We endeavor to bring you interesting stories of Udaipur and its people under the People of Udaipur segment of UdaipurTimes. Today’s story is about a father-son duo who introduced handmade paper to Udaipur and built their reputation in the domestic and international market by manufacturing, trading and preparing products of handmade paper.
Feroz Hussain Kagzi is a resident of Udaipur and runs his business at their generations old shop in the Bada Bazaar market of Udaipur. Feroz, in an exclusive interaction with UdaipurTimes, gave an account of how he and his father Abbas Ali manufactured and sold handmade paper. In 1985, Feroz Hussain joined his father and grandfather at their shop in 1985. In a candid conversation, he revealed that his father Abbas Ali was the first person in Udaipur to launch handmade paper and handmade paper products.
It was the time of the British Raj in India, when their shop, which was in the book binding business was a source of the legacy Bahi Khata and book binding supply to the local market and British administrators. Gradually foreign tourists also began to frequent their shop and it was when a few tourists introduced Abbas Ali to handmade paper, did he begin his exploration and foray into this business. Before this handmade paper was an unknown product in Udaipur. Abbas Ali explored nearby areas and sourced handmade paper from Ghosunda in Chittorgarh. Handmade Paper was used by the British government official for their official documents and registers. This became the USP of their shop at Bada Bazar. It was not long, before the local people began to understand the quality and durability of this product. Handmade Paper began to be sought for painting and sketching. Feroz said that the recognition of the availability of this product in their shop earlier by the British and then by foreign tourists led them to foray into the export market. Abbas Ali began the export business in 1981.
Elaborating further, Feroz said that handmade paper was available in different colors like red, yellow, khaki, green, black, etc. His father Abbas Ali earlier used to bind handmade books and after him Feroz starting making the handmade diaries and even started binding the books. He further added that real quality handmade papers were sold by them, which were made from Ssoapstone and Bamboo. Nowadays, factory made paper is produced. He explained that real life of factory made paper is not more than two year, while the real quality handmade paper survives more than 50 years.
Feroz showed his personal handmade diary to the UdaipurTimes team members. It was filled with vintage photographs of him and his father with the International customers. Collection of letters, postcards, stamps and photos are visible in these pictures. They received several letters of appreciation for their quality of handmade paper from foreigners. People from Spain, Australia, Hong Kong, USA, Israel, Egypt, New York and France visited and liked their handmade paper products.
The enormous untapped potential of handmade paper sector cannot be disregarded in a world where the emphasis is shifting to environment friendly products and manufacturing methods. The major constraint, which turned out to be the nemesis of handmade paper was the lack of demand, as factory made paper began to be produced in huge quantities and was cheaper due to its lower production cost. Feroz is the last of his family across the generation who sold handmade papers. Nobody in his family will further continue in this business, he added. The COVID years, drying up of the tourist market (tourists were still interested in their handmade paper and handmade paper products), availability of branded machine made cheap paper, dearth of quality handmade paper in the market led to the decline and ultimate shutting down of this stream of business, he said.
Approximately 3,000 individuals are presently employed in this industry, according to Feroz. People employed in this field have direct connections to nations like Spain, Germany, France, and the United States. He mentioned that during his father's time the cost of one handmade paper was 5 paisa and now the cost of one paper is Rs.35.
When asked whether the business of making handmade paper would continue, Feroz Hussain shrugged and responded that the handmade paper will eventually disappear from the market in the coming years.
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