5 factors depleting the Indian handicraft industry
5 factors depleting the Indian handicraft industry

Indian handicrafts and traditional crafts showcase the rich heritage and true culture of our nation. With beautiful designs, the artisans carry a legacy of their land, myth, culture and carve their art into forms that can be forwarded to generations. Indian artisans were highly regarded and rewarded until the outbreak of 19th century industrialization. However, the Indian Government, since independence has implemented various plans to secure this sector, the industrialization has been continued to affect artisans. Technological advancement is also a major reason behind the reduction of handcrafted products into machine made products that cost a little less as compared, this as a result taking Indian handicrafts industry is on the verge of extinction. 

On the other hand, the contribution of Indian handicrafts cannot be neglected. The industry has offered employment to a large number of artisans from generation to generation. The condition of the industry in India has been changed now. Instead of higher potentialities, the sector is suffering from the acute decline in export business. Below are difficulties Indian artisans are facing:

Processing and procuring raw materials:
Earlier, raw materials used by artisans were largely accessible due to the close links between the evolution of crafts and locally available materials. Further, the Jajmani system, which mainly comprises artisanal caste and the village community to supply goods and services; offered artisans with access to community resources. Over the time, this traditional structure has been broken down along with competition from organized industry; artisans find it difficult to buy quality raw materials at a price they can afford to pay. In the absence of raw material banks, these local artisans are forced to rely on local traders who provide them raw materials against orders, at high prices, or switch to non-traditional raw materials.

Aggregation and mediator trade:
The process of aggregation involves bringing products from decentralized units with aim to enable economies of scale in transportation, storage, and retail. Due to the dull status of infrastructure and lack of communication in the country, aggregating the product is a difficult job to do. This, as a result, leads to many of the troubles in the chain of crafts supply. Buyers and retailers both lack incentives to rise above upstream, supply-side issues, which resulting in loss of opportunities for artisans to access markets.

The techniques and the process of crafting vary from one craft to another; the production takes place in households, with all the family members get engaged in various aspects of the process. Even though there are organized artisans structures exist, those craftsmen typically produce within community settings. The production of handcrafted products is mostly seasonal, with crafts activity being balanced for the period of the harvest season, as most of the artisans is also engaged in agriculture to for their livelihood.

The market for hand crafted products can be understood as local, retail shops – high-end as well as mainstream, exhibitions and exports. Out of all these, local markets are still the most common market for many artisans. The new age markets, national as well as international, have grown with an expanding demand for products that have a story linked to them. However, such products are low in supply due to inefficiencies in the supply chain.

With the beginning of globalization and the availability of more affordable and varied products, the market is facing severe competition in the global market. These products are typically perceived as traditional, old-fashioned and antithetical to modern tastes. There have been lesser efforts made in order to reposition the image of handicrafts in India and build customer appreciation of the history and cultural identity associated with these products. Apart from that, there have been a few instances of traditional crafts being contemporized to fit with changing market patterns.

Authored By: Varinder Singh Jawanda, Founder, TrendyBharat

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