Features

Business in Jaipur: Gateway to Rajasthan

6 Jun 2016 by Akanksha Maker
Jaipur

An unexpected level of modernisation welcomed me at the Jaipur International Airport. With a number of global airlines offering direct flights to Jaipur, Air Arabia, Etihad Airways, Oman Air, Scoot (begins this year) and Air India Express to name a few, Rajasthan has become growingly accessible. Impressively, Jaipur International Airport was declared by the Airports Council International as the World’s Best Airport in the two to five million passengers per annum category last year. This accolade was substantiated by the staggering number of international passengers that disembarked at this airport. Jaipur is also well-connected by Indian Railways that operate from major cities of India including Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. While the national capital has a bus service to Jaipur every 15 minutes, Agra connects to it with four daily buses.

The state capital of Rajasthan acts as a door into India for most travellers. It is estimated that every third international tourist visiting the country enters through Jaipur. Established as a formal city in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the “pink-city” stands as a marvel in India’s history and architecture. Its rich legacy with generations of residing Maharajas or high kings until 1971 (the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of India demolished all privileges related to princely titles in this year) adds a whiff of royalty to the air even now.

“The state’s historical lineage, culture of hospitality and heritage are the factors that drive travel. Tourism happens to be one of the key growth drivers for Rajasthan as well as for Jaipur,” says S K Agarwal, principal secretary of tourism, the government of Rajasthan. As I stood in front of the magnanimous Hawa Mahal surrounded by the chaos of Johari Bazaar (jewellers market), I could understand why. The city of artists, poets, writers and dreamers, Jaipur’s essence lies in its inherent capability of being able to create beautiful things — and this has always been attractive to cultured travellers.

Most of the tourists begin at Jaipur and proceed on the “Golden Triangle” route by travelling to Delhi and Agra for a quintessential Indian sojourn. A monumental 13.5 per cent is contributed by the tourism industry to the state’s GDP (this includes Jaipur and other cities). These numbers are the result of 1.2 million domestic and 0.6 million international tourists that visit each year. Rajasthan Tourism Board (RTB) understands the dynamic needs of the FIT (free independent traveller) that has ventured into Rajasthan. To keep up with this trend, RTB revamped itself with an all new branding that’s made waves across the media. RTB’s multi-year, multi-modal, multi-narrative and multi-crore global marketing campaign intends to double international tourist numbers to three million and domestic figures to 50 million by 2020.

The capital of Rajasthan is also emerging as the preferred destination for MICE; a number of Indian and international companies pick this package of business, culture and affordability for their conferences. “Jaipur is not only about an aristocratic ambience, it makes business sense too. The city offers unparalleled luxury in heritage accommodation, great sightseeing, shopping and entertainment,” says Agarwal. Jaipur Literature Festival, Great Indian Travel Bazaar, Jaipur Jewellery Show, India StoneMart, Vastra, Resurgent Rajasthan are some of the business events that take place on a grand scale here, attracting large corporate crowds.

Speaking about beautiful things, Jaipur’s love-affair with imperial gems instantly come to mind. It is no surprise that until date Jaipur’s economy is also majorly supported by its colossal jewels industry (manufacture and cutting of gemstones). Jaipur’s trade is intrinsically supported by its expertise in the art of creating intricate jewellery. In conversation with Tarang Arora, CEO of Amrapali, a Jaipur-based jewellery house that’s reached international runways, celebrities and showrooms, it was interesting to learn that the city is one of the largest gemstone-cutting centres in the world. “It is the largest one for emeralds,” he points out, adding — “What Surat or Antwerp is to diamonds, Jaipur is to coloured stones.”

The city known for its art and royalty is home to skilled artisans. Additionally, the substantial availability of raw material catalyses the gemstones industry to flourish here. As per Arora, every third person in the city is associated with the business of jewellery. While the company has widespread presence domestically and internationally, about 85 per cent of their operations are routed through Jaipur. Amrapali stays grounded to its roots by focussing on Indian ethos. They have been working with consecutive generations of artisans since the establishment of the company in 1978. “We are proud to be an Indian brand and encourage “Make in India” through our philosophy and products,” he adds.

Driving through the city, it’s easy to spot small, medium and large-scaled jewellery houses on each block. Jaipur has always been royal — and its jewellery industry aptly symbolises its regality.

One of the oldest and most reputed jewellery houses of the city, Birdhichand Ghanshyamdas Jewellers offers a deeper perspective into this business. According to Yash Aggarwal, creative director of BG Jewellers, the jewellery industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the city. This trade has taken not only Rajasthan but also India to a global level, while contributing significantly to its economy. “This extremely export oriented and labour intensive trade contributes around 60 per cent of the economy of Jaipur,” he says.

Finery comes easy to Jaipur. Along with its dazzling jewellery industry, the city is also one of India’s largest manufacturers of hand-knotted rugs. Jaipur-based Ayush Choudhary, the creative director of Cacoon Fine Rugs reminisces how he grew up in Jaipur around beauty. He integrated his love of design into business and diversified from his father’s garment trade into that of hand-knotted rugs. “When you speak of rugs, it is three cities that come to mind: Kashmir, Varanasi and Jaipur. While the former two are now shrinking, the industry in Jaipur continues to flourish because of its adaptability. Carpets from the capital of Rajasthan evolved and modernised to match contemporary western standards. Being concurrent and cutting edge is important in any industry and hand-knotted rugs isn’t an exception,” he says. As per Ayush, the state’s capability lies in the production of fine products — be it handicrafts, jewels or rugs. It is their artisans that can be credited for maintaining design perfection that levels up to international standards. The industry generates livelihood for about 35,000 artisans in and around Jaipur and around 15 per cent of India’s carpets are created in the state-capital of Rajasthan.

