Agartala: Tripura was once considered one of the leading players in the Agarbatti or the incense stick industry.
But its popularity fell sharply after foreign players like China and Vietnam entered the domestic market. Small and medium enterprises failed to put up a fight and their space gradually shrunk. However, this industry got a second chance in 2019, when the Government of India hiked the import duty on bamboo meant for the Agarbatti industry by 25 per cent. This has slowly helped bamboo-producing states like Tripura to restore their past glory. The move inspired several new small and medium enterprises. Among the noted Agarbatti unit owners, Agartala’s Mithu Debnath, who founded Tirupati Agarbatti stands out from the crowd for his perseverance, dedication and relentless efforts to make his product count.
Mithu Debnath, the Founder of Tirupati Agarbatti, told EastMojo, “When we started, we would produce 10 to 20 dozen packets. In those days, we used to have a hard time even selling 20 dozen packets. But as of today, we are producing 20 to 30 cartons of incense sticks. Each carton consists of 24 dozen packets.”
Driven by his passion to start his venture, Debnath went to Gujarat before he established his first unit. He underwent training and participated in capacity-building workshops for knowledge gathering. Debnath started his first unit in 2005 but had to wait until 2022 to taste true success. One of the leading companies in the Agarbatti industry, Tiranga Group, has agreed to invest in his new venture. Debnath now has a fully-automated factory in Bodhjung Nagar Industrial Area which cost around Rs 2 crore.
“We are in talks with the government to start a bamboo unit called MTS India. This is because we will be working with one Uttar Pradesh-based company called Tiranga Agarbatti. They are quite popular and have also been awarded the top brand in India. So we will be producing their incense sticks in Tripura which will be exported across Northeast, West Bengal and Bangladesh. I am hopeful of this working out. It will open up avenues for those indulged in bamboo cultivation and the incense stick industry since they will not have to hassle to sell their products,” added Debnath.
While the business is doing well, for now, the industry continues to face a lot of challenges. Debnath explains that transporting his products to other states is one of the biggest hurdles for his enterprise. “Transport is a big problem in Tripura. Bringing goods from Guwahati is much easier. But if one has to send goods from Tripura one has to either fully load a truck or through courier services. Sending 1kg goods will cost Rs 100 to Rs 150 by courier, whereas our profit margin is Rs 10. Even then we tried other methods such as sending through the railway to Silchar but it did not work out. Due to the transportation issue, we are falling behind. Otherwise, we would have been able to increase our sales by threefold,” said Debnath.
When Debnath set up his first unit in the Jayanagar area of Agartala, he was assisted by three workers. Today, he employs 15 workers. Along with production, Debnath also introduced new variants. Today, his unit is producing 60 variants of incensed sticks.
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