HYDERABAD: At a stone’s throw from Purani Haveli in Pathargatti, the official residence of the Nizam, 46-year-old Khaleel Ahmed sits inside a picayune-looking shop in a dingy lane working on an age-old art that’s gasping for breath in this era of mechanisation.
Originated in Karnataka’s Bidar, its namesake Bidriware or bidri craft, previously a rage with the Nizams, has rarely any takers now. However, there are many ‘Khaleels’ who leave no stones unturned to keep their livelihood in public sphere.
While engraving the envisioned design on an alloy of 94 per cent zinc and 6 per cent copper, Khaleel, a second generation bidri worker, said, “There’s rarely any walk-in business. Foreigners have stopped coming to our shop and thus, we are increasingly looking towards the Internet for attracting prospective customers.”
Khaleel’s key customer is Telangana State Handicraft’s Development Corporation (TSHDC) who buys in bulk for Golconda handicrafts. Khaleel, apart from having a profile on indiamart.com, an online marketplace that assists manufacturers, also has a profile on Instagram. He opened a blog on Wordpress recently and plans to open a professional website “whatever may be the cost”.
The reason behind the approach towards the cyber space, apart from reaching more customers, is also reaping more profits. Pointing at a bidri horse, he said, “If I sell it to TSHDC, I will get `900 for it. However, if I sell it online, I might get `1,200 for the same.” Khaleel’s customers are also in the form of designing students from NIFT and other colleges. “They want me to work on their designs and they use Google to reach me.”
Similarly, Shafi, an employee of Bidri Crafts located at Gunfoundry said, “There’s rarely any walk-in business and thus slow. However, we have a robust presence on the Internet.” Bidri Crafts’ products are readily available on amazon.com, Shafi said. “I can safely say that we make more sales online than offline.”
However, for more successful bidri shop owners and entrepreneurs, developing an Internet presence needs time, a luxury that they cannot afford.