Asean Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA) has a mission to preserve and improve the status of craftspeople within and outside the Asia/Pacific region. AHPADA supports the fulfillment of its objectives through the sharing of ideas, know-how, experiences, resources and expertise in the region for the preservation and the development of craftspeople, and in promoting quality craftsmanship. At the same time, AHPADA supports the development of crafts through different training initiatives, the establishment of crafts businesses related to cultural tourism, and the vocational training of youth and handicapped people.
The Seal of Excellence was jointly created in 2001 by UNESCO and the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association in order to establish standards of quality and to enhance international market awareness of craft products from the participating countries. Since then, the SEAL witnessed a continuous increase of submissions and of recognized products. In the light of this growing interest, UNESCO decided to extend the SEAL to South Asia and Central Asia. The extension has been carried out so far in partnership with craft organizations such as CACSA and the World Crafts Council-Asia
Currently, there are no quality standards applicable to handicrafts. This is not a very healthy situation from the viewpoint of the supplier as well as the buyer. There could be suppliers who take advantage of the situation and supply low quality products, thereby marring the image of the country. It poses a problem for the buyer as well, as it would necessitate personal inspection of the goods.
To counter this, quality standards need to be imposed in the following areas:
Raw Material Usage : For quality as well as quantity/ proportions in which they may be used. This would involve identifying and nominating authorized suppliers.
Process : Standardization of processes, to the extent possible, for each category. This could be for machinery, place of operation, skill level of the artisans, etc.
Production : It is essential to impose a certain degree of mechanization to achieve certain minimum standardization levels. It also ensures adequate supplies and helps keep delivery schedules.
Finish : Quality standards for the finish in handicrafts is one of the hardest things to impose because the parameters for evaluating the finish of a product are highly subjective. However, it is also very critical because ultimately, the buyer evaluates the product based on its finish. This can be done only after a prototype for each product is developed, and the finished product is weighed against this prototype and rated accordingly.
Packaging : It is essential to stipulate standard packaging material, per the category, to make the products more presentable and hence, more competitive.
In view of the variety of handicrafts available, development & imposition of any kind of standards would be a difficult and lengthy exercise. However, if India is to compete in the world market, quality standards will have to be set and maintained.