Is Technology The Answer To The Flagging Indian Handicraft Industry?

Posted on June 22, 2012 in Society

By Collin Davis:

India’s picture has always been synonymous with its arts and crafts. According to the Financial Express, there are an estimated 14 million traditional Indian artisans in the country who support and feed their families by engaging themselves in different forms of art. Also after agriculture; crafting is the second largest source of income for rural people in the country.

India is very lucky in the sense that almost every region is identified by its ethnic art thus providing rich diversity of crafts. From the beautiful Jaipur handicrafts to the mesmerizing Meenakari jewellery, the Tanjore and Madhubani paintings, Dokra, Terracotta, Bandhani, Leheriya, Onx… (the list is almost endless), each one of them displays craftsmanship that take months or even years of mastery.

In olden days, these crafts were symbols of pride and artisans and craftsmen were looked down with great respect in society. Being indigenous arts, skills were passed down from generation to generation and for artisan, it was a matter of great pride and respect to pass down his expertise to his or her offspring.

However the picture has totally changed in modern times and most artisans today no longer want their children to follow in their footsteps. Recently, I came across a breaking Tehelka story that confirmed my fears. A Dokra artist in Bengal is forced to feed his family with left over parts of a goat simply because the craft he makes doesn’t earn him enough.  He sells it to middlemen at Rs.70 which would end up with a Rs.250 sticker in the local store. Udit Garg’s article also described the deplorable conditions that craftsmen work under, yet they never get a fair price for their products.

This harsh scenario is seeing countless artisans leaving their professions and searching for jobs that would pay better, thus posing a grave risk to the very arts and crafts that till now were a symbol of identity.

Monica Gupta, the founder of Craftsvilla.com and who has earlier worked with NGO’s such as Kalaraksha and Sahaj says that the situation is serious and if quick measures aren’t undertaken, our next generation may be bereft of such crafts. “The handicrafts industry is struggling to adapt with changing times. People today are increasingly opting for machine made goods, plus there is also a general lack of awareness about such crafts. Most artisans come from the rural parts of the country and thus lack the skills or even the resources to sell or promote their products. They are forced to leave their professions and today there are countless art forms that are at great risk of extinction.

Monica aims to change all of this and believes that with technology, it is very much possible. She along with her husband Manoj Gupta started Craftsvilla in 2011, a platform where craftsmen can connect directly to consumers without any kind of involvement of third parties.

“We provide them web space and they get to decide the prices of the products. We act as their mouthpiece, helping them promote their creations and also provide access to a global audience, something that they would never achieve with a physical shop.”

On probing if sellers were ready to come on board, she says, “Initially sellers were skeptical and understandably so because we were doing something that hadn’t been replicated before in India. But with time, our trustworthiness has grown and so have the numbers. We currently have over 600 registered sellers from all over India and are continuing to grow. Consumer response too has been encouraging though Indian audiences are yet to lap up the ecommerce space fully.”

Technology can be a wonderful tool for connections and ventures such as these can revive and bring a fresh spurt of life to the flagging crafts industry. However for crafts to grow and flourish in the country, it is also imperative that the government support craftsmen and more and more people be educated about such ventures.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]Author Bio: I, Collin Davis am involved with Craftsvilla and strongly believe that ventures such as these are required to revive the handicrafts industry in India. Apart from being an online marketing enthusiast, I am also a huge soccer fan and love to spend my pass time playing the sport.[/box]

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