Our nation’s rich heritage and diversified culture can be seen in Indian handicrafts. Indian artisans are a perfect blend of craftsmanship, high-quality designs and an unmatched sense of patterns. They strongly hold Indian society and culture together. They are real people who create unsurpassed handicrafts. So, it is important to examine the impact of the socio-economic background of artisans on the development of handicrafts.
Handicrafts have emerged as an essential economic agent in India, revolutionizing the lives of millions. Among the key economic sectors generating profits in rural areas are handicrafts and traditional handlooms. In addition, India’s handicraft exports are expected to reach Rs 24,000 crore in FY 2022-23. Sources
In this blog, we will discuss the problems and challenges faced by our rural artisans. How our government, their initiatives & schemes are fostering the Indian handicraft industry. Even explore how globalization, handicrafts, and their demands are surging.
Our government is now pushing artisans out, providing different stages through which they can demonstrate their craft designs, which has gradually increased the demand for artisans. This job segment has also been given a boost in terms of career prospects. Like designers of craft-based products, design managers, various product designers, etc.
India’s rural economy has relied heavily on the handicraft industry for decades. In rural and semi-urban areas, it provides skillful employment to a large segment of craft workers. In addition to preserving the nation’s cultural heritage, handicrafts generate substantial foreign exchange.
Over the years, the handicraft sector has grown remarkably under the tenacious promotion and development of the government. A steady growth rate of 20 percent has been recorded every year by the handicraft industry, according to the Ministry of Textiles. Several factors are contributing to the revamping of the Indian handicraft industry and will help it build a global presence:
Picture credits: pradhanmantriyojana.co.in
The government is actively working to maximize the potential of this industry. Various initiatives and schemes are helping our craftsmen overcome their challenges. Through the Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana and Dastkar Sashaktikaran Yojana, artisans can develop infrastructure, technology, and human resources. In order to promote bulk production and economies in raw material procurement, it was launched to mobilize artisans into self-help groups and societies.
Globalization and the handicrafts industry
Over the past few years, this sector has not only contributed steadily to GDP growth but has also become a major player in the international market, something the country wants desperately to reduce its ever-increasing current account deficit. Since the 1990s, when India opened its doors to multinationals, the Indian economy has changed dramatically.
Increasing opportunities for handicrafts in the global market are evident from the fact that Indian handicraft exports increased three times in five years from 387 crores in 1986-87 to 1,065 crores in 1991-92 (Magster). International tourists also increased demand for Indian handicrafts in the post-liberalization period because of an increase in international tourism.
In turn, globalization affects the growth of the sector because it changes the structure of the economy, relative prices, consumption opportunities, and consumption patterns. There is an increase in competition from different countries and especially from machine-made products, and new technology has introduced challenges for the handicraft industry. Due to this, India is unable to increase its share of the global market, which has remained very nominal for a long time.
Problems and challenges
Even with such great contributions to the society and the economy, the financial status of rural artisans is not satisfactory. This hampers the marketing power and buying capacity of artisans. This sector is well-known as one of the most unorganized sectors next to agriculture which has the great potential to contribute to our economy as it can generate rural income, great employment opportunities, improve export & foreign exchange earnings and the purchasing power of rural people. Let’s discuss some of the major challenges faced by artisans:
Illiteracy: Illiteracy plays a vital role in drawing our artisans back into marketplaces. Most of our artisans are from rural places, unaware of the government schemes. They are clueless about the market changes and have meager bargaining power with the mediators. This factor results in less pay or underpayment of artisans and the inability to compete with cheaper, imported goods in the national and international markets.
Lack of raw materials: Our artisans find it difficult to shop for quality raw materials at affordable prices due to competition in the organized industry. Due to this mere reason, they purchase low-quality raw materials from local traders against their orders at high prices.
Lack of technology and skill improvement: Artisans are custodians of the Indian culture and values. Their skills are transferred from one generation to another. There are very few institutions for artisans to hone their skills and help them implement the latest techniques to improve their production process.
Lack of demand: Our artisans face severe competition in domestic and international markets due to globalization. There is an availability of cheaper, machine-made, and more varied products in the market. Craft products are considered old-fashioned, antithetical, and traditional compared to modern products.
Lack of funding: Handicraft artisans are dependent on credit and loan facilities. Due to the complex documentation process of banks, our artisans are bound to turn towards local money lenders and borrow money from them at very high-interest rates.
Indian Handicrafts: International Market Exposure
Demand for Indian handicrafts
As a result of the rich and exotic appeal of high-quality handicraft goods produced by local artisans’ communities across India, they have not only attracted domestic demand but have also attracted global demand, which has made India the largest exporter and supplier of handicrafts in the world. Approximately seven million regional artisans and 67,000 exporters/export houses promote regional art and craftsmanship in the domestic and global markets, according to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) (Sources).
The Chairman of the Export Promotion Council of Handicrafts (EPCH) explained that art metals, woods, hand-printed textiles and scarves, embroidered and crocheted items, shawls, zari products, imitation jewelry, incense sticks, and perfumes (attar) have good export viability.
India’s textile and clothing products, including handlooms and handicrafts, are exported to over a hundred countries, according to the Annual Report 2018-19, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. Most of these exports go to the USA and the EU.” According to market insiders, the other major destinations are the UAE, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Brazil, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, and Egypt. (Sources)
The handicraft industry has benefited greatly from technology that helps cross boundaries. When one has a product to offer, acquiring a global customer is no longer impossible. Online platforms have enabled seamless access to consumer goods, enabling inclusive growth as manufacturers all over the world can show off their products through these online platforms. Marketing Indian handicrafts worldwide are made easier by social media platforms as well.