• Sunday, May 24, 2015 - 05:30
The onset of monsoon in Kerala always relates with an age-old tradition of buying new umbrellas. The season is famous for its colourful and innovative designer umbrellas. This season, mobile-phone friendly umbrellas are all the rage. Yes, you read that right.   “This year, phone calling umbrellas are in trend. We can connect umbrellas to mobile phones through Bluetooth or WiFi, and it enables user to play music and receive calls,” Rajeev Neelakandan, an umbrella seller at Ernakulam Broadway Market tells The News Minute.   The umbrellas in the market range from the traditional black, curved handle umbrella to five-fold umbrellas with whistles, compass and even water-guns.   The manufacturers import raw material for the production of umbrellas from China and Taiwan, while the rest of the assembling is done in Kerala locally.   “Umbrella trends keep on changing here. Earlier three folded umbrellas was a trend later it has been replaced by fivefold Nano umbrellas, which can be folded back to our pocket size. Other innovative advancements also hit the Kerala Umbrella markets,” says Rajeev.   Other trending models are umbrellas with Teflon coating which promises to keep the umbrella "dry", and UPF coating umbrellas which claims to protect from UV Rays.   “We get different designs, size, shape and colours, specially designed for school kids, college students and office goers. Nowadays collage students love to carry big colourful umbrellas with curved handle, a fusion model of old tradition one,” Rajeev said.   And for the kids, there are the fun umbrellas too. Children visiting the shop often buy Spider-man, Barbie and laser umbrellas. Crystal umbrellas which are embroidered and transparent are the costlier ones in the market.   In Kerala’s umbrella culture, the brands Popy and Johns are at the helm.  Thayyil Abraham Varghese founded the St George Umbrella Mart in 1954 in Alappuzha.  In 1995 it was split to Popy and Johns, now run by two Thayyil brothers.   Thanks to the competition between the two brothers, the market offers a wide choice of  umbrellas for the consumers. When Popy introduced five-fold nano umbrellas, Johns responded with "Atom", which had similar features.  Both these companies brought a revolution in umbrellas by introducing Teflon coating and UPF coating, and including various features like torch, thermometer, compass, whistle and finally Bluetooth and phone calling service. According to Johns, seven to ten million umbrellas are sold in Kerala every year, and almost all of them produced in the state’s umbrella capital-Alappuzha.   Johns and Popy brothers are believed to own about 80% of the market, and also export to US, Europe and other parts of India.   Advertisement of Bluetooth connect umbrellas :   All photos taken by Haritha John