Geographical Indications on a Hunt for the Next Darjeeling Tea!

Geographical Indications on a Hunt for the Next Darjeeling Tea!

The rich cultural and regional diversity of India is today lurking from the shadows to see the rays of survival in this world dominated by counterfeits, fast fashion, and technologically driven designs. India, the homeland of famous silks, tea, and artifacts has a total of 370 GIs registered[1] but only a few have an international presence or national appeal and most of which are unknown to many Indians too. The aim of this article is to understand the reasons behind the underdeveloped state of GIs in India. 

It would not be wrong to say that it is only the Darjeeling tea amongst other GIs that has great international demand and economic value. In terms of it being an organized industry that carries out production and distribution under the supervision of the Tea Board India. The Imperial legacy adjunct with the plantation movement under the helm of Colonial India has proved vital for the spread of Darjeeling tea across the world. The contribution of eminent writers like Mark Twain and Rabindranath Tagore has added to the glory of Darjeeling tea.[2] In modern times, the success of Darjeeling tea can be attributed to the protection granted by various IP laws. The registration of Darjeeling tea as a GI, trademark, and copyright not only in India but across the world. In the European Union, it is registered as Community Mark and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) mark and Certificate Trade Mark (CTM) in UK, USA, Australia, and Taiwan has awarded legal protection to Darjeeling tea and saved it from brand harm caused due to counterfeits.[3]

Unlike Darjeeling tea, there is hardly any other GI that has garnered an international demand. Some notable exceptions are Nagpur Oranges from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, Basmati Rice Mysore Silk, Kancheepuram Silk, East India Leather, Malda Laxman Bhog Mango, Kashmir Pashmina, Nashik Valley Wine, Kolhapuri Chappal (thanks to the Hippie Movement in the US)[4] are some of the few GIs in India which have a noticeable international and national presence. But the demand majorly springs from neighboring countries and from some loyal customers in some far-off countries. This reflects the sorry state of affairs in which the GIs are operating in India today. In the next segment, we look at the causes and steps that can be taken to ensure that the GIs in India is a global brand and help the dying traditional industries survive.

Causes for Stagnant GIs:-

1.  Lack of awareness: the GIs registered in India are not very popular in India itself and a lot of people are unaware even about their existence. It is generally only the local people who are aware of the craft.

2.  Inactive existence: Most of the GIs in India have only a registered existence with no full-scale operation in place.[5] Most of the GIs are not even renewed after their term expiry which spans for 10 years from registration.

3.  Lack of organizational setup: Most of the GIs in India do not have a board looking after their demands and requirements. This can be found in the case of Tea Board India and the Darjeeling Tea Board which looks after the development of tea as a final product and welfare of employees working in the tea plantations.  

4.  Low governmental incentives: Most of the GIs in India are carried out by local and less privileged artisans who have to depend on multiple sources for income which leads to the loss of art when these people discontinue their artistic work.

Steps to Revamp the GIs:-

1.  Setting up of category-specific conglomerates: the power of conglomerates is well known and visible in modern times. Conglomerate giants like LVMH and Kering have posed the best luxury and sustainable model which is also economically rewarding. It is high time that the Indian GIs incorporate the models practiced by LVMH and Kering. GIs in India can be divided into product differentiation lines, for eg. Manufacturers of clothing items can be clustered under one conglomerate and the manufacturers of food items can be clubbed under another conglomerate. These categories of GIs can now work under one regulatory authority and the same body would be responsible for the development and growth of the GI category. By creating such government-sanctioned bodies the GIs could now be brought under the organized sector and these industries could be exploited to reap out the best.   

2.  Collaborations: the number one rule of marketing and merchandising today is collaborations. Collaborations with major brands, designers, top restaurants, and chefs can have magical effects on the status of GI. For example, the Loewe basket weave which can be easily manufactured by the screw pine craft weavers of Kerala which received GI way back in the year 2008-09 but has not received national or international acceptance. Famous Indian designers like Anita Dongre[6] and Sabyasachi Mukherjee[7] have been actively promoting local artisanry. The effort of these designers has led to the awareness and acknowledgment of artistic work across the world.

The journey to a successfully established GI is a long drawn one, unlike the Darjeeling tea which had the British backing. Most of the GIs today are left on their own and without much governmental support which impedes the growth and ensures the untimely death of these valuable cultural, social, and economic assets. Timely effort and active participation by all stakeholders of the countries could help GIs gain the national and international repute that they much deserve.








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