As the pandemic subsides, both Diwali and Ningol Chakouba festivals were celebrated on a full scale this year. After two years of living under uncertainties, celebrating these festivals again without the fear of Covid-19 certainly gave that much-needed sense of normalcy and relief to the people, and it was indeed a welcomed sight.
With the relaxation, the city also witnessed a full-scale shopping frenzy among the people with many thronging the markets just as the festive season arrived. For almost a month, the bazaar areas in the city remained chocked full with shoppers pouring in and out at different entry points.
This raised our concerns once again regarding the sale and promotion of local products and indigenous items. Since the market is already filled or captured by imported products, the competition has been tough. Gone are the days when people used to consider imported products as something rare and highly valuable.
With globalization and the boom of online shopping businesses, everything has become accessible with Korean Ramyuns, Kimchis, Belgium Chocolates, etc. being readily available with a single press of a button.
Go to any departmental store in Manipur, one will easily find what one’s aunt bought from Delhi with an extra charge paid at the airport for the extra kilos in carrying those goodies.
Meanwhile, the state government has been fervently pitching for the ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign with various schemes and programmes as well as providing assistance and start-ups to local self-help groups and entrepreneurs in the last few years.
As a positive result, many products made here in the state are now hitting the shelves of many departmental stores and outlets.
However, shoppers still seem to evade or simply walk past these decently packed and attractive local products, clothing items, and snacks despite the constant appeals by many CSOs and agencies to support local products and businesses with a long-term plan to achieve self-reliance.
It is not that hard to find the reasons shoppers still choose to buy imported items over local ones. One needs to take a slight glance at the price tags on these locally-made products. The poor working class simply cannot afford them.
A mere difference of 10 rupees in the pricing when compared to the imported products can be a deal-breaker for many shoppers who are looking to save some cash during their shopping sprees.
One might argue that their pricing is based on reasonable calculations with charges incurred during the processing, transport, GST and everything else added but more needs to be done to woo the local consumers and win their favour.
The efforts to increase awareness, understanding and a sense of belongingness towards the state artisans, entrepreneurs, and businesses need to be established and strengthened among the local populace and consumers. To achieve this, the marketing department needs to take it up a notch in its attempt to sell state-made products.
Those who are engaged in promotion of local products and indigenous items can, perhaps, launch a unique marketing campaign and startegies that can actually convince the shoppers to buy locally made products. There is a need to raise awareness on how buying a simple local product can benefit the producers, bring profits to the general populace and boost the overall economy of the state in the long run.
However, it is not that the care and willingness to support the local producers and their products are absent among the shoppers. In fact, people do take pride in gifting locally made products to one another. The imported products have lost their high desirability due to their wide availability as well. Also, there will be multitudes of people who are willing to buy local products and are empathic towards the local entrepreneurs and artisans, and considerate towards the state’s struggling economy. But they might not be willing or convinced to pay the extra 10 rupees from their hard-earned money.