Art & Craft Industry Overview
India is known globally for her rich heritage of Arts & Crafts.The handicrafts sector enjoys a special significance in the country's economy in terms of employment generation and earnings of foreign exchange through exports.Many agricultural and pastoral communities depend on their traditional craft skills as a secondary source of income in times of drought, lean harvests, floods or famine.There are 23 Million craftspeople in India today.
Statistical Overview of Art & Craft
- Second largest employment sector
- 23 Million craftspeople
- 63% of exports turnover
- 9 items dominate exports of handicrafts
These nine items include art metal ware, wood ware, hand-printed textiles, hand-knotted and embroidered textiles, leather goods, stoneware, carpets and floor coverings.
India's rapidly burgeoning middle class, in search of an identity that is both Indian and contemporary, provides a natural and growing market for a utilitarian yet aesthetic handcrafted product at a price that is competitive and cost-effective.We cannot afford to ignore these new markets and needs. Craft products will have to be developed differently, marketed and promoted in innovative and varied ways, if they are to compete and survive.
The major problem in marketing the arts and crafts made in India are - consistency of supplies, quality control, scalability of supplies.
Craftspeople form the second largest employment sector in India, second only to agriculture.Many agricultural and pastoral communities depend on their traditional craft skills as a secondary source of income in times of drought, lean harvests, floods or famine.
Women struggling to enter the economic mainstream can use craft to become wage earners, provided they are shown how to get access to the market. Their inherent skills in embroidery, weaving, basketry etc. are a natural means to social and financial independence.
The handicrafts sector is a home-based industry which requires minimum of expenditure, infrastructure or training to set up. It uses existing skills and locally available materials. Inputs required can easily be provided and these are more in terms of product adaptation than expensive investment in energy, machinery or technology.
Also, income generation through craft does not (and this is important in a rural society) disturb the cultural and social balance of either the home or the community.
The craft sector contains many paradoxes. Artisanal contribution to the economy and the export market increases every year and more and more new crafts-people are being created - especially women - as a solution to rural and slum unemployment.
At the same time mass-produced goods are steadily replacing utility items of daily use made by craftspeople, destroying the livelihood of many, without the concomitant capacity to absorb them into industry.A mind-set that restricts anything handcrafted to the Government Emporia, the Crafts Museum and an occasional craft bazaar, will only succeed in the increasing marginalisation of crafts and their producers.So will the idea that craft should be purely decorative bric-a-brac, and that tourists and the urban elite are its only target customers.The current much-used terms 'exclusive' and 'ethnic' are singularly limiting and inappropriate when marketing skills and products with a potential producer base of 23 million!
Public awareness of the cost-effectiveness, functionality and range of craft products is limited by their being sold only in exclusively 'crafty' outlets. We should neither neglect the simple utilitarian crafts, or down-grade those that are art forms.
The urban consumer, in spite of a growing awareness of craft, does not have access to many of the products that he would like to buy.
One problem faced by crafts people is that they are bound in their struggle for survival to money-lenders, traders or middlemen for credit and raw materials and they are obliged to sell their products to them at a minimal price.
Despite these adverse conditions, the traditional professional crafts person has a unique earning power that can be adapted to many new usages and markets.
Skills and raw materials also exist enabling handcrafted products to be competitive in both price and aesthetics.
Even if one feels there is no future for craft, can one ignore the fact that a large section of the population depends on craft skills for its livelihood?
However, with ever-increasing competition from mill-made products and decreasing buying power of village communities due to prevailing economic conditions, artisans have lost their traditional rural markets and their position within the community.
There is a swing against small scale village industries and indigenous technologies in favour of macro industries and hi-tech mechanized production.
Traditional rural marketing infrastructures are being edged out by multinational corporations, supported by sophisticated marketing and advertising.
The change in consumer buying trends and the entry of various new, aggressively promoted factory produced commodities into the rural and urban market, has meant that craft producers need more support than ever if they are to become viable and competitive.
Simultaneously, India's rapidly burgeoning middle class, in search of an identity that is both Indian and contemporary, provides a natural and growing market for a utilitarian yet aesthetic handcrafted product at a price that is competitive and cost-effective.