The handicrafts czar
Mr Mir’s business strategy ever since he set up CIE in 1977 was to focus on the very rich Americans and Europeans. It paid off for 24 years with CIE expandings its network to set up top-of-the-line showrooms both withing and outside India. Foreign visitors and tourists lapped up CIE’s hand woven silk carpets, kashmir shawls, paper mache decorative articles, hand woven silk and wool fabric, silver object d’art and silver furniture, gold painted marble works, bronzes, sandalwood, rose wood stone and copper works of art, bejewelled wall hangings, tapestries and rugs, silk and cotton furnishing fabrics and modern contemporary jewellery including primitive jewellery.
But Mr Mir saw a new business opportunity even in such an environment. “After 9/11, we sat down and thought hard over how we could buck the trend. We decided to change our product profile. While continuing to focus on the top end foreign clientele, we also moved down in terms of pricing to target middle class foreign tourist and the rich and upper middle class Indian clientele,” recalls Mr Mir.
New showrooms were inaugurated, specially in south India and even in overseas markets. Product mix modifications were undertaken to remain in synergy with the time. CII classified showrooms as per customers’ purchasing power. Today, CIE has showrooms under 7 brands — Saga, Private Collection, Kashmir, Miraj, Shalimar, Etoile D’Orient and GTC.
“As a result, when things started to look up after a couple of years, flights began to be overbooked in holiday season and the hospitality industry went into the overdrive, CIE was already there, waiting to welcome the discerning world traveller and connoisseur,” says Mr Mir.
Today, of the Rs 600 crore turnover, as much as Rs 450-500 crore is earned by CIE in foreign exchange. The sharp growth in sales over the last two years has inspired Mr Mir to plan a string of new showrooms, 12 to be precise, over the next one year in Dubai, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Jodhpur among other cities.
CIE’s current network of showrooms is scattered over four continents — north America, Europe, Asia and Africa covering USA, Kenya, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Thailand, Indonesia, UAE, France and UK. CIE has 71 showrooms in India in cities like Delhi, Goa, Chennai, Mumbai, Cochin, Tanjore, Udaipur, Jaipur, Agra and Bangalore. Overseas showrooms are in San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Nairobi, Cape Town, Port Louis (Mauritius), Jakarta and Bali, Dubai and Bangkok.