Mar 01 - 07, 2003



YACOOB SALEHJI, is a leading carpet exporter. He is the Chief of Shalamar Carpet Private Limited. An active member of different trade bodies Yacoob has served the carpet trade as the Chairman of Association of Hand-Knotted Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters in the year 2000-01. It was his tenure during which he took the hand-knotted carpet exports to the unprecedented heights. During that year the total export of hand-knotted carpets from Pakistan touched the highest mark to the tune of $299 million. Yacoob is the member of the Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Commerce, Member of the FPCCI Committees Aviation and Export Processing Zones.

PAGE: Pakistan is a major producer of hand-knotted carpets, where does it stand in the world market, i.e. share of Pakistani carpets in the global market.

YACOOB: The demand of Pakistani hand-knotted carpets is tremendous in the world market; whatever is produced in Pakistan is almost exported. The more the production the more you can export; there is no dearth of demand for this product.

PAGE: What steps are required to increase the volume of production?

YACOOB:: Unlike other manufacturing sectors, the hand-knotted industry is basically a cottage industry which can be started even without electricity in a small house. This particular nature enables the women in rural areas to earn bread and butter while sitting at home. This trade does not consume any sort of imported raw material because almost the entire raw material used is produced within the country. However, lack of a strong institutional support to organize this trade at a massive scale hampering its growth to the desired level. It has the potential to cross the mark of $500 million in a short span of time if the organizing and pooling resources are properly looked after.

PAGE: What steps you would suggest organizing this industry?

YACOOB:: In fact, hand-knotted industry in Pakistan had a strong manpower support from Afghan refugees. These large number of Afghan refugees had a peculiar weaving skill of Central Asian designs and color scheme. After remixing with Pakistani skill and traditionally Moghal designs, the hand-knotted carpets produced here were blended with a fascinating product have great demand especially in the West. However, after return of the Afghan refugees to their home land, over 4 lakh Afghan weavers left for their country which created a gap of the manpower as well as decline in volume of production. It is because of the decline in production that the export volume is also on the decline from $299 in 2001 to $240 in 2002 and $220 in 2003. It is feared the export volume of further decline at the end of the current year.



PAGE: Why don't you arrange supply line from Afghanistan as they are always trading through Pakistan?

YACOOB: Yes it could be arranged, but after opening of the air passage from India to Afghanistan, there is a mad rush of Indian carpet exporters in Kabul who lift the entire lot for re-export under Indian label. As far as Pakistani exporters are concerned they avoid traveling because of security risk in that country.

PAGE: Growing rate of poverty and un-employment is a serious problem in Pakistan. Since this sector can contribute significantly to address the issue, what is required to impart training to the people especially in the rural areas?

YACOOB: Actually, as far as the financial help is concerned, the banking sector is providing export re-financing at the cheapest rate that is below 3 per cent, however for the small units, poor people have no access to the banking facilities due to lack of education and cumbersome procedures adopted by the banking system for disbursement of advances. The micro-financing system which is getting its roots in our society can play a much greater role to promote such industries in Pakistan. There is also need for training centers in the rural and remote parts of the country for creating skilled manpower for this industry. However, since the government's main interest is currently with the macro-economic development, the public sector organization responsible for promoting such economic activity at micro level are taking least interest. There is a need of a spark among such organizations to give retain our position in the export market.

PAGE: You are talking about great demand for hand-knotted carpets, would you like to identify countries the main buyers of this costly product?

YACOOB: Traditionally, the Western countries like UK, Germany, France, Belgium and the United States are the major buyers of hand-knotted carpets because of their exciting beauty and comforts of wool in below freezing point temperatures. This market is going to further expand next year with the inclusion of ten more East European countries into the club of European Union. The expansion in the EU would mean increase in demand for hand-knotted in that region. We can take advantage of this available market by increasing volume of production.