Archive for October, 2012

Shopping from your Couch

Online Shopping

Online Shopping

The festive spirit in the capital city of Odisha  is on a high and the market places are  now thronged by people with zest. The festive season is directly linked to spending and is generally the time when people  resort to buy durable and apparels for them and their family. The markets  do  their bit by offering discounts and special sales offer. This habitual tendency of people seems to have shifted to the online domain too, with festive time online transaction shooting up sharply.

What is interesting about online shopping  is the fact that it gives you the convenience of marketing without ever actually visiting a market place! And the icing on the cake is the great after sale services that most of the e-retailer provide! Rightly so as more and more people get hooked to the internet, the percentage of those going for online purchases is increasing. And come the festive season, you are drenched with great offers from these e-retailers too that somehow seem too tantalizing for you to resist.

The online retail market in Odisha is still at a nascent stage with hardly 15-20 crore online transactions done per year. However trends suggest a whopping 30-40% increase in the coming years. Come the festive season, big e-retailers hope to click in some good sales even in the Odisha market. Major players like Yebhi.com, snapdeal.com and flipkart.com that generally do a business of roughly around Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 in the state per day are hopeful of  clicking sales up to Rs 1-Rs1.5 lakh per day.

With such small sales also, the Odisha market  still offer big prospect to the online retailers and the festive occasions seem to be the right time where they can cut the ice among their target audience. In Odisha, 50% of regular online shoppers come from the age group of 18-25 years, 30% from 25-35 age group, 10% from 36-45 age group and 10% from 45-60 age group. Fashion and life style are the most searched for categories among the serious online purchasers from Odisha. Places like Cuttack and Bhubaneswar account for most of the sale  but smaller towns like Puri, Smabalpur and balsore are lucrative  proposition for these retailers  as the people out in the small towns do not have access to good brands.

The festive season is seen as the right time when these retailers can penetrate into these virgin markets and strengthen their brand presence! They have thus like their counter parts in the street, come up with innovative schemes to lure the customers. Apart from ramping up their product portfolios, the online retailing sites like snapdeal.com and tradus.in are adopting models that include freebies, better bargains and loyalty schemes to facilitate sales. Tradus,in has come up with “Zero percent Interest” EMI scheme to grab a bigger pie of the puja market.Yebhi.com has introduced an innovative “Try and Buy” offer  in which the buyer can choose  from a lot of design in his or home himself before making his purchase decision. With the introduction of concepts like virtual trial rooms, users can check in a dress fiting on them just through the aid of a webcam and then decide whether that particular apparel suits them.

Well, with so much to offer, the e-retailers are hoping to make a big bash this Puja! And if one needs to take the CII’s stats into account, this Puja would definitely  give them a 60-70% hike in sales! So let’s hope this puja you join the bandwagon and go online with a new experience!

Durga Puja : Spirits dampened By rising prices

Cuttack Durga PujaToday is Mahalaya and the precursor to the festival seasons has just begun! The pandals around the twin city of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack are ready to be adorned with deities and welcome devotees.  It will be  a day or two before a nation will be gripped in frenzy of activities.Indeed this is the time which most  wait round the year to have a memorable time!

What makes the Durga puja celebration special are the pandals.  Pandals in the twin city are always a a major attraction for people. Its not only the size, opulence and magnificence that are associated with the pandals that is special but the tradition attached with them  that is unsurpassed. Though Bhubaneswar started very late on the race, the Millennium City always  has lived on with the tradition as far as pandal making is concerned. It hardly surprising then, that Cuttack stands next only to Kolkata in having the maximum number of Pandals during the Pujas.

Decorating the Puja pandals with imagination, energy and opulence is the major concern for most organizers in Cuttack. Exquisite light works and heavy use of ornaments are just two areas that they pay careful attention to. However it is the silver and gold tableaux that make the pandals attractive beyond point and make Durga Pujas in  Cuttack  a popular festival that draw many people.

However the soaring prices of gold and silver have become a matter of concern for many organizers this time. A such, only a few deities this year will be adorned with silver or gold tableau.  The Chuadhury bazaar Puja committee, for example, that had started on with the practice of  gold crowns from 2002 in coincidence with its golden jubilee has decided to switch to silver this year.  Understandably so, this trend is going to be seen in many other puja committees of Cuttack. Last year the Manglabag Puja committee of Cuttack had spent  around Rs 80 lakh on the celebrations. The budget has been truncated sharply this year.

