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Price rise, Ramzan - double whammy for kite sellers

Saturday August 13, 2011 02:37:37 PM, Rahul Vaishnavi, IANS

New Delhi: Normally it would have been impossible to talk to 45-year-old Aslam Junaid, a shopkeeper in the wholesale kites market at Lal Kuan, a few days before Aug 15, with thousands thronging the market. But it's a different story this year, with price rise and fasting during the holy month of Ramzan taking a toll on sales. However, designer Chinese kites are still doing comparatively well.

"I have been in this market for the last 20 years and would eagerly await the months leading to Aug 15 as the high sales and huge profits are enough to sustain us the whole year," Junaid told IANS.

Situated in the old quarter of the city, the market is a 10-minute rickshaw ride from Jama Masjid and specialises in a wide variety of kites, manjas (strings) and reels. Many of the products on offer are made in Uttar Pradesh's Bareilly town followed by Moradabad and Rampur.

"Expensive raw material means an expensive final product. Moreover, the majority of our customers from nearby areas are fasting. Flying a kite in this hot weather is the last thing on their mind," he added.

Agreed another shopkeeper, Faisal Meraj, who said a standard reel of kite-flying thread which was being sold for around Rs.100 last year had doubled this time and similar was the rise in the price of a standard spool of manja (900 metres).

"One spool of good quality manja was Rs.150 last year; this time it has risen to Rs.250," Meraj told IANS.

Typically on Independence Day, colourful kites of all shapes and sizes dot the skyline in many parts of northern India, with kite flying competitions also being held in many cities.

"Compared to Indian kites, the Chinese products, despite being a bit pricier, are selling quite well," said Bhim Singh, a kite seller who informed that the plastic Chinese manja is much stronger than the Indian manja.

"There is no fun in kite flying if you cannot snap the other person's manja. Moreover, the Chinese kites are more colourful, bigger and available in different shapes, making them quite attractive," added Singh.

However, another shopkeeper, Parveen Malik begged to differ and said that when it comes to quality, the Chinese stuff is no match for the Indian products.

"Many customers have a misconception that Chinese products are better value for money. But once they talk to me, they change their mind instantly," chuckled Malik.

According to several sellers, the number of shops have decreased drastically from around 150 last year to around 25 this year and it's only the retailers who are paying them a visit this time as individual sales have almost become nil.

"Only those who own permanent shops are left here, those who had rented or temporary shops have left, unable to make profits," said Meraj. "The monthly rent of a shop here is around Rs.1 lakh."

However, there is a silver lining to the cloud for the shopkeepers - while the accompanying manja and reel are expensive, the kites themselves are still quite affordable. What's more, there are two more days to go before Independence Day Aug 15 and business could soar.

"There are kites in this market ranging from Re.1 to Rs.200. There are colourful Bollywood ones and then there are those depicting popular superheroes like Spiderman, Superman and Batman," said Junaid.

(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at )




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