Taking forward the Make in India initiative and the inclusive growth agenda, Textiles Minister Smriti Irani is all set to announce a Textile Policy on Sunday that will add a new hue to the handloom sector including ways of bolstering sales through e-commerce. Speaking to BTVI , Irani says the new Textiles Policy will encompass all verticals of the handloom sector. To keep pace with time, Irani confided that an announcement on e-commerce to boost marketing of handloom products will also be made in the Textile Policy, which will coincide with the second observation of the Handloom Day. In the run up to the event, Irani says her experiment in social media with a hashtag of #IWearHandloom has been a major success. It has already got 20 million impressions and sales are growing. Irani now wants people to move from #IWearHandloom to #IJustBoughtHandloom.

What can we expect from the Textiles Policy? What’s in store for the handloom sector, which employs 4.33 million people of which 77 per cent are women?

I think the policy in itself will encompass everything. Apart from handlooms, it will look at the jute sector, the needs of the cotton sector; not only from an apparel perspective, but also from the crop perspective to increase yield per hectare. Through the TUFS (Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme) in the 1980s, ITIs were the prominent places where people who wanted a job quickly, could learn a course on textile mechanics. We do not have that anymore. If you want to give impetus to textiles, you need to look at the engineering solutions.

How do you plan to promote handloom through that e-commerce platforms?

I want to move from #IWearHandloom to #IJustBoughtHandloom. And I think two generations are getting together to buy handloom because of one hashtag, which actually is not coming out of an agency; no marketing team involved and no money spent. The fact is that technology has helped us connect to an emotion.

There are challenges when it comes to the sector. I might not like the cut or the product. How can I make it better? You make it better with engagements with designers not only at a national level, but also go down to each and every weaver service centre and the last-mile weaver to connect with the designer. That is something I would like to do.

Apart from the business angle of it, apart from the skill angle of it, I think as a country we can also leverage the heritage and historical aspect of it. There was a Budget announcement about a Hastkala Academy. The intention is to get the eco-system going together.

As there is much variety and each of the craft is at different levels of development, can you have an allencompassing strategy?

Some crafts have already died and some are on the anvil of dying. Certain crafts are very vibrant. Some others have never been explored in terms of their potential from a marketing and sales perspective.

So we have to break it down into those levels and see which designers want to do ready-to-wear, which designers want to do the high-end and which designers are looking at the engagement only from a preservation point of view. And apart from designers, which artisans are historians who want to preserve and give it forward to the next generation and say this is a legacy, some of which we lost, much of which is written.

On handloom e-commerce, I think the point is pertinent from a finance point of view. It may be interesting that the big and small players are doing great sales. I am extremely surprised when I saw players putting in all their effort. They will give you the history of the fabric and the product. When peoplebuy it, they know that they are buying a piece of history. That is the kind of creativity involved.

What about the price of the handloom products sold online?

They are buying at competitive prices. The fact that the kind of marketing they do and the pains they take in making the presentation, makes a whole lot of difference.