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December 2021

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 24 dec 2021

India's handicraft sector is an important part of the economy, both from local consumption and export point of view. According to ibef.org (India Brand Equity Forum) website India has around 7 million artisans as per official estimates, but unofficial figures consider this figure to be huge 200 million. Moreover, there are more than 3000 art forms in which these artisans are engaged in. The website (ibef.org) further provides the following statistics related to Indian handicraft and handloom export (FY21): Woodwares at US$ 845.51 million; Embroidered and crocheted goods at US$ 604.38 million; Art metal wares at US$ 468.66 million; Handprinted textiles and scarves at US$ 339.03 million; Imitation jewellery at US$ 186.65 million; Miscellaneous handicrafts at US$ 826.68 million. Indian government is also providing special push to this sector through various schemes, as described on the handicrafts.nic.in (Development Commissioner Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India) website - NATIONAL HANDICRAFTS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME - NHDP (Includes Marketing Support and Services; Skill Development in Handicraft Sector; Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana [AHVY]; Direct Benefit to Artisans (Welfare); Infrastructure and Technology Support; Research and Development ). COMPERHENSIVE HANDICRAFTS CLUSTER DEVELOPMENT SCHEME (CHCDS) that aims to enhance the insfratructural and production chain at handicraft clusters in India and bring them to global standards. According to Prof. Syed Khalid Hashmi of Millennium Institute of Management, Aurangabad (Market for Indian Handicrafts, Excel Journal of Engineering Technology and Management Science, Dec-Jan 2012), 'The handicrafts sector plays a significant and important role in the country's economy. It provides employment to a vast segment of craft persons in rural and semi urban areas and generates substantial foreign exchange for the country. The handicraft sector has, however, suffered due to its being unorganized, with the additional constraints of lack of education, low capital, and poor exposure to new technologies, absence of market intelligence, and a poor institutional framework...Indian handicraft has great growth potential in the changing scenario with its basic strength being the abundant and cheap availability of manpower and being a traditional profession of millions still requires very low investment compared with other countries barring China.' A new book, 'Crafting a Future: Stories of Indian Textiles and Sustainable Practices' by Archana Shah, explores the contribution of artisans, designers, NGOs etc to handcrafted textiles sector by focusing on the skills and processes of the creators, and weaves the stories of their accomplishment and success. Ms. Shah is worried about the competition that handcrafted textiles face with tech-powered textile manufacturing and has been working to revive and rejuvenate several craft skills. She is the founder of Ahmedabad's Bandhej (a handcrafted textile fashion brand founded in 1981), and has been collaborating with artisans around the country for the last 40 years to create textiles for urban markets. The book is the result of her interactions with artisans over her long career. She says, 'It is broadly divided into three sections of natural fibres: cotton, a plant-based fibre; silk produced by insects; and wool, obtained from animals. It resonates with Gandhiji's concept of developing khadi and village industries to rejuvenate the rural economy and stimulate development through a bottoms-up approach.' The book addresses two major challenges - unemployment and climate change. Ms. Shah says, 'By making productive use of their time and skills, women and marginalised communities involved in this sector will be empowered, and enjoy a sense of self-worth and dignity. Families will benefit from sustainable livelihoods in their own locations, protecting them from the misery of forced economic migration to urban centres where regular work is difficult to find. The challenge is how to bridge the gap, connect the producers with the markets, create products that are 'Handmade in India' for the local, national and global markets and in the process, make the world a better place for future generations.' Read on...

Deccan Chronicle: Handmade in India
Author: Swati Sharma



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