Handlooms are back

Manoj Gupta | Updated on March 10, 2018


India should scale up to ride the new wave

Handloom is witnessing one of its biggest revivals in its history thanks to three factors: preference for unique designs and fabrics by consumers, e-commerce and proactive government support. Further, handloom making is eco-friendly and, mostly, organic.

For the sector to see a boom, a few areas need to be upgraded to industrial-scale levels.

Looms: Imagine thousands of looms in a factory somewhere outside Mangalgiri in Andhra Pradesh, employing lakhs of weavers and allied resources. Such an industrial scale loom setup is needed to produce for global supply. Although there is a lot of cluster level loom activity across India, there is very little synergy between clusters with respect to product design, loom design, yarn procurement and market linkages. There is need for industrial scale handloom to ensure there is synergy around all these functions— so that we get consistent quality fabric, high quality consistent dyeing, bulk buying discounts, mass scale handloom fabric and more concentrated market linkages for uniform demand across the year.

Dyeing: The biggest issue in handloom is consistent fast dyeing, which does not bleed and is natural, but does not cost a lot. Unless we set up industrial-scale dyeing centres across India for natural dyeing, it would be difficult to provide consistent quality fabric at scale to global customers.

Sericulture: Sericulture or silk farming is very important in the cocoon to saree journey. Silk is a major fibre used in almost all the handloom clusters. But for cotton, there are only clusters such as Tant or Polavaram.

Although India is the largest consumer of silk and second largest producer of silk globally, high quality bivoltine silk production is very low in India and consumption far exceeds the production, leading to imports from China. India contributes to just 10 per cent of global exports, in spite of being the second largest producer of silk. Chinese silk production is five times more than India’s because of bivoltine silk, which has a high productivity of cocoon per acre, better twisting machines and usage of dried cocoon reeling method.

Design centres: One of the biggest advantages of handloom is that each finished product can be unique. We can leverage that advantage by creating a model where we have a large pool of designers who know the power of handloom weaving. These designers can churn out unique designs for each handloom weaving type and therefore create a rapid supply of fashions in handloom. Unique fast fashion supply on a mass scale is unheard of globally. Handloom has that capacity.

Skill enhancement centres: With an increase in number of handlooms across India, there will also be a need for weaving talent in locations where the industrial scale handloom parks are set up. Handloom can be a great way for reverse migration from urban to rural India. Handloom can be one of the biggest levers for government to solve unemployment issues. It can be a revenue based employment lever rather than cost based employment lever such as MGNREGA.

There is no doubt that handloom is going to play pivotal role in global fashion. How big is the impact we can create as a nation in handloom would depend how deep we reform the sector.

The writer is the co-founder of Craftsvilla

Published on March 30, 2017

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