0640 GMT September 17, 2019
Iran is well-known for hand-woven carpets. However, rivals have overtaken Iran in carpet exports.
Based on the latest figure released by Iran's Customs Administration, export of hand-woven and machine-made carpets reached $330 million during the year to March 2015. Iran has a five-percent share in world carpet production.
Some experts attributed the low trade in Iranian carpets to lack of proper designs to suit customers' preferences.
Iran Daily interviewed Arash Heydarian, a top designer of Iranian carpets. Excerpts of the interview follow:
IRAN DAILY: Your family has been involved in the production and distribution of hand-woven and machine-made carpets for the past 150 years. You kept up the family tradition and succeeded in doing it. Why did you choose this craft? What is your field of study?
HEYDARIAN: I studied Materials Science and Engineering at Sharif University of Technology. After graduating in 2001, I started to sell and produce carpet for domestic and overseas markets.
As a well-known merchant in Iranian carpet export, you have gained honor for the country. How do you evaluate the rate of Iranian carpet exports in recent years?
Before the Western sanctions, there was a thriving market for Iranian carpets. Unfortunately, the carpet market has experienced many ups and downs in the past four years.
Based on official figures released by Iran National Carpet Center, the export of Iranian carpets reached $495 million in value and 8,000 tons in weight during 2009. The figure declined to 7,000 tons and worth $560 million in 2011.
Carpet export further declined to 5,000 tons and $315 million in 2013.
However, the weight and value of carpet exports rose to 6,000 tons and $330 million respectively in 2014.
If we want to solve the problems of carpet exports, we should create new designs.
What countries are the major rivals of Iranian carpets?
Although Iranian carpets have higher quality, carpet traders of countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal have attracted more customers.
What countries are customers of Iranian carpets?
Germany, the UAE, the US, Lebanon, Italy and Japan are the top customers of Iranian carpets — interested in quality of Iranian carpets rather than designs.
You managed to become a top carpet producer in Iran's International Carpet Fair held several months ago. You also won the prize of top designer from Germany's carpet design competition in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Do you think the only reason for the low turnover of Iranian carpets in global markets is the failure to use modern designs?
The design of Iranian carpets is classic. This is while, customers usually prefer modern designs. In addition, the customers are reluctant to purchase Iranian carpets due to high prices.
It is customary for famous brands in each field to establish workshops or factories in other nations to globalize their products. This will help them lower their costs and strengthen their positions in those nations.
The absence of Iranian carpet production workshop or factory in other nations will raise production costs because of the involvement of middlemen in carpet trade. This will reduce the customers.
Although Iranian carpets are produced by villagers and local people of every city, an alternative should be adopted to deal with price hike.
What is your solution for overcoming these problems?
At first, we should build brand for our carpets. Each brand should produce its own designs and products. We should create identity for Iranian carpet.
Iranian carpets are diverse. Initially, we should publicize them well, and then create changes in them.
The government should also help set up carpet-weaving workshops to raise exports.
Apart from producing and exporting carpets, you launched handicraft shops which drew many customers. This also attracted the attention of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization. You are a frontrunner in selling handicrafts in a modern way. How do you assess your success?
At first, I tried to sell things to be used by people in daily life. The majority of our handicrafts including potteries, ceramics and carpets have been made according to the taste of people who lived one century ago. Therefore, we should modernize them.
We had good sales through modernizing some handicraft items. Today, we have two modern handicraft shops. We seek to launch four others in Lebanon, Germany, Italy and the US.
How can the government help the handicraft industry create a promising market across the world?
At first, we should introduce the handicrafts of our country to the world. The government can help the artisans by lowering the costs of taking part in handicraft exhibitions.