The Indian Traditional Handicrafts Sector - A Perspective
Dokra finds representation in Bengal, Odisha and Chattisgarh. Gond art from Chattisgrah has a huge global presence. Maharashtra has Copper Enamel and Warli. Bengal and Odisha are cultural gold mines. It has the finest master weavers, a rich tradition of potochitra paintings, sculptures, terracotta, Jute and kantha work to name a few. Cane and Bamboo from Assam and Tripura are famous. If Rajasthan boasts of miniature paintings and Blue Pottery, Bihar lays claim to Madhubani and the famous Bhagalpuri silk. Kashmir equates to the Pashmina and Tamil Nadu is no less with kanjeevaram and the famous Tanjore paintings. Indian jewelry ranks among the best – dokra and silver filigree from Odisha and Bengal, Banjara from Bijapur, Satara and Telengana, and semi precious stones from Rajasthan – to name a few.
The handicraft industry is the economic lifeline of the rural and semi urban communities. It employs nearly seven million artisans, including women and underprivileged sections of the society with women accounting for nearly 50 percent. However, while exports soar, the craftsmen live in abject poverty. A critical issue for this community is access to markets and recognizing the true value of their craft. Middlemen exploitation, outdated skills, traditional technology, poor marketing and communication skills and defective linkages with financial institutions aggravate the problem. In order to compete with the global market and maintain quality, the artisans must marry workmanship to technology, be more structured and market-oriented.
This is where The Artisan Foundation (TAF) steps in. Our intention is to bring rural artisans into the mainstream market. We do this by engaging in trading activity that has a direct social impact but manages a trade-off between producing financial return and social impact. We strive to bridge the gap between the artisan community and its core markets by taking on the craftsmen as equal partners. Ours is a direct marketing link between the buyer and the seller. The sellers in this case are the individual artisans and grass root level organizations working with these artisans; and NGOs working with marginalized women and children. The TAF marketing platform enables them to showcase their work while simultaneously ensuring that the products are pocket friendly and popular. It creates a space for the artisan to get trained, and then get linked with input providers such as raw material suppliers, microfinance institutions and banks, and further linked with downstream players such as aggregators and retailers.