Carving a livelihood in Arambagh, Karachi | PAKISTAN

A visit to the Arambagh furniture market in Karachi is mandatory for those looking to purchase exclusive, custom-made furniture. Interestingly, the history behind the establishment of the furniture market in Arambagh is not very well-known among the residents of Karachi.
The original name for the market was “Ram Bagh” because according to Hindu tradition, Ram and Sita spent some time here on their way to Hinglaj, located in Balochistan. The area became a site of historical and religious importance for the Hindus in the city, which is why pre-Partition, many Hindus lived here. According to legend, it was also used as a cremation ground by the Hindus.
The furniture market emerged when the Hindus in the area sold their belongings – mostly furniture – and moved to India. Thus, a small market of old and used furniture was established. Currently, the Arambagh furniture market is the largest and oldest market for first-hand furniture in the city.
As the Arambagh market grew in size, many of the furniture workshops moved to other parts of the city. In essence, this market triggered the establishment of some of the other well-known furniture markets in the city, such as Manzoor market and Madina market.
According to Ismail Lalpuria, a shop owner, another reason for the decreasing sales is a lack of parking space around the market. Lalpuria stated that ample parking for the customers would ensure more sales.
One of the biggest grievances among all shopkeepers is that the government does not provide incentives for local businesses.
Those wishing to get something custom-made may look no further. Talented craftsmen are able to copy designs from catalogues – both local and international.
Intricately-carved furniture, a style adopted from Chiniot in Punjab, is very popular due to its aesthetically-pleasing design. This style is also very popular abroad and is exported to Europe and beyond.
Rising costs has led to an increase in the sale of wrought furniture, which is made locally, with Karachi being the manufacturing and selling hub.
One of the problems the market currently faces is inflation; as the raw material becomes expensive, the business is directly affected. Thus, the demand for furniture made entirely out of wood has decreased.
Low-cost furniture is made from wood of the Kikar tree which is found in abundance across Sindh.

Art Deco furniture is in high demand by customers because of the ability to customise the colour of paint used, which is often matched with the upholstery in one’s home.

Customers looking to purchase long-lasting, quality furniture often opt for that made of Rose wood (or Sheesham).

Generally, according to some of the craftsmen, a simple bedroom set (including a dresser and two side tables) takes about three to four days to complete, a small couch about a day and an office table about two days.

Courtesy: Dawn