Attractive and pocket-friendly Made-in-China idols, which flew off the shelves during Indian religious festivals, are seeing a dip in sales this time, mainly due to local artisans giving them tough competition and appeals to shun Chinese products.
According to the wholesale dealers in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar, one of the oldest shopping hubs in the old quarters, local manufacturers are designing better-looking and long-lasting idols of Lakshmi and Ganesha, the goddess and god of prosperity and wealth according to Hindu mythology.
“Of course, the China-made idols of Indian gods and goddesses have better finishing and even cost less than Indian ones,” Tarun Kathuria, owner of Arts and Soul, a shop that deals with such products, said.
“During Diwali, customers seek idols that can also be used for decorative purposes. The Chinese products do not last long,” said Kathura, who belongs to a family that has been in the business of selling such products for the past 70 years.
He said he would place orders for the China-made idols at least four months before Diwali to meet the demand, but the hassles of dealing with customs and excise duties forced him to sell local products. Kathuria also said most of the Chinese goods enter India illegally through a nefarious network and on many occasions the quality of the goods would be compromised.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)chief Mohan Bhagwat had also called for banning China-made idols in India.
“We are even buying idols of our gods and goddesses and other products of daily use from China which needs to be stopped completely,” Bhagwat said in his annual address to millions of RSS members at its headquarters in Nagpur on the 89th Foundation Day of the organisation.
The fact that Chinese idols are not selling like before can be seen by a visit to various Delhi markets.
“There was a time when Chinese-made idols were ruling the roost. But it is not so any more. Indian artisans have learned and imbibed their (Chinese) techniques. This is probably one reason why local goods have completely overtaken the market,” Shakun Goyal, owner of Delhi-based Goyal Novelties, which deals with such items,said.
The traders also stressed that many customers would return to them for replacing bought items.
“We were not in a position to replace the idols if they were damaged. This created a problem for us. But it is not so with the local products,” Goyal added.
“In the early days, there was a huge demand for Chinese products. But it was soon followed by complaints,” Satish Bhutani, a businessman, whose family has been in the business of selling antique pieces and other gift items for the past 120 years, said.
Bhutani said Indian products are well-finished and more durable.
A set of Ganesha and Lakshmi ranges from Rs.40 to as high as Rs. 10,000.
Brijesh Parmar, a customer, said: “Even water resistant idols of gods and goddesses do not have any value if they do not have durability. Though Chinese made idols have good finishing compared to the Indian ones, the shopkeepers should understand that idols bought for Diwali are not meant for immersion but to be kept at home.”
Bharati, 23, who is celebrating her first Diwali after getting married, said: “What’s the point of buying imported items when Indian artisans make a much better product that meets our aesthetics and are also eco-friendly.”
Apart from Ganesha and Lakshmi idols, Chinese-made firecrackers, lights and toys had also flooded the Indian markets. Recently, the Indian government put a ban on Chinese crackers.
“The Chinese manufacturers had entered the Indian market of toys and crackers too as they realized that it was a vast consumer market and they can make a killing.
“But at the end the consumer is the king. And consumers have realised that our own local manufacturers were doing much better jobs. So I am for India-made products,” Bharti added.