Mumbai trade fair hopes to capitalise on India's love for Dubai

Rebecca Bundhun

MUMBAI // Indian traders from Dubai and Mumbai have gathered for a new trade fair, which kicked off on Wednesday, offering an eclectic range of wares – including fake designer handbags, second-hand luxury cars, and shisha pipes.

The five-day event, called Dubai Festival in Mumbai, is being held in a tented venue – pervaded by the unmistakable aroma of oud – in one of the city’s main business districts.

However, the fair is not officially sanctioned by the Dubai government authorities.

Many of the visitors, largely residents of Mumbai, made an effort to fully immerse themselves in the experience, turning up to browse the stalls dressed in their best abayas and dishdashas.

The organisers explained that their hope was that they could help boost tourism to Dubai and trade between the UAE and India by offering an opportunity for small businesses to showcase their products and services.

“The show is all about the essence of Dubai and the local feel of Dubai,” said Mohammed Yusuf Hungund, director of the Dubai Festival in Mumbai.

Asma Meershad, who is from Mumbai, has lived in Dubai for the past 12 years, where she runs a clothing shop in Deira called Al Arab selling abayas and other garments.

She was exhibiting at the show in the hope of expanding her business to India, with her prices ranging from 3,500 rupees (Dh193) up to 10,000 rupees.

“I really love the clothes in Dubai and I think people over here will really love it, so I wanted to bring it to my home city,” said Ms Meershad. “The abayas are made in the UAE. Indians prefer to buy Dubai abayas rather than Indian abayas because the quality of abayas from Dubai is better.”

Azeem Mohim was showcasing and selling his wide range of counterfeit bags – including knock-offs of brands such as Burberry and Michael Kors priced at less that 1,800 rupees – at the event, and seemed to be oblivious of the brand infringements of his business. He explained that he hoped to open a shop selling his fake designer bags in the emirate soon.

Shazaan Siddiqui, who manufactures and sells shisha pipes in Mumbai, said: “It seems to be a good exhibition. I have already sold a few things.”

He said he was already exporting his products to countries including the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Mital Mehta, a housewife from Mumbai, was one of his customers, who bought a shisha pipe from him at the show.

“I go to every exhibition in Mumbai,” she said. “I really like shopping. It definitely reminds me of Dubai. I’ve been to Dubai twice.”

But another visitor, Sonya Bora, from Mumbai, who teaches henna work and calligraphy, was less impressed. She said she wanted to see more stalls and more of the glitz of Dubai, including dresses and fine jewellery. She complained that the jewellery at the exhibition at the event was “very Indian”.

Priya Sharma was running a stall for AZ Couture, a Mumbai-based designer boutique, which she said had worked on Bollywood films, providing costumes for stars including Salman Khan.

Ms Sharma said that her expansion plans were focused on Mumbai for now, but that the Dubai brand the event was trying to associate with could boost the company’s profile.

At 30,000 rupees for a stand at the exhibition for five days, she said she thought it represented good value.

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