India’s first B2B virtual trade fair kicks off, catalyses Rs 153-crore business

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June 9, 2020 12:25 AM

Having exceeded official targets in recent years, India’s handicraft exports dropped to $3.53 billion in FY20, against $3.65 billion a year before, as shipments in March were washed out due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

This platform hosted stalls of around 200 Indian exporters of fashion jewllery and accessories, to be accessed by importers in key markets like the US and Europe, and elsewhere.

Amid various lockdown-related curbs and a demand slump, India’s first virtual business-to-business trade fair kicked off this week to a somewhat promising start. Constrained by various Covid-induced lockdown measures to hold a physical fair, an annual ritual for over a decade, the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) used its database of overseas buyers and domestic sellers to design a virtual platform as an alternative marketing strategy to promote outbound shipments.

This platform hosted stalls of around 200 Indian exporters of fashion jewllery and accessories, to be accessed by importers in key markets like the US and Europe, and elsewhere.

The four-day fair, which got over on Thursday, generated business opportunities of Rs 153 crore, down from the usual Rs 300-350 crore, but greater than initial expectations. Importantly, each seller got a virtual stall to showcase their product for just about Rs 10,000, against the Rs 1.5-2 lakh they would pay for obtaining a physical stall earlier, Rakesh Kumar, director general at EPCH, told FE. The concept is expected to be replicated by some other export councils too.

The low-fee enabled small exporters, whose cash flow has been battered by the pandemic, to participate in the virtual fair and get some orders, he added. Of course, the EPCH’s own revenue flow, in this process, got dented, Kumar added.

Typically, once an overseas buyer clicks on a particular stall, he would get to see photographs and videos of the entire product range of that seller. If he is interested in a product and has queries, there would be links for immediate interactions with the seller via Skype or Zoom. Once an order is placed, the seller would deliver the products through courier. Around 1,200 buyers from 81 countries, apart from 500 buying agents, wholesalers and retailers, also participated in the virtual fair.

The EPCH now wants to scale it up and have a much largerr virtual export fair, covering products across textiles, home, lifestyle, fashion and furniture, from July 13, Kumar said. About 3,000 exhibitors and 50,000 buyers are expected to take part in this virtual fair, he added.

Having exceeded official targets in recent years, India’s handicraft exports dropped to $3.53 billion in FY20, against $3.65 billion a year before, as shipments in March were washed out due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

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