Sen, the Nobel laureate pointed to 'the Kerala
model of development' as one the world could well
follow. The land with a small per capita income
has achieved a high standard of living.
With two monsoons and fertile soil, Kerala
naturally has a predominantly agro-based economy.
The state is rich in spices, tea, rubber, and
paddy. But as monsoons became unreliable and
labour costs rose, more and more people diverted
their money from agriculture into other ventures.
A lot of Kerala's wealth comes from the export of
fish and fish products.
Economists refer to Kerala as a 'list market'.
With a majority of its 30-million population in
the middle class Kerala has a consumer culture
which attracts manufacturers. The co-operative
sector does very well here. The 'chitties', which
originated in Kerala, have caught on all over the
country. Kerala even has a ministry for the
Tourism is a sector with great potential in
Kerala, given the state's natural beauty and rich
traditional heritage, especially in the arts. And
it is a sector that is developing at a great rate.
Tourism could become the biggest area of money as
far as Kerala is concerned.
As more and more Malayalis moved to the Gulf
countries and into lucrative jobs, there was a
sharp increase in investment in land and gold due
to the flow of money from there into the state.
But channelisation of this money for industrial
growth was seen only in some cities.
The export business is gaining momentum, and the
government gives various incentives to encourage
this business. With liberalisation and
globalisation the MNCs began to arrive and
competition with them has provided an incentive to
business people here. After Independence it was
public sector undertakings that provided
employment opportunities and a smooth flow of
money. But most of them have been unable to keep
up with the rapid changes taking place in today's
world and the private sector has now taken
The evolution of Information Technology has
proceeded at a great pace in Kerala, with
automation, Internet accessibility, e-commerce etc
making their presence felt. But despite all this
progress Kerala lags behind neighbouring states in
business growth. We need a liberalised state
policy, elimination of bureaucratic red-tapism,
more initiatives and incentives to realise the
state's potential in this area.
Kerala is a treasure trove of lovely and
unexpected things to buy, and the experience of
shopping itself is great fun. In addition to the
beautiful handicrafts, textiles, antiques and
jewellery that you will probably want to buy, you
will find yourself browsing through extremely
unlikely merchandise, lured into small shops by
their charming names.
Unlike most of India, there is very little
bargaining in Kerala. Most shops have fixed
prices, and this is true for expensive items, such
as jewellery, as well as for smaller goods. The
state-run emporia have strictly fixed and
regulated prices. In other shops, you can try a
bit of gentle negotiation, but you will probably
just as gently be told that the price is firm.
For a good selection of the range of crafts
available in Kerala, start with the main
handicrafts emporium in Thiruvananthapuram or
Kochi. Here you will find intricate rosewood and
sandalwood carvings, ivory work which carries on a
centuries old artistic tradition, brass and
"bell-metal" lamps and other decorative
objects, and myriad interesting and useful things
made from coconut, coir, cane, bamboo and straw.
You will also find horn products, wooden toys and
lacquerware, as well as significant and evocative
masks used for the dramatic Kathakali dance
Indian khadi ( handspun and handwoven) and
handloom ( handwoven ) textiles are, of course,
internationally well known, and Kerala's unique
fabrics are especially fine. In the larger cities,
you will find handloom emporia which feature
gossamer white cotton with richly coloured
borders, finely coloured plaids, and some lovely
silks. Many fabrics can be bought by the metre,
but make sure also to inspect the shelves of sari
and lungi lengths, and they can easily be stitched
into other garments.
The northern city of Kozhikode, is the source of
the English word calico, and local weavers still
make exceptionally soft polished cottons, so
tightly woven and delicately coloured that they
can easily pass for silk. If you are travelling
near the time of any festival, make sure to ask
your guide, hotel manager, or the local tourist
office if there are any special textile fairs or
exhibitions. Often during festival season,
regional weaving societies will set up temporary
bazaars in towns and cities, where huge selections
of beautiful fibrics will be sold directly by the
producers, with the bonus of a "festival
discount" on price. You might even chance
upon exquisite lace work and embroidered items
painstakingly made by the nuns and their pupils.
In both Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, you will
find several good antique dealers. In
Thiruvananthapuram, the two main shops are
Natesan's (main shop on Mahatma Gandhi Road,
branch at ITDC Ashok Hotel in Kovalam) and the
Gift Corner (Mahatma Gandhi Road). In Kochi, there
are several good shops clustered on the small
lanes near the Mattancherri synagogue. Extremely
old antiquities cannot be taken out of India
without the permission of the Archaeological
Survey of India, but there is a great wealth of
lovely things made during the last century which
make affordable and extremely rewarding purchases.
Look especially for unusual bronzes and unique
decorative items, such as the traditional,
intricate old locks.