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E-commerce and technology ideal tools for tradition-bound artisans

The last festival season in India saw the shopper base increase by 24 per cent. Most of them were from tier II and beyond cities, thanks to the dynamic continuous technological innovation that delivered the joy of urban convenience to smaller cities.

E-commerce and technology ideal tools for tradition-bound artisans
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E-commerce and technology ideal tools for tradition-bound artisans 

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The last festival season in India saw the shopper base increase by 24 per cent. Most of them were from tier II and beyond cities, thanks to the dynamic continuous technological innovation that delivered the joy of urban convenience to smaller cities. This means that e-commerce is penetrating deeper into small cities. Meanwhile, e-commerce is also opening new vistas for SMEs and start-ups to reach out and explore the global markets. And that’s not without reasons. With e-commerce, one is not limited by geography. Traditionally, doing business internationally was costly and complicated. One had to set up physical infrastructure in each market one wanted to sell in. This is no longer the case with e-commerce, which can also reduce one’s costs and overheads. For example, one doesn’t need to rent physical space to store inventory. And one can automate many marketing and sales tasks, which saves time and money.

The other significant trend is that India’s handmade sector is getting revitalised by virtue of an increase in the use of digital technology and e-commerce. Trade in cultural goods is heading northward continuously and significantly. There has also been a massive shift among consumers (particularly that of movies and music) towards web-based/digital/online services. India is growing its exports of cultural goods and has strengthened its position in recent years, joining the world’s top 3 exporters of cultural goods.

Lest one forgets, India is home to over 200 million artisans. The craft sector is our second largest rural employer after agriculture.

Despite being one of the world’s largest producers of handmade goods, India’s share in the global market for these was tiny till recently. But now things have started looking up. The export market of Indian handicrafts is estimated to be $4.5 billion. Earlier, it was controlled by traders. At the higher end of the retail segment, top designers and labels had huge margins, the sector’s traditional supply chain structure was inequitable, with actual creators of products getting very little. Things have started to change and change for the better with the increasing use of technology and digital platform. New-generation artisans have been keen to preserving tradition even as they embrace digital tools to reach out.

Interestingly, when you sell internationally, it is important to build trust and enjoy customer loyalty. This can be challenging if you're not in the same country as your customers. But with e-commerce, you can use trust signals like customer reviews and social proof to build confidence in your brand. With an ecommerce website, businesses can track important data such as website traffic, customer behavior, and sales conversions. This information can be used to improve the marketing and sales strategies. Additionally, e-commerce platforms provide businesses with valuable insights into their customers’ needs and preferences.

At the end of the day, it is therefore important for the government and related organisations to take initiatives to support artisans through education and training programmes, especially the younger generation of artisans. The focus should be on new technologies, business practices and marketing strategies and providing young artisans with access to digital platforms and e-commerce tools. Remember that by selling their products online, they can reach a significantly wider audience and expand their customer base beyond their local community.

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