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  • Revival of Our Handicrafts Industry: A Boon for Indian Artisans

    The handicraft sector is the second largest employment generator in villages, the first being agriculture. This is the largest decentralised and unorganized sector of the Indian economy. It is the craft of the people symbolising the inner desire and fulfilment of that particular community. These artisans form the backbone of the nonfarm rural economy.

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    India is a country that is by tradition very rich in art and craft. About seven million artisans in the country are engaged in some kind of handicraft. These handicrafts include pottery, mats, metal ware, weaving woodwork, etc. Most artisans have learned their skills from their parents and grandparents since cultural and family associations have a greater influence in India than market requirement or training. The handicraft industry is a home based one which requires very little expenditure, training or infrastructure to set up. The locally available materials and the individual skill is what is needed to make handicrafts.

    There were times when Indian handicraft received royal and aristocratic patronage, which is why Indian handicrafts are quite in demand the world over. Every piece of handicraft holds secrets, myths, and faiths that have transferred through generations both by the artisans and through people associated with it.

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    The agricultural community depends on the handicraft as a secondary source of income in case of drought, flood famine, or lean harvest.

    In the recent years, there has been a decrease in the number of artisans engaged in the handicraft industry. These artisans are engaged in manual labour work or are unemployed, giving up their high skills. One of the major reasons for this change is the commercially and machine-made cheaper alternatives available in the market. The limited exposure of the artisans to the market, loss of urban consumer interest, competition has also added to the decline of the handicraft industry. Today India adds only 2% to the global handicrafts market. Thus, you find that many of these artisans are living in abject poverty and economic conditions.

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    The government, the private, and the non-profit organizations have played a major role in trying to revive the handicraft industry. However, the impact has been isolated and limited. Much effort is required to completely revamp the handicraft industry using rural resources. Various organizations are helping by setting up exhibitions both domestically and globally to showcase the crafts produced by these artisans. These organizations are creating marketing opportunities for craftsmen to sell their products at a better price to a wider consumer base. They are using unique business models to create these market linkages from artisan to consumer, thus being profitable to all involved, especially the artisan.

    With the advancement of communication networks all across the country, it can be used positively to the artisan’s advantage. New designs, ideas, orders, and markets can be within the reach of the artisan with the right training. Educating customers too is an important part of revitalizing the handicraft industry. Today online marketing is a buzzword to buy and sell products. Some organizations are already connecting buyers and sellers directly online.

    The handicraft industry is very important for the country as it is the second largest employment generator in the rural sector. Efforts must be made to revitalize and develop it to its full potential. It is also an industry that helps to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the country. The new initiatives can help boost the lives of millions of artisans in the country.

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