Recovery and sustainability strategies through e-commerce initiatives to support Indian artisans and crafts

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In India, the indigenous arts and crafts sector employs around 20 million people, making it the second largest sector after agriculture. We are the second largest textile exporter in the world and 90% of the world’s looms are made in India. But when the pandemic hit the world, it was one of the hardest hit sectors. The arts and crafts industry was the first affected. Meanwhile, many people lost their jobs almost immediately and for a sector with the majority of daily wage earners, the damage was colossal.

Now, as we approach the post-pandemic era, it is time to reconsider artisanal and traditional crafts business models so that supply chains are more stable, growth is more inclusive, and artisans local and traditional artists, as well as artisanal artists, are better paid. Many artisans have taken advantage of difficult times to reinvent themselves online, bringing in younger generations of their families to market their wares on social media platforms. In the post-pandemic context, modern technologies and social media platforms could be essential to help these traditional craft businesses. Many artisans have taken advantage of these platforms to exploit previously untapped opportunities, such as robust internet connections and the use of smartphones, as well as increased demand from a more conscious shopper. Here are some renewal and sustainability strategies that can help sustain Indian artisans and crafts:

First, to make the local arts and crafts trade relevant to the modern world, artisans need assistance, education, market understanding and, in many cases, improved skills to create quality products and channels to reach their target audience. More craft design engagement programs should be introduced by notable fashion and design institutions.

The handicraft industry lacks pioneers, who can take advantage of technology and the e-commerce boom, as the younger generation is not too enthusiastic to continue the legacy of generational art forms instead of better prospects . Over 80% of the local cottage industry is run by MSMEs and they need to be supported and encouraged to formalize the employment of artisans and weavers. It will also help to ensure job security and provide social and medical coverage for artisans.

Many e-commerce platforms feature virtual craft fairs, which feature art and craft forms from various artisans and weavers across the country. Thousands of artisans proficient in many art forms ranging from clothing, textiles, handicrafts and handcrafted natural products classified with geographical indication will be employed by several e-commerce (IG) platforms. We must connect these dots at scale to positively impact the lives and livelihoods of artisans scattered across the country and contribute to the national economy. This would also contribute to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For many years, these local artisans worked anonymously without any recognition from designers and brands. We need to change the mindset from ‘craftsmen working for you to working with you’. This will help build trust and send a bigger message to the younger generation to continue crafting. It should be the responsibility of the apex body to make political contributions to create an enabling ecosystem, starting with the generation of credible and up-to-date data.

Today, much of the world highly values ​​handmade and sustainable products, creating a movement to revive handmade against mass-produced goods. Our skilled craftsmen have always created the most beautiful, top quality works that can’t be found anywhere else. India, with its rich resources of age-old handlooms and craftsmanship with a large number of skilled artisans, has much to contribute to this global movement as a pioneer.

Every piece of art and craft product has a unique story to tell. As these artisan products move up the value chain, this story is buried deeper and deeper in the layers of time until it is finally lost to the world. Most of these human stories are most often the reflection of the craftsman who has invested in his craft. These stories sometimes recount the journey of the long hours he labored in his turn potting, perfecting minute details by candlelight.

Sometimes these stories tell of the many miles he had to travel to transport his skillfully crafted products to the nearest market. The main problem facing many local artisans today is the threat posed by colossal manufacturers who mass-produce replica crafts.

These top brands and creators have the wherewithal to stay abreast of customer trends, respond to them quickly, and deliver their products through the right distribution channels. We can also say that urban perceptions towards craftsmanship, for example, are certainly worth examining.

In this industry, market trends and preferences often change based on conscious marketing strategies employed by brands. Major multinational brands build brand awareness through a range of promotional and advertising tools. Even today, many industries do not have the scope or the capital to use these techniques and are left behind in the mind of the customer. It is also a misconception that many people consider even handicrafts to be too traditional, even archaic.

As consumers, we should also reconsider what we buy and how much we consume, as well as reward goal-oriented companies. Now, to bridge the gap between purpose and action, a new model of consumption will be needed, one that reframes old ways of buying, compliance requirements and mindsets. This is a chance for the government to invest in developing a favorable ecosystem for the country’s less fortunate artisans, while also benefiting the Indian economy. The local craftsman and its artisans have been one of the lowest socio-economic classes in India today, and the community is shrinking rapidly. It all depends on policy makers to strengthen the value chain, drive marketing programs and empower artisans. Only then will local crafts and works of art gain the recognition they deserve. In time, Indian craftsmen and craftsmen in the country will flourish, and perhaps one day more craftsmen will have stories to tell.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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