A pack of rosogollas, a pouch of Darjeeling tea, a piece of Ray, an exquisite kantha sari. This could be your last-minute shopping list before boarding a flight from Kolkata airport.
The best of Bengal has been brought under one roof in a 1600-sq ft glasshouse that showcases all that the state is famous for like never before.
The first Biswa Bangla store, which opened in the domestic section of the airport’s security hold in the last week of February, is already a hit with fliers. Daily sales have been more than Rs 1 lakh on an average so far, said an official closely associated with the project.
The government-run store is the brainchild of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and has been set up by the Department of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises & Textiles.
“For the first time, all exclusive products of Bengal, from sweets to muslin saris, have been made available under one umbrella. The marketing strategy is different from the familiar (and sleepy) Manjusha or Tantuja stores,” said Rajiva Sinha, the secretary in charge of the department.
The response from fliers has prompted airport officials to write to the state government to set up a similar store in the international wing of the security hold. “We chose the security hold as fliers spend the maximum time there, waiting to board flights,” airport director BP Sharma said.
Items available at the store
A sneak peek into the store
Rosogolla, nolen gurer sandesh, langcha and mihidana are the pop picks here.
This is the first time passengers can carry rosogolla in their hand baggage as these are brought to the store for sale after a security scan, just like duty-free products at international terminals.
“I had earlier taken rosogolla and other sweets in registered baggage and they got spoilt. This (the store in the security hold) is a very convenient addition,” said Mumbai resident Manish Desara.
Sweet-maker Bancharam retails some of its products out of the airport facility — it was selected through tender — but is not allowed to sell langcha and mihidana. Langcha is procured from Shaktigarh and mihidana from Burdwan.
Best of Bengal
If sweets top the list of favourites, Darjeeling tea, apparel, amsotto and kasundi (both from Malda), jute bags, and brass and silver jewellery are also in demand. The prices of items in the jewellery section range between Rs 150 and Rs 10,000. Jute bags with an ‘I love Bengal’ logo on them have been specially designed for the store.
Indigo-dyed saris are being produced by weavers in Nadia’s Phulia. The hand-spun and hand-woven yarn is dyed in indigo and then woven into Jamdani saris.
The Biswa Bangla store at the Kolkata airport
Khadi shirts for men, silk kurtis for women, Kantha and Jamdani matka saris, and shawls are available at the store.
Special-edition CDs of Bengali folk music including baul, Tagore and Nazrul songs, and Mahsishasur Mardini have been produced for the store. Also selling like hot singaras are iconic films of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak.
The department of small-scale enterprises and textiles has handpicked artisans and weavers from across Bengal to supply products to its Biswa Bangla store. Nearly 1000 artisans and weavers have been trained so far. There are no middlemen involved. The products come directly from artisans and weavers and the profits are distributed to them.
The design consultants travel to the villages to meet the weavers and artisans and discuss exclusive designs for various Biswa Bangla products.
An aerial view of the store
In January, the state government hired a team of eight consultants through a bidding process to develop niche handicraft and handloom products.
The team’s brief was to establish Biswa Bangla as a brand, give the concept shape and set up the required infrastructure over six months.
There are designers and consultants working on shop management, branding, packaging and marketing. Around 15 store employees conversant in English and Hindi work in two shifts. The idea is to train them in such a way that if a flier enquires, any of the employees should be able to explain the speciality of a patachitra design from Midnapore or the uniqueness of a particular variety of rice.
Brand experts say that to make Biswa Bangla popular, it should stock the ‘best products’ and ensure the ‘finest packaging’.