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
"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
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
"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
(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at email@example.com