India is one of the major suppliers of handicrafts to the global market. Highly labor intensive, and basically cottage based, the industry is more widespread in the rural and urban areas. The industry provides a livelihood for more than 6 million artisans including a big share of women artisans, and people from the weaker sections of the society.
There is a good demand for Indian handicraft products in countries such as US, Canada, France, Britain, Italy, and Germany. Indian handicrafts are much preferred in the fashion industry. Development in sectors like retail, real estate etc increases the demand, and gives more opportunities for handicraft products. Emergence of e-commerce and internet has emerged as a promising distribution channel to market and sell handicraft items.
Positive Factors Supporting the Sector:
Indian Handloom Cluster has a large, diversified, and potential market. It is equipped with strong and diversified supportive retail infrastructure. It has an assortment of product range due to the diversified culture prevalent in the country. The industry is further enhanced with low capital investment, production flexibility, and cheap labor rates that result in competitive price for its products. Handicrafts sector has fewer barriers for new entry, and also proves to be a potential source of employment.
Achilles Heels of the Industry:
Despite of all the technological advancements happening globally, there is still a lack of awareness about it in this sector. The artisans do not have awareness about the new technologies. They do not get adequate details about the current market trends. Further more; they lack information regarding international requirements and market scenario. Hence they are not able to commercialize their skills in the right way. Though Indian made handicraft items have a healthy demand in the global market, lack of adequate infrastructure and communication facilities hinder the marketing activities.
Moreover, there is very less co-ordination among government bodies, and private players. They sector still remains under nourished with young people not much interested in this craftsmanship. The industry is confined to small cities and rural areas with the market remaining untapped.
The Dark Phase:
There is no adequate balance between demand and supply. The industry faces a tough competition with handicrafts from countries like China, and South Africa. The advanced technology and R&D in the competitors countries favor them whereas; its absence in India makes the industry to wobble behind. This has ultimately resulted in loss of skilled workmanship in the sector.
Due to lack of support from the Handicrafts Development Corporation, and the Government, many skilled artisans are leaving the handicraft industry. The artisans feel that the corporation is not interested in supporting them to market the goods made by them. Almost 90% of the handicraft items seen in the stalls of Handicraft Development Corporation are machine made. Despite the funds offered under the Deen Dayal Hathkargh Protsahan Yogana (DDHPY) scheme, for promoting handicraft products, no steps have so far been taken for any projects. Artisans believe that the corporation does not take adequate measures to provide raw materials for their products, which they are selling through the corporation outlets in the past years.
The 6 million artisans who are the backbone on the Indian handicraft industry have provided their inherent skills, and traditional craftsmanship. But, they are now leaving the industry gradually due to lack of opportunities. The Government needs to focus on creating and developing production centres to patronize the artisans. The facilities available are quite sufficient only as a primary platform. For the changing world market, they need much advanced institutional support, to keep their edge with other competing countries.