GUWAHATI: If the goal was to generate curiosity and interest among so-called mainlanders to familiarize themselves with, understand, explore, and discover a region that is still not well-known, then a four-day carnival-like festival in the national capital was a complete success.
The 10th edition of the North East Festival at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi came to a close on Monday, following four days of stellar performances by artistes, meaningful discussions by experts, and a large turnout.
The festival offered people at the national capital, and thousands more who flocked from outside, a carnival-like ambience where they could explore several stalls showcasing the region’s food and handicrafts, live music and dance.
The open mic sessions kept the visitors engaged throughout the day and late evenings, while serious discussions on the business and economy of the region brought together stakeholders, government officials, tour operators, and development partners to discuss parameters for building a formidable investment climate to create a flourishing business and tourism destination in India.
The chief organiser of the North East Festival, Shyamkanu Mahanta, said, “As anticipated, the festival was a roaring success. We witnessed a fabulous turnout during the festival as thousands of visitors turned up at the venue. Our entire team worked relentlessly for several months to organise this festival, and the response received is worth all the effort.”
“More importantly, people outside the Northeast are now showing interest in the region to visit the states there and explore the rich culture and heritage it has to offer,” Mahanta said.
“Several entrepreneurs who had put up stalls made good business. We are thankful to all the artists, entrepreneurs, government officials, stakeholders, people of Delhi, and everyone involved directly or indirectly for their support. We cannot wait to announce the details of the 11th edition,” he added.
The Khati Axomiya Exaaj stall, which has been a part of the North East Festival since 2014, churned up Rs 2.5 lakh in just four days.
The owner of the stall, Priyanku Bharadwaj, said, “Duck fry, pork with til (sesame seeds), and smoked pork were some of the best-sellers. People were eager and excited to taste Assam’s kaji nemu (lemon) and bhoot jolokia (king chilli). Momos served with fiery bhoot jolokia chutney and clear soup was another favourite to beat the winter chill. We are very happy with the revenue generated.”
On the other hand, Pooja and Liza of Tea Talks sold more than 250 cups of tea per day.
“This is our first time running a business venture. We were extremely nervous initially but the immense response we received from the visitors has now encouraged us to open a tea café in North Delhi. Our varieties such as Bluepea Tea, Orthodox Black, Masala Tea, and Lemongrass Tea were loved by all. We actually made double the invested money. We are so thankful to the organisers of the festival for this opportunity,” said Liza.
Anamika Deb Deka, founder, Qjel India, too, a first-timer at the festival, received positive response for her copper jewellery.
“The response has been overwhelming. I am happy that after two years, my business finally gained some positive momentum. I have got three collaboration deals during the festival from fellow entrepreneurs from Sikkim and Guwahati. The Delhi crowd too has shown immense love for North Eastern ethnic jewellery,” she said.
Moreover, Manas Jyoti Bora’s Organic Tea Farming stall at the festival became a centre of attraction for their unique tea blends, especially White Tea.
“We sold a great quantity of White Tea and have also received several orders. Other best-sellers include red and black rice. We export these products to Canada – which is our biggest market – and a few more countries as well. At the North East Festival, I was able to make great contacts. It’s a fantastic platform for entrepreneurs like us looking to expand our horizons,” Bora said.
Besides, DB’s Wardrop’s Lakhimi Baruah and Biplobee Gogoi also expressed their joy to have made huge profits on pickles and clothes.
“Our pickles, local-style ‘purona nemu nimokh diya (salted, old lemon pickle), jolphai (olive) and bhoot jolokia, received a lot of love. People also bought our jams and marmalades, along with Assam weaves. Overall, we generated Rs 2 lakh which surpassed our expectations,” remarked Biplobee.
It may be mentioned that the festival had returned to its original venue – Delhi – after a two-year hiatus triggered by the pandemic.
Curious visitors were also seen enquiring about travel prospects and packages with several showing interest to learn about the rich culture and heritage of the region through professional tourism courses.
“I have read about North East India but never got a chance to visit the region. However, I would love to plan a trip to the tea gardens of Assam. I tasted some regional varieties at the North East Festival and was amazed to know about their origin and other details. I even ordered a few kilograms of different varieties of tea from two stalls at the fest. Moreover, I also bought a couple of Naga and Manipuri attires. The motifs, fabric and colours are mindblowing,” said an aspiring fashion designer Chandni Makhija from NIIFT, Delhi.
Tea entrepreneur Ranjit Baruah and owner of Guwahati-based start-up, Aromica Tea, sharing his thoughts on tea tourism, said, “We have recently seen a surge in tea tourism. It has the greatest potential for generating income and employment opportunities in the Northeastern states. Some Assam tea tourism entrepreneurs are curating tea tourism trails wherein tourists can stay at the British-style tea bungalows, pluck tea leaves alongside the workers, experience first-hand how tea is processed at a tea factory and then proceed to taste the same with the tea master to appreciate, and understand what makes teas from our the state one of the best in the world.”
“We have full potential to now welcome and educate tourists on the potential of our reserves. North East Festival is doing a fabulous job of highlighting the prospects and giving our tea industry much-needed exposure. Our Aromica Tea stall is also seeing great responses; people are sampling our teas and are willing to explore more,” Baruah said.
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All said and done, the 10th edition of the North East Festival not only celebrated the cultures and traditions of the region but also provided a business window to creative and passionate entrepreneurs. Organisers, investors, and visitors appreciated the ideas stemming from the grassroots.
Entrepreneurs are now hopeful that events like North East Festival will help build linkages with potential stakeholders whose support can improve their prospects in coming years for the larger social good.
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