Caught in the rain and the canopy of your umbrella annoyingly turns up inside out, exposing you to the raw elements? Or does the rib of the umbrella bend and break?

As rains continue to lash the country, the umbrella has become an essential accessory. But with strong winds now accompanying the rains, umbrella makers have had to come up with sturdier offerings that offer better protection. At the same time, to cater to customers on the move, they have had to come up with compact models that are easy to carry and quick to dry. This season, the umbrella is getting a makeover like never before.

Strong ribs

Take the way Alappuzha-based Johns Umbrella, which has been in business for the past 70 years, launched Johns Mini, a compact product, this season. It is designed to handle the high winds, an emerging familiar pattern, along with intense rain, says Joseph Thayyil, the company’s Managing Director.

Johns Mini, he said, was made out of solid wires that give it more strength than normal. Moreover, he added, the two-fold umbrellas are easy to use, unlike a five-fold umbrella.

KN Marzook of the Kochi-based Colombo Group said his company has introduced reversible umbrellas that remain dry even after use.

Thayyil says 60–70 per cent of commuters in Kerala carry umbrellas as an emergency need. The company’s compact model for adults is doing well in the market, he says. Johns, which was one of the first to transform the utility product into a fashion accessory, has also introduced a ‘super hero’ range of umbrellas for children.

Surplus showers 

Asked whether the delayed monsoon this year has impacted business, Thayyil said “In fact, the late rains have given an added advantage to derive more business”. Earlier, umbrella businesses in Kerala depended on showers that subsided by July-August. Of late, the wet season in Kerala has extended from the summer rains in March until the North-East monsoon in December. In the last two years, the State has witnessed a rain surplus that has offered a business opportunity to umbrella makers.

“Being a seasonal product, we earlier had some constraints in selling after the season. But the extended weather has offered a fresh window of opportunity,” Thayyil said, adding the market is witnessing 20 per cent growth with a sale of 2.5 million pieces every year. Today, even summer, which starts in March, also holds good potential for the umbrella market, extending almost until the year end.

On the shortage of raw materials, he said there are two kinds of players in the market: branded players and unorganized segments that outsource materials to design umbrellas. The latter have run into issues with the supply chain after Covid.

This year, the government’s strict restrictions have made imports difficult, thereby cutting out competition from Chinese models. No wonder the rains are bringing a smile to the faces of the umbrella makers.