The handloom sector in Tamil Nadu is facing a challenge with the educated next generation not willing to join the family profession passed on for generations. Reasons include lack of interest, poor pay and good opportunities in sectors like IT and retail.

The issue is severe in making of cotton-based products. In silk saree making, the situation is not bad because the pay is good, said a couple of weavers in Salem who did not want to be identified.

The issue was dealt with in an elaborate manner in the recently announced Policy Note on Tamil Nadu Handloom and Textiles.

During the year 2022-2023, the Handloom Weavers Cooperative Societies in Tamil Nadu produced cloths valued at ₹1,190 crore and sold handloom products valued at ₹1,414 crore.

Some of the major handloom centres are Erode, Karur, Salem and Tiruchengode producing bedsheets, bedspreads and home furnishing materials.

In recent times, the handloom sector has been facing an existential dilemma. The next generation with higher education is not willing to take up weaving as a profession. The paradox of the upper class buying handloom products as a class statement, whereas the weaver is getting low wages on value added products, the policy note said.

Issues hurting the sector

There is a lack of interest among youngsters to take up weaving as a profession. Hence it becomes imperative for the department to make a paradigm shift and redefine its objectives in the handlooms sector.

There is also a lack of clear Unique Selling Point for handlooms in the changed scenario of technology and automation taking over the textile industry. Production of limited varieties and low value products and resistance to change among existing weavers to adopt novelties in textile and fashion trends are hurting the sector, the note said.

A weaver in Salem said that while a person earns around ₹10,000 a month in a cotton handloom, the wage is three times more in silk handlooms. Many youngsters have moved to bigger locations like Coimbatore and Chennai in search of jobs in sunrise sectors like IT, startups and even major textile showrooms, he said.

TN Govt’s initiative

The State handloom department plans to make paradigm shift and redefine its objectives on sector by focusing on premiumisation, product innovation and diversification of handloom products and service delivery to capitalise market opportunity; command better value realisation through effective branding and enhanced market access through collaboration with private players and brands; upskill the skill-sets of the weavers and induct young generation and increase the wage level of weavers and allied workers.

To encourage youngsters to take up weaving as a profession the State government plans to conduct an induction and entrepreneurship programme. A sum of ₹1.40 crore will be allocated to implement the Weaver’s Induction and Entrepreneurship Programme with 300 youngsters.

On successful completion of their training, the youngsters will be inducted into a nearby weavers’ cooperative and will also be recommended for loans under the Centre’s Mudra scheme, to become entrepreneurs, State Minister for Textiles and Handlooms R Gandhi announced in the Assembly recently.