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Factors Boosting Digitalization of the Handloom Industry in India The market for beautiful handloom products is spread across the length and breadth of India – metros, mini metros, Tier I and II towns.

By Jawahar Singh

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Being part of India's legacy and timeless traditions, handloom weaving has sustained and grown over the years by transfer of skills from one generation to another. Handloom weaving is largely decentralized, and weaving families are mainly from the vulnerable and weaker sections of society, who weave for their household needs and also contribute to the production in the textile sector. These weaving families are keeping alive the legacy of traditional Indian craft of different regions. The level of artistry and intricacy achieved in handloom fabrics is unparalleled and certain weaves/designs are still beyond the scope of modern machines.

Handloom Industry Today

The handloom sector can meet every consumer need ranging from exquisite fabrics, which take months to weave, to popular items for daily use. As per the 3rd Handloom report carried out in 2009-10, more than 43 lakh people are engaged in weaving and allied activities. Remarkably around 77 per cent of adult weavers are women and only 23 per cent are men. Around 23.77 Lakhs looms of varied designs and construction are used by these weavers. A total of 7200 million sq.mtrs of handloom textiles were produced in India during 2014-15 and `2246 Crores of handlooms were exported.

In addition to being the 2nd largest employment provider in the unorganized sector (after agriculture), the Indian handloom industry is also unique as a sector which employs over 75 per cent women. In today's India when young people from rural/semi-rural areas are constantly tempted to desert their traditional vocations and migrate to urban areas for employment, the handloom sector provides these weavers/artisans, the opportunity to earn decent wages and at the same time preserve India's beautiful weaving heritage.

Digital Technolgy Helping the Handloom Industry

The rapid changes in digital technology and skyrocketing pace of mobile phone penetration are transforming almost every single industry in India today. Digital media like mobile web, mobile apps and social media are changing consumer awareness and buying behaviour rapidly.

Facebook crossed the 2.2 billion active users mark recently in 2018. Twitter has 335 million monthly users. Pinterest has over 150 million active users. There are more 6 million mobile phone applications. Given this scenario, there are countless ways by which Indian handloom products can be showcased worldwide to billions of customers.

Authentic Handloom

Weaving a fine handloom saree or lengths of material for kurtas/salwars/ lehengas is a time-consuming process. Depending on the intricacy/complexity of the design, a handloom saree may take anywhere from 4 days to 4 weeks to weave.

Also in most cases, the weaver is dependent on a master weaver or weaving society to provide him with the working capital for the raw material needed (yarn, dyes, and sometimes even designs) which makes a handloom saree/kurta much more expensive to produce.

Therefore, in order to upsell and market authentic handloom products, creative packaging and showcasing becomes absolutely essential. Online digital platforms with the advantage of beautiful digital visuals and worldwide reach can upsell and highlight the natural beauty and intricacy of handloom products very well. The market for beautiful handloom products is spread across the length and breadth of India – metros, mini metros, Tier I and II towns.

With growing consciousness of well-made apparel and access to the internet on the palms of their hands through their mobiles, Indian women find it much easier to search and buy the products they want on their favourite websites.

Internet's Role

The internet/world wide web provides a platform that makes it possible to reach all segments of customers in large numbers. It is estimated that in India over 500 million people had access to the internet by the end of 2018.

Well-run online businesses which are committed to the welfare of the weaving community offer customers the opportunity to browse beautiful handloom products at leisure, ask questions and buy the product of their choice, at a convenient time from the comfort of their homes or offices… without navigating ever increasing traffic to visit a showroom.

Digital platforms have the potential to innovate and scale up volumes of Indian handloom products both in the domestic and international markets. This has huge potential for the Indian economy as it holds the key to providing large scale employment to over 4 million weavers spread all over the country in rural & semi-rural areas.

There are few E-Commerce platforms that are touching lives of more than 1000 weavers every month in a mission to democratize access to fine Indian handlooms sourced from a plethora of weaving clusters across the country.

In the new Digital economy, top class digital platforms could be the "x-factor' that will catalyze the widespread usage and growth of traditional handlooms. And thus help in weaving an alternate story for the Indian weaver.

Jawahar Singh

Founder, Avishya.com

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