The city of art and craft hasn’t been shy about dipping its feet into industries unfamiliar to Jaipur, though. While most Indian metropolises have found expertise in the Information Technology sector, it is Jaipur that houses the largest IT park in the country called Mahindra World City. To name a few bigwigs: Deutsche Bank Group, Genpact and Infosys have their business process outsourcing units here. The city ranked 38th in “Tholons Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations report” making it a sought-after investment destination for global companies.

The country’s “pink city” is evolving into a trading hub. Jaipur’s strategic position in the corridor of national investment and manufacturing zone and closeness to Delhi makes it a viable destination for commerce. It has also been christened Delhi’s “Counter Magnet City” by the planning board of the National Capital Region (NCR), in order to ease the pressure on the capital. (Counter magnets are cities developed to disperse economic activities in tier I metros. This also attempts to reduce the mass migration of people to big cities.)

A report published by UN-HABITAT (a United Nations agency for sustainable urban development) on the “State of The World’s Cities” in 2013 estimated that Jaipur will be the 10th most populated city by 2025. A large floating population of six lakh tourists also travel each year to Jaipur. With the metro and accelerated development underway by Rajasthan Infrastructure Development Act (RIDA), the city will provide a better quality of living to its citizens. Jaipur has experienced monumental changes at an unprecedented rate in the past decade, and its annual economic growth rate of 40 per cent puts it in par with tier I cities like Mumbai and Kolkata.

With many feathers in its cap, perhaps it is this effortless balance between heritage and business, that makes Jaipur quite special.

WHAT TO SEE

One of India’s most culturally rich cities, Jaipur has a lot to offer. From its magenta-toned palaces that house decades worth of history to its traditional markets that retail artistic handicrafts — its charm is unparalleled. Begin your sojourn at the City Palace (9:30am-5pm; entry: Indian 35/foreigner 150), a castle complex that was created by the founder of Jaipur: Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. The Palace’s two main buildings are Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal and the latter has now been converted into a museum that is known for its collection of handicrafts and representation of the heritage of royal Rajasthan. About a 20-minute drive away is the glorious Amber Fort (8am-6pm; entry: Indian 25/foreigner 200), located atop the Hill of Eagles (Cheel ka Teela), overlooking the magnificent Maota Lake. The four-levelled edifice created with red-sandstone and marble is known for its intricate Hindu style architecture and its dazzling Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors), that was created by Raja Man Singh I especially for the queen to “see stars” while she slept. The other rooms include Diwaan-e-Aam (hall of the public audience) and Diwaan-e-Khaas (hall of private audience) that hosted entertainment amongst an ambience of mosaic work in glass. For those interested in Indo-Saracenic architecture and traditional art of Jaipur, Albert Hall Museum (9am–5:30pm, 6:30–9pm; entry: Indian 40/foreigner 300) situated in the Ram Niwas Garden is a must-visit. Driving around the city, you are bound to cross the Hawa Mahal, located in the busy Johari Bazaar (jewellers market). The most idiosyncratic landmark of the pink-city, the Hawa Mahal is a five-storied hive-like building that was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh for the royal ladies to look at the bustle of the city. The top of the structure offers panoramic views of the city along with Jantar Mantar, that features the world’s largest stone sundial.

GETTING AROUND

While travelling in local rickshaws is more adventurous than hiring an Ola or Uber (both are easily available), it’s more price sensitive than the latter. This is because in Jaipur, rickshaw drivers don’t follow metre system and it’s advisable to avoid them unless with a local. 

WHERE TO STAY

ITC Rajputana

The 218-room ITC Rajputana is centrally located and is about 6km from the Hawa Mahal. Room categories include Rajputana Royale, Rajputana Chamber, Executive Club and Thikana suite. The hotel is designed keeping in mind the heritage of the state of Rajasthan: its red-sandstone exteriors and marbled interiors are quite fascinating. Its restaurants include the signature Peshawari, The Jaipur Pavilion and Jal Mahal. ITC Rajputana is a befitting property for MICE with one large banquet hall (Suryavanshi Mahal), two conference rooms and boardrooms. Leisure activities include an outdoor pool, a Kaya Kalp spa, salon and a fitness centre. itchotels.in

Taj Jai Mahal Palace

The sprawling 18-acre property is about 5.4km from the Hawa Mahal and a few minutes’ drive from the airport. It features 100 rooms decorated with miniature paintings and traditional furniture. Giardino, Cinnamon and Marble Arch are its restaurants and the hotel additionally has four lounges namely the Hawa  Mahal, Pool lounge, the Terrace and the Marigold bar. For MICE, the hotel offers a conference room, two boardrooms and its lawns. An outdoor pool, a spa, salon, shopping arcade and a fitness centre are the leisure facilities at this hotel. Guests can play golf or stroll within the boundaries of the property. tajhotels.com

Trident

Situated on the way to the Amber Fort, a little further from the Jaipur airport (21km), the Trident overlooks the Mansagar Lake and Aravalis mountain range.  It has 132 rooms and suites categorised as Deluxe Garden View rooms, Deluxe Lake View rooms and suites. The hotel’s restaurants are Jal Mahal, the Verandah and its bar is called Mansagar. For business travellers, it offers two well-equipped multi-purpose halls and its leisure facilities are a swimming pool and fitness centre. Trident offers its signature Trident Kids’ Club, a supervised play area for children. tridenthotels.com

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