Raisina Hill's Kochi connection
Finest tableware for the presidential home was crafted here in the city, at the Tata Ceramic manufactory. They also make tableware for famous and traditional names like Wedgewood, Churchill and Royal Doulton. PRIYADARSHINI SHARMA visits this exclusive place.
THE RASHTRAPATHI Bhavan has a Kochi connection. The tableware which graces the Presidential dining room is made right here in our city. World-renowned Wedgewood brand bone china and equally celebrated names like Royal Doulton and Churchill brand of porcelain are manufactured here. The Tata Ceramics plant in the CEPZ in Kakkanad is the maker of world famous brands of finest tableware.
Started a mere seven years ago, the company has to its credit, great accomplishment in producing tableware befitting the Presidential home and for several other distinguished individuals and embassies around the world. "We do make some local sales, and to a few institutions, especially the hospitality sector, but our prime objective is 100 per cent export", says Mr. Munish Gupta, the suave executive director. "There is no formal tie-up with Wedgewood but a supply contract of fine bone china tableware products. We are the only one in the country to manufacture these brand names."
"The fine bone china market is a mature one. It is elitist to a great extent. It caters to the top most section of society, which is exceedingly brand conscious, so we, as a policy, have decided to make brand names only. As of now, we are not in the domestic market. We are treated as an off shore company because of which a 57 per cent duty is imposed. This makes any domestic sale unviable."
Exquisite china is a joy to possess as it embodies the finest sensibilities. Says Mr. Gupta, "It is a business which combines both art and science. All major players in this field, like the English companies, Royal Worcester and American Waterford or Lennox have a history of over two hundred years. We have been in this for only the last seven years and it is commendable that Wedgewood, an illustrious name in this field, has approached us. In a short span we have achieved those levels of quality and finesse." Porcelain making is not regular machine work. Application of `litho' is by hand and expertise is required in performing work of precision."
Mr. Ashok Singhal, General Manager, Marketing, explains the procedure in detail. "Commercial production started in 1995. Initially the Wedgewood professionals would come and inspect the pieces, but now we produce the prototype and match their samples. Colour tones are matched by exchange of CD ROMS with the client. Most artwork comes from UK, like the famous strawberry vine embossed original mould, a most sought after Wedgewood pattern. Then begins factory line production. Though most raw materials are imported, we do buy some clays and Plaster of Paris in India. Most designs or `litho' are made in Bangalore by `Mulder' and some are brought down from Italy, Spain or Hong Kong."
The Rashtrapathi Bhavan `transfers' were from Italy. 22 K gold and pure platinum are used in the motifs which is done by hand .The quality of gold used in transfers differs according to customer requirements.
Mr Singhal dispels some doubts of the layman as he explains, "Bone china, unlike porcelain, contains bone ash which makes it lighter and translucent. It has the highest chipping resistance.
It is only because we conform to highest international standards that foreign companies have entrusted us with contracts."
Besides the ISO 9001 certification, the firm has passed the Prop 65 regulations of California. This is the most stringent test in heavy metal release. They conform to the acceptable norms in lead and cadmium release, which is used in glazing. "In fact we are switching over to lead free glaze," he added. It is because of the right infrastructure, consistency in quality that they are out source manufacturers for such big names, he feels.
The romance of the glass blower, which lingers in our minds, is sensed as one sees the production in the manufactory. As teacups, saucers, bowl, tureens roll out, fired less than 1,200 degrees heat and then glazed, the finished piece is the last word in sophistication.
Elegant dinnerware remains a prized possession, passed down generations as heirloom. One remembers it as a trousseau piece, a priceless present, and a treasured article to be laid down for the most special people in one's life.
Besides, have you ever been lucky enough to catch an elegant dame, surreptitiously flip over a dinner plate and check its brand or delicately check its quality grade by striking her nails against a goblet to hear the bell like clink? To dine in a Wedgewood or any fine bone china is indeed an affair to remember.
That this `chinatown' exists right here in Kochi sure surprises, eh?
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