Promoting Indian Handloom & Handicraft in global market
Handloom & Handicraft in India
Before the Industrial revolution catapulted Europeans as the leaders of world trade, India had commanded the leading position on back of it’s textile & spice exports. While Textile Industry suffered during colonial rule as resources were exploited & used only to benefit the colonial masters, not enough efforts were made after independence to revive it globally. Even today this sector plays a crucial role by being the second biggest employer after agriculture & accounts for 15 percent of country’s total exports.
Indian textile industry is a diverse mix of organised & unorganised sector which includes individual artisans, weavers, small handloom factories and large cotton mills & garment plants. It also remains a custodian of India’s culture & heritage. An effective policy to leverage its huge potential can give India a unique advantage.
Branding handloom as luxury
Handcrafted is the modern luxury. The notion of modern luxury in developed world is that it involves quality & rare skill of craftsman, exclusivity, heritage attached to it & the time taken to make the finished product .
While the Indian textile policy of 2000 talked about commercially exploiting brand equity of handlooms, not enough was done during past years to exploit this traditional stronghold. With right support & branding, we can convert this into a treasure which will be a win win for both, India’s exports & welfare of the people traditionally employed in the handloom sector.
Loom to Luxury is a good case study to support this argument and shows just how much potential handloom has which is not being used. Jitendra Kumar learned his trade from the craftsmen of Varanasi. An NGO later connected his firm, Loom to Luxury to some fashion houses in Paris and rest is history. It has become a recognised name in luxury handloom and produces for major fashion houses.
Point Of Sale
Point of sale matters in luxury market. There was a social experiment done by low cost footwear company payless in Los Angeles where they took over a former Armani store in a mall & stocked it with their regular shoes bearing luxury price tags. Shoes which are available in their store for $ 20 – $ 40 went for $300 to $640 and they recorded $3000 worth of sales within few hours with fashion trendsetters praising the high quality & elegance of their products. On the contrary, Payless is struggling to save it’s actual low cost retail operations.
Bottomline is that unless these handloom products find their way to luxury showrooms & with big fashion & luxury brands, it will be difficult to brand them luxury.
Get prime space on all international airports in India to showcase luxury branded handloom products.
Souvenir shops at international airports selling laughing Buddha (which has origins in Chinese feng-shui) & Taj Mahal need major upgrade. They need to represent India’s traditional craftsmanship and it’s true heritage.
Target major cities like Paris, New York, London, Rome, Los Angeles, & Tokyo which are biggest fashion hubs of the world by doing a feasibility study & subsequent presence for luxury branded Indian handloom stores there.
Link tourism to handloom and ensure point of sale with quality hand-crafted products at tourist destinations.
Promote cooperatives in handloom
While some successful models of cooperatives exist in Handloom, there is a need to give them a bigger thrust in all traditionally handloom employed regions.
This will give Handloom workers scale and will enable better implementation of quality control, standardisation, and branding measures.
Cooperatives will be better placed to enter into agreements with domestic & international buyers.
Handholding to be provided to these Handloom cooperatives in management affairs & point 5.01 & 5.02 above.
Easy availability of credit to these cooperatives.
Care needs to be taken to ensure that the artisans, weavers & craftsmen are the real owners & cooperatives are not driven by the middlemen owing showrooms in cities.
No substitute to quality
There is no substitute to quality products at competitive prices. There is some serious competition in the textile sector & standing out from the crowd is the key.
In the export market, consumer expectations are high and any defects have a direct impact on the reputation of the entire industry with consequences for future export demands. It is very important therefore to meet the relevant regulatory requirements and the end user's high standards.
Some other countries who have had a strong presence in in the textile sector traditionally have shown the way by way of implementing effective quality guarantee programs. While Turkey implemented “Turquality”, Chinese products go through numerous quality requirements under government's mandatory national standards (GB) and industrial standards (FZ). These quality programs have helped these countries cover for the losing cost advantage.
The quality guarantee program should focus on creating awareness on the internationally accepted quality & standards & helping companies develop capabilities to elevate themselves to international benchmarks.
Reclaim handloom & Handicraft
There is documented history that Indian was the only major player in of Handicraft & Handloom market during early human civilisations. Though the international market in handicraft & handloom has become a crowded space now, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed the world how it is done as India reclaimed Yoga. Not long ago there were talks of different countries and individuals filing for patent of yoga and how India had lost it. A similar effort is required to reclaim handloom & hand-crafted. Prime Minister's appeal to promote Handloom did wonders for the sector in the country. An international effort in this direction will raise the profile of Indian made Handloom & handicraft.
After all, it was India’s advantage in ancient times & we have long allowed it to slip away.