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How artisans can save India's future

Creative manufacturing of crafts combined with technology could perhaps be a big driver of socio-economic equality

A weaver uses a handloom to make a fabric for a ‘lungi’.
A weaver uses a handloom to make a fabric for a ‘lungi’. (AFP)

As we emerge from the chaos of the pandemic, some vital questions arise around how to the make the craft industry stronger. We need to reframe business models to ensure a resilient supply chain, create more inclusive growth and craft channels of distribution that are more sustainable for the artisans. 

Creative manufacturing of crafts combined with technology could perhaps be a big driver of socio-economic equality. What we also need are changemakers across areas like consumer retail, technology, infrastructure and finance to push initiatives that support craftspersons into action.

Also read: The gap between tech and the artisan

The rise of the conscious consumer also means the need of conscious buyers, product developers, designers and merchandisers who are creating the brand footprint along with the artisans and making them part of the narrative and the community. Artisans in India have mastered their trade, typically native to their region, culture and background. They maintain theoretical and hands-on knowledge about how to expertly create a specific technique or goods and transfer their working craftsmanship to the next generation. Their designs showcase the community’s cultural diversity that do not require sophisticated or expensive technology to manufacture. Added to that is the participation of women in the production process, making it possible to diversify sources of household incomes in rural India.

One of the important reasons to support artisans is to lower our carbon footprints as consumers. While the modern-day role of these artisans will change, evolve and adapt to the changing demands of the customers, they will continue to conserve culture and benefit our ecosystem for years to come. Cultural ties run deep within most artisan communities and regions. Their creations could be catalysts that ignite change, an emotion that feeds culture, and will become the recognisable narrative of current times. When you support an artisan, you support a story, an idea, a tradition and, of course, livelihoods. 

Given the evolution of consumer behaviour and preferences, the imminent dangers of environmental changes and the inherent value of the artisans' craft and heritage, it would be short-sighted to overlook the power of artisans towards the future of our economy. The handicraft sector is the second largest unorganised sector in the country and a major source of income for rural communities. 

The beauty and richness of Indian craft is in the way we actually live it, and giving it a new lease of life by weaving the past and the present together.

Dipali Patwa is the group head of brand, community and digital, Fabindia.

Also read: Would you wear clothes that don't exist?


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