By Ankit Singh:
In the last couple of years many ventures selling Indian handicraft have come up. Selling the art and craft from all over the country after bringing them at a common platform has proved to be a good venture. Some of these ventures were started by successful professionals who had tried their luck in corporate world and had made a space for them but chose to leave all and venture in the business of selling Indian handicraft. Most of them are the aggregators of different art and crafts of India and have used the online platform to sell these. Most of their sales come from foreign buyers. All of them started with the same or almost similar ideology, to lift the Indian handicraft sector and give it its true stature.
Fusion Craft was started on the same lines by IIT-Kanpur grads when they were still in their undergrad days. Started on similar ideology, the execution was totally different which makes Fusion Craft different from the rest. The other difference was that its founders chose to skip their placements and pursue their dream.
How it Started?
The idea of Fusion Craft was born out of a research project on Indian handicraft to assess the market and reality of the Indian handicraft sector vis-Ã -vis the handicrafts of other countries. Instead of taking down analytical data’s and working out theoretical values we took to the ground to Â find empirical results. The survey was the turning point and it was in the hinterlands of India that the idea of Fusion Craft was conceived. We found that the ground reality is completely different from what is projected.
The biggest setback was when we found the Indian handicrafts standing in the World market compared to the handicraft of other countries. The highly skilled labours, subsidy and cash drawback provided by the government of India have transformed this sector into a manufacturing unit for the Designers and International brands. The sector has been reduced to a manufacturing process, outsourcing for the world. This has created more problems for the sector rather than solve any. The subsidy and cash drawback allows the exporters to work at near zero profit margins in order to bag contracts from the companies and designers. The brunt is bore by the craftsmen and the working class who can barely make their ends meet. As most of them are not registered thus they cannot avail any benefits given by the Government of India. A lot many NGO’s and SFG have been working in this direction but the situation of the working craftsmen has hardly improved. Most of them still live a life of abject poverty, work in the most dangerous situations often leading them to catch incurable diseases.
We thought of starting an NGO for the purpose, but we saw that there are already so many and hardly the life of craftsmen has improved. We went deep into the cause of the problems and devised a few solutions to tackle the problem and bring the craft to its true stature. The solutions formed the building block of Fusion Craft. We worked on the most basic theory of economics “Create Demand and Create Supply”. In the survey we had found that out of the whole production, less than 5% is bought by the Indian domestic customers. Another survey told us that the domestic market refrains itself from buying the Indian Handicraft owing to varied reasons starting from traditional design to lack of transparency in quality and manufacturing. This causes a lot of dependency on the export market which does not do much good to the Indian craftsmen.
How does Fusion Craft work?
In Fusion Craft we look to incorporate the products at different avenues instead of the traditional avenues like retail market. A different avenue like Corporate gift sector, Hospitality industry and gifting industry. We have a design team that comprises of designers from reputed colleges of the country who design products based on the industry and requirements. These products are then manufactured by the craftsmen of Fusion Craft using their art and craft. The final product is a rare fusion of design and art. The products are given elegant looks by doing electroplating of different materials based on the usage and requirement. The product not only has design and aesthetics but also has a utility quotient. The products are certified for their material and the artwork. They are manufactured by the craftsmen and since we do not involve any middlemen, the products of Fusion Craft are really cheap. If we were to sum up the whole working of Fusion Craft, I would say that Fusion Craft is trying to bring the manners and accessories of the Royal Courts of India to the houses of the Indian customer.
Fusion Craft spent more than one and a half years in product designing and development and came up with its first range of products which comprise of products from home accessories and dÃ©cor to some very unique gifts for various occasions.
During the course of survey and development, Fusion Craft found that the real hands responsible for manufacturing these gems of art and craft have been caught in the vicious cycle of poverty due to their zero exposure to the market and the world. This makes them totally dependable on the exporters or export firms which get them work. In absence of proper working conditions they work from their homes and most of the family is involved in it. This causes very acute health problems for the whole family. Children are deprived of education to contribute to the family income. This has often led to a lot many craftsmen to quit their work and look on to other means of livelihood.
There are a few art forms which have very few craftsmen left and if proper steps are not taken then it would become a piece of History. Fusion Craft in its least effort to give back to the society, and strengthen these craftsmen takes care of the social life of the craftsmen and education of their children. This effort is creating a crop of educated and well informed craftsmen who realize the value of this incredible piece of culture and history. This generation of craftsmen will take the Indian Handicraft to its true stature that it deserves.