The carpet industry in India is one of the oldest and well established regionalised sectors employing over two million weavers. The industry has been thriving since the 16th century. India is one of the largest handmade carpet producers and exporters in the world. As a matter of fact, almost 90 per cent of the carpets produced in India are exported. Indian carpets are known for exclusive design, attractive colours and quality. Indian carpets have an outstanding demand in the international market.
Carpet weaving was introduced in India by the Mughals. Some of the most splendid and magnificent carpets were woven during their time. Royalty, nobility and the wealthy were its patrons. Later, carpets entered the house of common people and the business class. Over time, weavers have turned into artists who not only weave carpets in exotic colours and designs but give an aesthetic touch to Indian carpets.
The carpet industry progressed rapidly during the post-Independence. Overseas demand surged in the 1970s. As a result, exports which were worth around INR 110 million in 1970-71 registered an amazing increase to INR 36 billion in 2006-07. According to a report by Wool Research Association, there was a sharp decline in carpet exports after 2007-08 due to global economic recession.
Major carpet weaving centres
Earlier, there were a few carpet weaving centres. Carpet weaving centres have gradually spread across northern India due to availability of resources and several other historical reasons. The major carpet manufacturing centres are Agra, Jaipur, Srinagar, Danapur and Bhadohi. In the past few decades, Panipat has also emerged as another major centre for carpet production.
Types of carpets
India has a variety of hand-made carpets:
- Pure silk carpets
- Tufted woollen carpets
- Hand-knotted woollen carpets
- Staple and synthetic carpets
- Gabbe woollen carpets
- Hand-made woollen dhurries
- Chain stitch rugs
Each type of carpet has its own significance, pattern and tradition satisfying different needs of the customers. Each is unique in its respective category.
Overview of key players
Carpets and rugs are used for their visual appeal and functional properties in homes, offices and public institutions. It provides a protective layer to floors. In predominantly cold regions, carpets and rugs are used to give warmth. Until a few years back, the demand for carpets was highest in developed countries. The top five leading countries in carpet imports from India have been the US, UK, Germany, Canada, France and Japan.
The US and Germany are two dominating countries in the carpet import market. However, with globalisation, new opportunities are opening up for carpet exports to different countries. Marketwise segregation shows that the German market has high demand for low to medium quality (Persian and Nepali) carpets in the ratio of 40:50 while demand for high quality carpets is reportedly diminishing. In low quality carpets (under 50 knots per square inch) segment, Nepal dominates the German market followed by India. The medium quality carpets (between 50 to 300 knots per square inch) section is dominated by Iran followed by India.
The carpet market in the US is dominated by India followed by China, Pakistan and other countries. Here, the demand for medium to high quality carpets dominates in the proportion of 60:20 ratio. Considering this, the Indian carpet industry is facing tough competition from China, Nepal and Pakistan.
According to a 2014 market research report on the global carpet industry, the demand for carpets and rugs in the US will increase at 4.5 per cent annually and is expected to reach US$ 16.2 billion in 2019. Moreover, the demand from the residential market will remain high while non-residential demand will be from office, commercial and institutional organisations. The tufted carpets and rugs sector will grow fastest.
Key markets and export destinations for India
Indian carpets are exported to more than 100 countries and the major share of about 40 per cent goes to the US. In 2013-14, hand-made carpets worth US$ 1,037 million were exported in total. There is a huge demand for Indian carpets especially in developed countries which capture 88-90 per cent of carpet exports. The two largest markets for Indian carpets are US and Germany which accounts for 76 per cent of total exports. Apart from the other developed nations there are few developing nations that account for the remaining share.
The carpet industry is both export-oriented and labour-intensive. Besides generating foreign exchange, this industry provides employment to many people. Aditya Wattal, Head- Business Development (Southern & Central Europe) of Chinar International said, "There is huge demand for carpet and rugs in European countries. Besides, we also get orders from the domestic market but the numbers are less when compared to overseas demand."
Consumer preference and future prospects
With the passage of time, consumer preferences have changed in terms of price, design and material. Nowadays, consumers prefer cotton carpets that are washable and affordable. The e-commerce and home furnishing industry are flourishing. However, the future of the Indian carpet industry is still unpredictable. Despite being one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of carpets across the world, the demand for hand-made carpets has fallen. On one hand, there is a high demand for finest silk carpets in the overseas market just as we see a dip in demand for exclusive carpets in the domestic market. This has pushed the industry to move towards modern and fashionable carpets which are easy to maintain and affordable.
Indian handmade carpets are battling it out with machine-made carpets from developed countries. According to Aditya Wattal (Head- Business Development (Southern & Central Europe) of Chinar International) colourful cotton, silk carpets and rugs in bright colours are in huge demand in America. The carpets are produced keeping in mind the consumer preferences. Construction work in developing nations is on the rise. This has fuelled the demand for floor- and wall-coverings.
Floor covering includes other hard flooring materials which offer competition to the carpets and rugs sector. However, it is expected that the hard floor covering will not significantly affect the carpets and rugs market. As most of the segments like woven carpets, tufted carpets and others are witnessing a rise in demand, it is expected to create a favourable situation for the carpet and rug industry in future. Opportunities for the carpet industry lie in developing innovative technology and research. Also, using environment-friendly materials in manufacturing carpets and rugs will give another opportunity that can attract consumers.
International carpet trade fairs and new technology
Recently, India participated in Domotex Turkey, an international trade fair for carpets and floor coverings in Gaziantep, Turkey. It was held from 25-28 May 2015. The fair is an excellent platform to showcase industry innovations, creative designs and new materials and an opportunity to get in touch with international leaders. Foreign exhibitors from 33 countries including India, China, Germany, France, Bangladesh, Belgium and Middle East countries visited and showcased their unique designs and new collections.
Thousands of carpets were exhibited, but the show-stealer was the self-cleaning carpet produced using nano-technology. Dr. Meric Bebitoglu, General manager of Atlas Hali, manufacturer of these carpets said, "The nano carpet cleans itself continuously with the energy from light and indoor lighting and we are pleased to bring this upgraded version of our invention to the exhibition this year."
Carpets Export Promotion Council
The apex body of exporters of carpets and floor covering in India is known as Carpets Export Promotion Council (CEPC). It provides support to exporters with financial help, recognising new markets, sponsoring participation in events organised globally, solving trade disputes and arranging buyer and seller meetings.
30th India carpet Expo
The 30th India Carpet Expo organised by CEPC will be held from 11-14 October 2015 at Varanasi. It is one of the largest handmade carpet fairs in Asia to source the finest hand-made carpets, rugs and floor coverings under one roof. The motive of this expo is to provide trade opportunity to all the international carpet buyers that will generate good business to India.
The expo aims at endorsing the cultural heritage and weaver's skill among visiting international carpet buyers. Over the years, it has established itself and has become an ideal platform for carpet buying agents, overseas buyers, buying organisations, architects, Indian carpet manufacturers and exporters to gain access to each other and establish a long term business relationship.
Millions of weavers worldwide work day and night and have perfected the art of making carpets. The carpet industry is going through a major transition. Although traditional markets are growing saturated, new markets are offering growth opportunities. Customer preference is changing and there is no one kind of buyer. The traditional carpet business does not work any longer. Modern patterns and low- end carpets are the new attraction. So, product mapping and regard for customer preference will power the future growth of the industry.