Monday, July 22, 2024

Shillong Local Trade Fair: A platform to empower small businesses


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Shankar Turha brings to the fore highlights from the Trade Fair, learns about the vision behind its concept, adding to the long term goal of strengthening local entrepreneurial endeavours.

A big banner of ‘Shillong Local Trade Fair’ welcomes you inside the All Saints Hall, which is brightly-lit and intricately decorated to host small business houses from the city to showcase their motley collection and empower local entrepreneurs.

In a short span of three days from June 12-14, the fair at All Saints Hall is a platform to aid the cause of humble home-based businesses. Local entrepreneurs exhibit their products under the umbrella of the organiser, Nadia Dalyn Dkhar, the brain behind successfully running the fair for three years now.

A joyful Dkhar is ecstatic that collaborations with local entrepreneurs and businesses are paving the way for promotion of these small-time businesses through a platform of such open fairs that happen twice every month, drawing individuals who are in dire need of space or infrastructure to sell their products.

Dkhar, who has seen the number of stalls growing over the years, shared the idea of such fairs, and why such events are vital for the economic alleviation and self-reliance of struggling shopkeepers or home-based businesses in the city that lack markets.

 “The fair started in 2022 when we hosted a small event with just five collaborators. Just a group of friends, who were my classmates. I invited them to my store, ‘Fabulous Family Store’ in Mawlai, to explain to them about doing a small fair, and it worked out,” she explained.

 “The idea then took shape when I began renting out the All Saints Hall with the help of Miss Otilia, who was open to the idea even though nobody had done anything like this before,” she said.

 Lauding the success of the fair, Dkhar mentioned that the fair has grown from 5 to 54 stalls in 3 years, with collaborators from across the North East, who are eager to have their items displayed, however, lack of space is a challenge for hosting major players under one banner.

 Narrating the financial aspects involved in the fair and whether the assortment of items at different stalls have a customer base, the lady elucidated that a small amount is charged from the shop owners for the hall rent, but the revenue from the sales goes to the owners.

The Fair, which has all kinds of stalls from food joints, to books, artistry, ceramics, accessories, handlooms, and myriad other things, sees a limited crowd in the morning, but as the day progresses, the number of customers increases, explained one of the shop owners, who thanked Dkhar for her warm nature of helping individuals who have been a regular part of the fair since its inception.

The organiser explained that the public have been supportive, and the response has been positive; otherwise, it would not have been possible to host the fair twice every month, and sustain the fair.

Customers thronging the fair said that one of the key highlights of the fair is the food, which has local cuisine from all districts of the state, besides bakers who have amazing edible items on display.

Sheetal Goyal Agarwal, owner of ‘Happy Bites’, who is a self-taught baker, stated that the fair is a good opportunity for home-based businesses like hers for promotion and getting a customer base, whereby clients make orders once an acquaintance is developed.

Aayushi Choudhary, another food stall owner, was of the view that the platform gives her ample scope to build customer relations, gain insights on valuable customer feeds, and enhance sales.

 The ‘Fabulous Family Store’ had an array of arts and crafts items on display, one of the key attractions of the fair, where hand–made art and crafts adorned the stalls.

One of the shopkeepers explained that the venue is ideally located in close proximity to offices, which draws an audience and potential customers.

For customers visiting the fair, like Bibhudutta Sahu, the main attraction was the food stalls, whereby they appreciated the multi-cultural ethnic cuisines that were sure to tickle their taste buds.

The other attraction of the day that added glitz to the event was the cosplay performance for cosplay enthusiasts to celebrate passion for pop culture and creativity.

For the organisers and shop owners, who see the fair as a viable option for business empowerment, there is still a grey area that poses a challenge amid thriving entrepreneur culture and cut-throat competition in this realm.

 The organiser hopes that in the future, the government or private parties can come forward and promote such businesses through direct or indirect interventions or sponsorships for sustaining such businesses and events.

 It is also noteworthy to mention that there are two other versions of the fair titled ‘Shillong Variety Fair’ and ‘Shillong Local Expo’ that are based on the same concepts.

For the organiser and the stall owners, such opportunities seem enormous; however, it is the public and government’s support that will help such events grow and expand to new horizons, thereby becoming a regular affair in a closed economy like Shillong.


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