If one is to go purely by numbers, one can see the success story of Tantuja and Manjusha, the rejuvenation of which has been led by Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Both these entities, once ailing due to financial crisis, are now making record operational profits. The products of these state government undertakings are now among ‘best buy’ products at e-commerce websites such as Amazon and Flipkart.
Tantuja, the Bengal State Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society, made a record operational profit in 2015-16 of Rs 3.5 crore against a turnover of Rs 123.19 crore. In 2014-15, the profit margin was Rs 2.05 crore against a turnover of Rs 106.67 crore.
On the other hand, the West Bengal Handicrafts Development Corporation, popularly known as Manjusha, achieved its first operational profit of Rs 3.15 crore since 1976. Since the two entities are now profit-making bodies, they are planning to become self-sufficient within the next two years. If they succeed, the two entities would no longer require annual share capital worth Rs 5 crore provided by the state government.
The state government of Bengal established these two entities several decades ago to promote weaving and craftsmanship, which are part of Bengal’s unique culture. However, militant trade unionism and poor work culture turned Tantuja and Manjusha into loss-making entities and a burden to the government.
“They were told, either perform or perish, your job will exist if the organisations will exist. So work hard, work passionately to rejuvenate it,” said Swapan Debnath, Minister of State for Micro and Small Scale Enterprises and Textiles.
The Chief Minister, who is the Minister-in-charge of the same portfolio, led the transition of the two bodies and has received acclaim from across the nation. The question, though, is what she did to push these ailing bodies into the path of profit.
“Mamata-di instructed us to bring variety in everything – from apparel to bedding; we are now even making wedding saarees, an alternative to Banarasi. This is Puja time, hence sales are experiencing an upsurge,” Debnath replied.
The main business trick that Banerjee utilised to turn around the two bodies was branding, which gave a global platform to their products.
The state government agreed to provide capital expenditure to these entities, but made it clear that operational expenses were to be met from sales. A game changer was the setting up of upscale showrooms under the aegis of Biswa Bangla, the Chief Minister’s brainchild.
The Biswa Bangla franchise, promoted by the Biswa Bangla Marketing Corporation, aims to promote Bengal’s art and craft at a global level through conservation, revival and marketing. It was possible only because Biswa Bangla is a social scheme. The operating profit of Biswa Bangla is ploughed back to the artisans and weavers engaged in the venture. Biswa Bangla has revived many heritage products of Bengal since its establishment in 2014.
Tantuja, set up in 1945, has already won the esteemed Images Retail Award in Mumbai. It has also been recognised as the ‘best turnaround story’ by the country’s biggest retail platform, Indian Retail Forum (IRF). The award was given for its innovative branding, marketing and retailing strategy and concept building, after having been a loss-making company for the last 25 years.
Tantuja is planning to introduce a range of organic cotton products and diversified linen products. It is also planning to take up marketing of India Handloom Brand products. Three more outlets will be added to the brand’s existing network of 68 stores in Bengal and 15 showrooms in other states. The plan of building the showrooms overseas is in the pipeline. Business can be conducted successfully in small sectors too, as has been proven by the Chief Minister to many investors.