manufacturers in specific producing countries and only in the country in which they are based. "Retailers typically believe they receive better pricing when purchasing in this manner," he said.
The other big plus: "Having offices in the U.S. allows a greater understanding of the purchase needs for the retailer and quicker reaction to problems or opportunities," Barkley said. "Having offices in both countries offers the retailer the best customer service and flexibility."
Surya is another company with dual operations in Calhoun, Ga., and Bhadohi, India, and a lengthy list of international showrooms. Satya Tiwari, president of Surya, said there is a very clear advantage to operating in this manner as many of the company's larger customers have either their own office in India or at least a buying agency there.
"Many times, we can have productive development meetings in India, versus conducting them in our showroom in the U.S.," Tiwari said.
Executives agreed the Indian government's promotion of their country has begun to show results, but that the game plan needs further work.
"On a larger scale, I do see that Indian goods are getting increased attention due to the promotion by the Indian government," said Asha Chaudhary, chief executive officer of Jaipur. "However, on an industry level, a lot needs to be done and the impact has been minimal so far. I believe it requires the involvement and coordination of the exporters and government on a much larger scale to bring any impact."
Barkley added that while "the Indian government has started marketing to a small degree, currently the attention is on tourism. Most direct marketing is left up to the manufacturer," he said.
There is one fact all parties were able to agree on overwhelmingly--the notion that India is on its way up as a global force.
"As a democratic country with ideology aligned with the U.S., I see a great trade and working relationship between India and the U.S.," Tiwari said. "There are many Indians now doing trade in the U.S., and they have done a good job to portray the India advantage as a U.S. advantage."
"India's star is on the rise in the international market," Chaudhary said. "I fully expect trade between India and the U.S. to continue to flourish. As U.S. consumers become more accustomed to the breadth, depth and quality of Indian goods, I truly believe that India will continue to develop closer ties and, perhaps, earn a greater share of the American dollar spent on overseas goods."