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Striking it rich

What does Ramzan have to do with a surge in carrom board exports? A lot, especially if you are a small-time manufacturer in Meerut.

twitter-logoManu Kaushik | Print Edition: Nov 4, 2007

What does Ramzan have to do with a surge in carrom board exports? A lot, especially if you are a small-time manufacturer in Meerut.

Tucked away in an old locality of Meerut, 65 km from Delhi, at 3Ace International, a group of 30 workers is slogging it out round-the-clock cutting, dyeing, polishing and finishing the wooden boards to perfection. However, the 27-year-old proprietor of the unit Sachin Katiyar is a worried man. It’s already the beginning of September and there’s no way he can meet the export orders for 21,000 units of these boards—there’s not enough wood. A two-year-old entrant into the business, he is dazed by the sudden spurt in demand for his product. Katiyar, it seems, is still learning the rules of the game. The veteran players in the business call it an annual phenomenon with an unexpected connection.

Game for more

This unmatched frenzy at Meerut, a sports goods manufacturing hub of India, is triggered by the preparations for the Holy month of Ramzan in the Gulf countries. Sales of carrom boards in countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain increase by almost 50 per cent in the month of Ramzan, the fasting period that culminates in Id-Ul-Fitr, the biggest festival for Muslims. “During this period, the timing of the offices changes in the Gulf countries. People work from 9 in the evening till 4:30 in the morning and keep their shops closed during the daytime. Since playing cards is considered haram (profane), people prefer to play carrom that is considered a great leisure activity for the entire family,” says Anil Mahajan, Director, Himco International, an export unit based in Meerut.

Anil Mahajan is one of the 300-odd manufacturers of carrom boards, bulk of whose business happens two months preceding Ramzan. For the minuscule Rs 30-crore industry, three-fourths of the business is generated by the Gulf countries. “While carrom boards are exported all through the year, the order books swell in the month preceding Ramzan when bulk orders from the Gulf countries start coming. All the orders are dispatched 15 days prior to Ramzan,” he adds.

Traditionally as well, Arab countries account for a large chunk of the total carrom board exports from India. Says Kuldip Mahajan, Proprietor, Hind Sports, a manufacturer with more than five decades of experience in carrom board making: “This is both because of the huge numbers of expatriates from South Asia diaspora such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka there, and also because of the increasing local market for the product.” Mahajan exported over 6,000 units of carrom boards before Ramzan this year as against an average of 4,000 units in the rest of the months.

So crucial is the Ramzan period for these players that certain bigger manufacturers continue to make carrom boards throughout

 Treading the Board

Prospective big markets for carrom board makers.
US: Carrom is becoming more and more popular in the United States. Exports of carrom boards from India are growing at a healthy rate of 15 per cent annually.
UK: Once considered a mere pastime, carrom is now being played at competitive level in an organised manner throughout the UK. Carrom board exports from India have jumped more than 20 per cent in the
last one year. People in the UK generally prefer to play on the thick plywood surface.
France: France has a market of over
15,000 carrom boards per year. People
from the Indian subcontinent are the majority buyers of carrom boards in the country. They find carrom a great substitute to billiards as it takes up less room and is very affordable. France is hosting the 5th World Carrom Championship in 2008.
Japan: The demand for carrom boards made out of sheesham (golden rosewood) and teakwood is the highest in Japan. People in Japan prefer to play on bigger carrom boards – 36”X36” and above—as against the standard international size of 32”X32”.
 (Source: BT Research)
the entire year, store them and do the finishing at the time of Ramzan for the export market.

It’s thanks to these small and big carrom board manufacturers that Meerut has emerged as one of the top sport goods hubs of the country. Known for its large-scale production of carrom boards, Meerut is at par with Mumbai and Jalandhar as the other major centre of carrom board manufacturing. Mumbai is known for the high-end production and thus, is not considered part of the mass market.

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