I have attended too many trade fairs without a clear purpose. I would speak to designers as an advisor, work with them as a design management consultant, and give the best advice I could, still…

I once went with a client to a trade fair in the UK and almost had to drag him to meet people at their stands. So clearly there are creatives out there who just don’t enjoy speaking to people at trade fairs and perhaps don’t think it’s their place. Others might enjoy speaking to strangers but may fail to get some crucial points or questions across:

What I do at stands:

  • ask exhibitors about how their company works in terms of production, expertise, commissioning, sales, etc
  • be as clear as possible about how I work (this is the difficult bit!)
  • keep the conversation to the right length
  • make simple promises.

I found that companies were very happy to speak to an intermediary as it means fewer, more informed enquiries.

When I first tested On A Mission with a designer in Milan last year, I asked a lot of questions including how companies want to be approached by designers, how they select designers they work with and when is the best time in the year to contact them.

In India I now have a sense of how people work, alongside an historical overview of the companies I’ve met and their specialities. I have met people face to face – an important aspect of my time here as business in India, much like most other places, is based on human interaction. In Delhi I stopped at a stand and, as the conversation developed, got to hear how the company interacted with large businesses. They often found their relationship with bigger companies was too one-sided. They therefore tend to work with medium sized companies, with whom they are more on a par, or smaller ones that they can help grow.

Such information is crucial to my work. It adds a new flavour to the nature of the information I collect and makes the exchange more personal. Don’t you think that there is a paradox here?  You either play to the big confident guys, speaking like robots or you share failures and learning and engage successfully on a human level?

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If you are travelling to India’s large cities for work or leisure… I’d recommend you pack or pick up the following:

  • earplugs
  • sun cream with a high spf (best to bring your own)
  • something warm to wear in restaurants, shops, theatres, galleries, cars, trains and other places with air conditioning for example a pashmina shawl or a cardi, depending on your style and gender
  • mosquito repellent –  the local brands are effective
  • a local sim card, convenient to call taxis and hotels.

Besides the emergency numbers, save a few reliable taxi numbers. In Delhi I used Easy Cabs quite a lot, they are good value for money, offer a reliable service and they have meters!

leaving for India

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There are some very interesting companies showing at Tex Style India 2010. Definitely a key event for companies seeking production of home furnishing products. Besides the usual items found in the average Indian souvenir shop or Emporium, everything textile can be made in India especially in the Panipat District.

Natural, organic, synthetic and mixed fibres, traditional and modern processes are all here from yarn to the final packaged product.

Business attitudes are quite open-minded and meet generally accepted international standards.

  • Copyright is respected
  • Minimum orders can be catered for in some instances, ie: larger and more complex pieces can be manufactured in dozens
  • Lead time: up to 15 days for sampling, 60 days for a first order
  • A diverse technology; some companies can provide both hand and machine made pieces
  • Business models are transparent and include artisan workers’ co-operatives, engineer-led textile companies and family businesses, amongst others

I was very sensitive to the ability of these business owners to take the time to explain how their manufacturing company works, how they enjoy collaborating with smaller companies, their understanding of and supply to European design brands and that they can be wary of buying agents.

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I am wondering when handbags “made in India” will take over “made in Italy”. Yes, it’s not a myth. There are many large brands who manufacture in India but don’t publicise it. The quality is good. Many Indian companies are BSCI certified and are willing to open their doors to their clients. One company director told me that having this certification is the only way for a leather goods manufacturer to survive on the international market.

I’ve seen very modern looking bags with a great level of fine detailing. Many suppliers offer a wide array of technology to transform leather and source skins hailing from India to Brazil or Italy.

Interestingly many won’t supply to the Indian market directly, local taste is different. Ironically, the richest probably buy from European brands who discretly manufacture in India.

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I’m off to the region of leather work. I will also be looking at homeware, textiles and rugs.


I am both curious and excited to attend my first trade fair in India. After Kolkata, I am heading to New Delhi then Agra which, besides being the home of the Taj Mahal, is the centre of quality leather slippers and leather footware making.

real green fake grass

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The first thing I’m getting made in India is a rubber stamp showing my name and local mobile number to print on my existing business cards. Finding a place to get it made is easy; you just have to process a lot of makeshift signs that say, amongst other things, “rubber stamp”.

I go to the first one I find. It’s a tiny stand in an average building that houses many other small businesses. I explain what I want to the man there, show him my business card and indicate where and what I want the stamp to print. It’s a mere Rs150… I resist the Rs400 offer of a self inking stamp.

When I go back, it’s a different man. He seems to know what I’m there for and without uttering a word, simply demonstrates how my new stamp works. There are two spelling mistakes in my name.  Since I left my card with my name in print, there’s little to discuss and I’m promised it will be done the following day.

Back in the car my driver tells me: “Ma’am, in India, to get something made you need to come 2 or 3 times”.

When I finally pick up the stamp, the name is spelt right but the number has an extra digit, which was not there in the first place. This minor mistake is swiftly erased: the rubber stamp shop keeper takes it off with a knife and a smile. I also makes it easier to read.

The final mistake is mine. Since most of my business cards are coated the ink does not stay on. If you need something made make sure it’s a really good idea.

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