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Tibetan Woollen Sellers Are a Worried Lot as Mummbai Sweats

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 05/12/06; December 6, 2005.]

Chandan Kishore Kant / Mumbai
Business Standard, India
December 06, 2005

Though December has set in, the Tibetan woollen vendors in Parel see few signs of good times ahead in Mumbai. The month, which usually registers sales of Rs 3,000 per day, is currently witnessing pitiable sales of Rs 800 to Rs 2,000 per day. In the peak of the season (December and January), sales even reach to Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per day.†

These woollen sellers stay in the city for 3 to 4 months between October to January. The current season seems bleak for them as sales have still to pick up.†

"There is no guarantee of a winter in Mumbai. Even in December the weather is so hot. But since it is a huge city, we manage to find some buyers every day," said Passang, who has a stint with Indian Army earlier. An old woman, who has been coming to the city for the last eleven years, said with a sad note, "There is very little sale nowadays."†

Normally, on every thousand rupee sale the profit margin is Rs 100. "In the season, our profit goes up to Rs 200 to Rs 250," said Passang.†††

Based in Karnataka, these Tibetan refugees source most of their stocks from Ludhiana, Delhi and Chetok (situated between Nepal and Tibet). Bank loans play an important role in their trade.†

"We take loans from banks for investing in the business," said a seller. A misconception among buyers is that the the woollens are from Tibet. "We do not buy from Tibet as it would be very expensive due to high transport cost. It's easier for us to get our supplies from Ludhiana and Delhi," said a seller. However, there are some who source from Chetok as well.†

"Our stock is from Chetok. Generally the stock from Chetok is of a better quality and the prices are a little higher. But many buyers insist on lower prices," said Passang.†

Again there is a stiff competition from woollen sellers from Uttar Pradesh who sell cheap.†

The clothes on offer include caps, sweaters, mufflers, gloves, shawls and jackets. And the price starts as low as Rs 20 to Rs 300. Jackets are available at Rs 400. "We have all the necessities for winters but see how hot it is even today in December," said a seller.†

Being refugee in India since 1959, the Indian government has helped more than 1,30,000 Tibetans settle in the country.†

"Even though staying on footpath, we are not removed by the municipal corporation as we are refugee. But sometimes we also have to face their action," said a seller.†

Besides Tibetan refugees, people from Karnataka have also ventured into this business.†

What happens if they are left with the clothes by the end of their stay in Mumbai?†

"There's lot of bargaining here. We canít afford to have a fixed price. Otherwise, we will end up having no business," said the sellers. But leftover clothes are put back in godowns to be used next year.† Meanwhile, the Tibetan woollen sellers are seeking a separate market place for themselves.††

"We want a separate market in Mumbai as elsewhere in the country," said a vendor at Parel. Currently, they are spread all over the city. They can be seen in action at Victoria Terminus, Grant Road, Mulund and Thane.†

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