Dream handlooms

Handing power To women and society   -  K Murali Kumar

Contrary to perception, its future is bright

Unknown to many, one of the biggest differentiators of India is its handloom industry. Among the largest in the world (90 per cent of the world’s handlooms come from India), this industry employs close to 10 million artisans in India and is considered the second largest income generating activity after agriculture in rural India.

India has close to 2.3 million handlooms with major centres in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.

What is positive about this sector is its global business potential, social and climatic impact, quality and uniqueness. Contrary to what people say, handloom is not a dying industry; it is, in fact, one of the most promising industries and is going through a lot of transformation right now.

What are the advantages?

The six biggest benefits of handlooms are:

Large premium design choices: Handloom enables more varieties of design to be spun out. This enables a consumer to literally own an apparel that is unique in the world and made only for him or her.

For example, you can get your own hand-woven custom-made Paithani saree from Yeola, Maharashtra. This is something no powerloom can give.

Handloom is a designer’s paradise. It just needs the right design interventions.

High ROI: The return on investment (ROI) on handloom is handsome. The cost of handloom can vary and a weaver can produce at least ₹30,000-50,000 worth fabric in a month.

The cost of material is usually 10-15 per cent; this gives a handsome ROI in only about two to three months. Very few asset investments give that kind of ROI.

Employment generator: In a country like India where young people are looking for employment with high income, the handloom sector provides a golden opportunity to earn handsomely. It can enable reverse migration possibilities, from urban to rural, and reduce stress on urban infrastructure. It employs 10 million artisans already and can employ more.

It is possible that sometime in the future, a degree from IIHT (Indian Institute of Handloom Technology) may be more valuable than a degree from IIT!

GreenTech: Handloom is well suited to rural India where there are power problems as it does not depend on electricity. It is a fine example of GreenTech.

Ripe for tech disruption: There are multiple tech disruption possibilities here. Remember, we are looking at disaggregated supply (2.3 million handlooms scattered across India) and disaggregated demand (rural, urban and international) here. Handloom has the opportunity to create a cab aggregator type of business model which enables matching of this disaggregated demand and supply.

Women’s empowerment: This is an industry which employs 83 per cent women.

There are not many industry or corporate or government institutions that have such an inclination towards employing women.

Those working in the handloom industry rejoice in the activity. It is a hidden treasure of India and does not need charity. In fact, it is possible to mine gold here.

The time of handlooms has come. Let Digital India disrupt this Make in India heritage.

The writer is CEO and co-founder of Craftsvilla.com

Published on December 18, 2016

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