Immediate steps needed to improve the life of weavers
Rather than just promoting handloom to State officials, the focus should on improving the ecosystem for generating regular demand for handloom
To increase the sale of these products in the domestic market, apart from some special events on selected place, and various exhibitions, the branding of these products need to be promoted. And this will be more easy and quick with the involvement of private companies
Handloom Day was being celebrated enthusiastically on August 7, across India and it again gave a push to the demand for handloom products. Over the years, social media had been also used to promote this day to support Indian weavers and handloom product manufacturers. Right from ministers to senior Government officials and celebrities also become part of handloom promotion. This is worth appreciating that the entire society promotes India's traditional strength.
From the beginning of Handloom Day in 2015, involvement of Indian embassies across the world, and thrust on increasing the handloom export are positive steps and there are improvements in the handloom segment, but when one sees ground realities in some States and various reports, the overall handloom business still far away from cashing its full potential.
India has everything to promote the handloom as a good product is there, strong government machinery including the National Handloom Development Corporation, Handloom Export Promotion Council, Indian Institute of Handloom Technology, National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), and handloom cluster across India to mention few.
The quality, feel, and the story behind the Indian handloom products are awesome and there is a dire need to strong market these handloom products at all levels. And the major focus should be to make the handloom products for daily use. So far, handloom products are mostly used on special occasions like festivals or marriages. With the available resources, and with proper R&D, it should quite possible that handloom can be used as daily wear with the same comfort which comes from our daily routine garments and that too in most of the seasons, irrespective of winter or summer.
To increase the sale of these products in the domestic market, apart from some special events on selected place, and various exhibitions, the branding of these products need to be promoted. And this will be more easy and quick with the involvement of private companies. One of the leading brands in known for handloom products and its performance in the market is on the rise. There can be many more such brands with reasonable prices and easy availability across India. A consumer mindset always prefers a brand as a brand also shows credibility about genuine products and a sense of pride. A lot of successful brands in this category will naturally push the demand. The world concerned for the environment will surely feel proud wearing the handmade product which also improves the lives of people in Indian villages.
Our government has prestigious awards for good weavers, such recognition can also be given to private companies, brands or individual people, who work to promote handloom.
The focus should also involve the leading manufacturers and global brands to promote the handloom products. In India, online platforms have some good initiatives to promote handloom products and more such examples are required to promote these products at the global level. Ministry of Textiles has also insisted to connect the weavers with more online selling platforms and GeM (Government e-marketplace). The supply chain across the handloom product manufacturing needs to strengthen and there can be some incentive from the government if the export target of handloom achieves. There is example, one of the leading textile giants is exporting a good amount of Khadi products for a renowned brand and this export is continuously growing. Global brands are continuously looking for newer and different, sustainable, ethical products and a true handloom product quite fits these parameters.
All this is required not only to strengthen India's traditional strength, but also to improve the lives of more than 35 lakh handloom weavers as they are not in very good condition despite their best efforts. So efforts are required at the marketing front and supply chain to ensure the maximum gain of weavers at the grass route level. If the database of these 35 lakh weavers comes in the public domain, a large chunk of handloom lovers can directly connect themselves with these weavers and it will be a win-win situation for both, handloom consumer and weavers.
Not only the union Government, even all state governments, whether they have handloom at a large scale or at a small level, but also have to be part of handloom market promotion. Rather than just promoting handloom to the State officials and Government employees, the focus should on the ecosystem which generates regular demand and accordingly smooth supply of the handloom products. A long-term plan comprising all the above-mentioned aspects will be highly beneficial in this regard.
(The author owns a garment manufacturing setup in a rural area, which employs mostly women workers)