Travelling craftsmen find the
going tough

THERE was a time not very long ago, when groups of travelling craftsmen, armed with large stringed gadgets, would move around Mumbai’s residential colonies, offering to clean up cotton mattresses.


Nithin Belle

Published: Sun 24 Mar 2013, 9:10 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:11 PM

They would rip apart the mattresses, take out the cotton and churn it with their gadgets. If needed, they would add some fresh stock of cotton, stitch up the mattress and charge a small sum for their efforts. Many households would avail of the services once or twice a year.

Old mattresses that had outlived their utility would never be dumped; the cotton would be recycled and new ‘gaddis’ (mattresses) would emerge out of the waste. The traditional mattress business in Mumbai has always been a fascinating one. Even today, most of the small-time mattress-makers operate out of tiny shops on pavements.

Kids can be seen curiously observing the entire process and the ‘gaddi-wallas’ (with cotton clinging to their sweaty face and hair) monotonously working on the mattresses. But with real estate prices having soared in Mumbai, many of the ‘gaddi-wallas’ have sold their shops and relocated to smaller cities. And Mumbai residents are increasingly buying ‘gaddis’ that hardly use cotton; they buy foam and memory foam mattresses, coir and spring mattresses and branded ones from fancy showrooms. The traditional mattress outlets can still be found at Crawford Market and near many railway stations across the metropolis, but even they are stocking modern mattresses.

Last week, a Dubai-based company, which has set up a modern mattress manufacturing unit near Pune, entered the Indian market. Emirates Sleep Systems Pvt Ltd (ESPL), India, a fully owned subsidiary of Dubai Furniture Manufacturing Co (DFMC), formally launched its operations in the country. ESPL has acquired the licence from Serta Inc of the US for manufacturing and marketing its branded spring mattress products in India. Says S. Sundar Rajan, executive director, ESPL: “The mattress industry in India is dominated by the small scale and unorganised sectors, which specialise in coir, cotton or cheap foam mattresses, catering to more than 90 per cent of the mattress requirement in India. Currently there are no quality manufacturers in the spring mattress category due to which the growth in this segment is slow.”

According to Rajan, the new factory near Pune will be producing 200 ultra-premium mattresses a day. Plans are to set up two more factories, one each in the north and south. Rajan says that the mattress business in India has not evolved and the spring mattress category is yet to be established. Serta is a leading player in the Middle East and has a showpiece plant in Dubai. When it began operations in the region about 20 years ago, Serta used to make just 20 mattresses a day. Today it has a capacity to manufacture almost 1,000 premium and ultra-premium mattresses a day at its 200,000 sq ft facility at the Dubai Investment Park.

Rajan says that the marketing expertise and technological know-how acquired by DMFC is being fully utilised to produce high quality products for the Indian market. Besides catering to retail consumers, it is also targeting the hospitality sector. Serta, which began operations in Chicago in 1931, has 27 manufacturing facilities in the US and in 37 locations worldwide including Dubai and now Pune.

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