Last year, the main crown of the Goddess  was made of 2.5 kg gold  and crowns of other god ( Ganesh,kartik, laxmi etc) were made of  1 kg gold.  These crowns were a major attraction of Cuttack last year.  These are surely not going to be the case this time a steh committee has already decied on cutting expenditures. In tune with its bigger counterparts, smaller committees like the Balu Bazar Durga Puja Committee too have decided to adorn the deity with silver tableau.

There are more than 154 Puja Committees in Cuttack . And the silver city has always been known  for its silver filigree work . it is beyond that  silver tableau will  bot be impeccable or dexterously done, but the grandeur associated with gold will  certainly be missed this year round in Cuttack!

 

 

 

Handloom Sector in odisha – Struggling To Keep It’s Identity

Handloom in Odisha

Handloom in Odisha

Hand looms or the technique of making clothes by hands has been practiced in Odisha for long. Weaving in fact has been practiced in the state since time immemorial! The carvings on the stones of Khandagiri caves are testimony to the fact that art of weaving started in Odisha  much before 600 BC. Likewise carvings at the Baidyanath temple in Sonepur district also refer to the fact that weaving was a thriving art in the state in 9th AD. It is however known for certain that the state was a major hand-loom exporter to South Asian countries like Thailand, Java, Borneo and Sumatra during the days of the colonial era.  The banks of river Mahanadi was a teeming ground for weavers who were highly skilled and excelled in producing excellent quality handicrafts. The raw materials used for weaving were however much different then. Along with cotton yarn, wild silk ( tasar), wool and fibers derived from the stem of lotus were in vogue for weaving purpose then.

The story today is however much different. Today there are 92,869 looms in Odisha which are active in production of different kind of dress materials in odisha. Though the numbers are steadily declining, Odisha still presents a potpourri that includes tribal production of Kotpad, weft design in Jagtsinghpur, tassar in Gopalpur,makidia silk in Berhampur, khandua in nua patana and famous tie-dye of Bargarh. And the products from the hand-loom industry include dress material, sarees, lungis and napkins.

The tie and dye technique of the state that gets expressed through motifs ranging  from flowers, fish, animals, gods and goddesses is mainly centered in Sonepur, Bolangir, Bargarh,  Sambalpur, Cuttack and Kalahandi districts of the state.

The sector is however fast losing its sheen as modern technologies and branded apparel manufacturers flood the markets with their produce. Though the annual turnover of the industry is still more than Rs 100 crore, the weavers in Odisha suffer due to lack of exposure. While there is a great demand for Odisha’s handloom out of the country, the weavers seem to be fighting for a lost cause in the domestic market!

What is required in this case is that the handloom products of Odisha be highlighted with intensity out of the country. Exposure through trade fairs, exhibitions, seminars and workshops can greatly boost the confidence of the weavers while providing a platform to them too. This is where the role of the government’s agencies become very important.

Until something substantial is done by the government to encourage the weavers in Odisha, the state will lose its once flourishing tradition. The worst has already started as Odisha is today witnessing a decline in handicraft activities. The number of hand-looms in the state have continuously shown downward trend with each passing year. Highly skilled weavers from odisha have slowly started migrating to other state. Weavers from Berhampur, which is known as the silk city are already deserting their profession to work as daily wage earners mostly in Surat.

Although the government  has chalked out many schemes to assist the weavers, nothing seem to be working in the ground level. It is high time that the government implements all the schemes with vigor and help out the weavers and the industry or it will not be long before hand-loom would be a dead industry in Odisha!

BPO Blues of Odisha

BPO

BPO

Though a late entrant to the BPO bandwagon, odisha  became one of the choicest BPO destination in no time. It was in the middle of the last decade that, invited by the government, many corporate biggies set up BPO’s in the state and even took the responsibility of training the unemployed graduates to make the industry worthy.

An amalgamation of lower operating costs, availability of resources such as land, power, water and lower cost of living attracted many BPO units to the state capital of Bhubaneswar. It was all hunky dory until the state’s image as an upcoming BPO hub of the eastern region took severe hit courtesy lower margins, greater regulatory pressure and customers cutting IT budget. At present the sector in the state is on a decline with the presence of just 25-30 BPO’s  that includes Pinnacle Systems, Discoventure Solutions and Trishna Software and Technology. BPO arms of many software giants like Infosys,Wipro and TCS have not yet started their operation in the state.

Along with the global financial turmoil, fierce competition , overcapacity and skill dilution have worsened the plight of the BPO sector in Odisha. Moreover, on larger canvas, competition from countries like Philiphines,   Mexico, Malaysia, China and Canada has dealt a severe blow to the IT/ITES industry in Odisha.

