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Jaipur’s lac industry becomes innovative, attract new customers

Jaipur, Oct 7 (Calcutta Tube) Jaipur’s age-old lac industry is becoming innovative in a bid to attract new customers. The industry, which started from the narrow lanes of the walled city in the 18th century, today accounts for huge exports.

Belts, necklaces, pendants, rings, bejewelled boxes, photo frames…A few centuries ago, women wouldn’t have imagined such exquisite innovations from lac, which was confined to the domain of bangles back then.

Monisha Banerjee, a tourist from Kolkata who was spotted buying lac items, said: ‘Before my visit to Jaipur, I had heard a lot about lac products. They are truly fabulous. The thing I liked the best was a belt. It is awesome.’

Jaipur is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of lac bangles and bracelets in India.

A visit to the walled city area is sure to fascinate for its glittering lac bangles or ‘lac ki churiyan’, famous for their special designs and shine all across India.

In the last few years, the local lac industry has broken its traditional image of making only bangles by manufacturing other beautiful and quality decorative items that are widely appreciated for their excellent artwork.

‘We have seen a shift in the taste of customers. Accordingly, we have started to manufacture new items. Items like belts and bejewelled lac boxes are exported in large numbers from here,’ said Rahul Rajpurohit, a Jaipur-based exporter.

With their mesmerising designs and much-acclaimed acumen, the traders of the local market have witnessed a huge increase in demand for products in the past few years.

According to trade estimates, Jaipur accounts for annual exports of Rs.500-700 million (over $11 million) worth of lac items and the business is growing at an average rate of 10-15 percent per annum.

The US, Spain, Britain, Dubai, France, Taiwan and Japan are major exporting partners of the city which value Indian skills for lac at a very high premium.

Rajpurohit said it is difficult to quantify exports as the majority of items are exported indirectly.

‘We usually get orders from exporting firms based in Delhi and Mumbai that in turn sell it in other countries,’ the exporter added.

Lac items, including bangles and bracelets festooned with pearls, enamelled work and metal coins are highly admired the world over.

Heera Bai, a 70-year-old resident of the walled city area, said: ‘I like it that the young generation buys a product which has a long history. The lac items have seen changes, but now they look more pretty.’

‘When I was young, wearing black colour lac bangles was considered inauspicious and a symbol of misfortune. But times have changed. Today, they have become more of a style statement. Golden and white colours are equally preferred,’ she added.

The process of making lac jewellery is complex. The artisans have to toil for hours to give shape and design to lac articles.

‘We have to work on the hot furnaces where lac is melted to give the shape of the bangle and other items. Later, it is festooned accordingly. And the same exercise is done in the summers under the blazing sun,’ said Rahim, a lac item manufacturer.

‘However, we enjoy doing this,’ he added.

(Anil Sharma can be contacted at anil.s@ians.in)

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