The total number of people being employed by the industry ranges between 3000-3500 and provided the grim nature of the sector; it is being assumed that many of these people would be hived off as the companies are in a drive to curtail operating costs.  The trend of slowing industry that had caught the Indian market since 2006 has started showing its effect even on the Odisha Market. Voice Contracts coming to India over this period has shrunk by half and so Odisha was bound to be affected!

Anwesh Sahu , an entrepreneur who runs a BPO in the state echoes the prevailing sentiment when he says that while 50 employees were hired by him last year, no major hiring decision has been made by him this year. Sukumar Parida, another entrepreneur, whose firm provides Voice and Non voice based services to domestic players reiterated that his business has also taken a beating when compared to the last financial year.

However  not all seem to be taken down by the prevailing doom and despondency. Many hope that with the bold steps being announced by the PrimeMinister, the economy is just beginning to revive and this will have a positive impact on the BPO sector as well. Experts however belive that time has come for the industry to evolve out and start looking for more domestic clients than overseas market! Similarly companies should put more value on skill enhancements like foreign  language capabilities, business analytics and sales and marketing skills.

It is a proven fact that companies that evolve and thrive the economic downturns are more likely to expand during good time. This in fact holds true for the BPO sector as well! And with NASSCOM predicting a growth on software services and BPO sector by up to 16.3%, things seem to be slowly changing.

Industrial Blues of A Mineral Rich State

Decreasing industrial output in Odisha

Decreasing industrial output in Odisha

With the hope for rapid industrialization and large influx of capital from across the globe, the government has been inviting big corporate honchos for investment in Odisha However the ground level realities are gloomy and present an all together different story!

In what has been  a damp squib for most big time projects being sanctioned by the Odisha government, the euphoria over rapid industrialization has met with equally ferocious exposure  of people’s discontentment occurring at every industrial project that involves acquisition of land or possibility of a eco-degradation. This  hue and cry over all new  projects have adversely affected the climate of business in the state. The recent coal block allocation may be taken as a case. The ruckus that has been created over the coal block allocation to different companies in odisha, have not only hit the coal mining companies but all allied sectors like transport and iron and steel. And since many coal blocks allocated to private players by the government are now running in rough weathers, the actual damage that will happen to the state’s economy in terms of monetary and employment loss will be phenomenal.

Add to this, the protests over setting up of the projects and the loss seem to aggravate beyond control! Though the government has signed 90 memorandums of understandings ( MoUs) for setting up industries that includes 50 steel and 30 power projects, only 35 have seen the daylight and that too partially. Protests over mining at Niyamgiri hills  have marred the Vedanta groups ambitious project in the state. Similar has been the fate of POSCO and nothing seems to end the deadlock situation that arrests the setting up of the iron and steel plant in Paradeep.

Ports in the state have borne most of the brunt for all these mishaps. With the decline in iron ore productions and its consequent exports, business in the Paradip Port has been badly hit. Statistics paint a dismal picture that present a sorry state for the port. In the first  fiscal quarter ( April- June)  of the current year, the port handled 6 million tones of cargo in comparison to 13 million in the last fiscal year. The fate of the newly built Dhamra port which is the second biggest port in the state after Paradip is also dismal due to poor cargo handling records.

What has worsened the  situation for the once busy port  is the Centre’s directive to the state  to ensure that iron ore extracted from mines leased out for  captive  use cannot be sold  within the country or exported!  This has ensured that exports from these port which mostly constituted of iron ores have been badly hit.

This has also led to the transport sector being hit badly . Following the shutting down of many mines in Keonjhar, Jajpur and other districts of odisha, the transport sector which depended heavily on this sector for sustenance has been hit very badly. Around 2000 trucks that once made a beeline to the ports ferrying iron ores from the mining area to the dumping yard of Paradip are now off- business.

Adding salt  to the wounds of the state economy was a recent move by Japan of returning the shrimp shipment to Odisha . The fishing sector in the state which is one of the largest constituent of exported items from the state has been badly hit by this move. Along the  vast coastline of the state, a number of fish processing and preservation plants have grown that keep on supplying steady  marine items to the island nation.  The unexpected move by  Japan has  put the industry under shock!

All these circumstances added together has led Odisha to a stage where the future of the rapidly expanding  industrialization in the state seem to have taken a big beating. The state government needs to overhaul it’s industrial policy entirely to keep the dwindling economy in place.