How startups are preventing India's rich handicraft culture from fading away
India boasts of a diverse cultural heritage and is home to skilled artisans. The country holds the record for having the handicrafts sector as the second-largest employment market after agriculture.
The complex yet aesthetic embroidery, intricate yet innovative designs, and rich colours rule the country's handicraft culture. Be it local or foreign tourists, everybody wants to explore the real India.
Hence, the consumers prefer spending large sums of money on handicrafts, wearables, etc., which radiate India's culture and ethics.
Since industrialisation, artisans have started losing out on business. This, coupled with the consumer's growing needs, low-income rate, absence of marketplace, and a lack of raw materials, further adds to their woes.
The present landscape of the handicraft sector
While there are efforts to support the artisans' community, they aren't enough to sustain their livelihood.
A recent UN report states that over 30 years, the number of artisans in India has dropped by 30 percent. According to a study by Development Commissioner Handicrafts, at present, only seven million handicraft artisans can earn a livelihood through handicrafts. This is indeed a significant drop, considering the Indian market is enormous and extensive.
These statistics depict the dire need for assistance across levels in the handicraft community. All artisans seek is re-investment and relevant opportunities to safeguard their cultural heritage, history, and source of livelihood.
Startups: A blessing in disguise for the handicrafts sector
Startups have recognised this challenge for the handicrafts sector and are helping to uplift the market and the community.
The artisans need a hand-holding approach. They have to be made digitally literate to overcome the roadblocks faced during their growth by leveraging technology's power.
Startups understand the various challenges faced by the artisans and focus on building tailor-made solutions that help boost their morale and enhance the operations of businesses.
Startups paving the way for digital disruption
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of technology adoption last year. Since then, almost every business is undergoing digital transformations, and the handicrafts sector is no exception.
Digitisation is helping small handicrafts businesses to expand their footprints and foray into the global markets. However, startups are providing artisans with the requisite assistance and technology to survive and thrive in the present times.
Startups are leveraging technology to push the traditional forms of trade to tap into the larger marketplace. While earlier, exhibitions were the only option for artisans to sell their products, they got their online identity with the rising prominence of the internet and social media.
They got access to a plethora of opportunities to sell their products in the digital space. Startups are harnessing technology to upscale the artisans' community and the handicrafts sector on the whole. New-age solutions such as AI, ML, Blockchain, etc., are used to streamline processes and help artisans.
Enable the products reaching the customers
Startups work on two fronts for the handicrafts sector.
The enterprise model collaborates with famous brands and ensures they receive handcrafted products from the artisans.
Secondly, they facilitate purchasing the items among the buyers, generally global SMBs, including boutiques and sellers, who prefer buying things from the inventory.
Facilitating smooth selling and buying processes
While startups help bridge the physical-digital divide, they have also made it possible to combine traditional processes with contemporary operations.
They make trading relevant and new-age and further pave the way for innovation across products, processes, and platforms.
Startups also provide the right platform for artisans for selling eco-friendly and innovative heritage crafts, thereby rendering a helping hand in preventing India's rich handicraft culture from fading away.
Help narrow down the aesthetic gap
Further, startups also provide artisans with the assistance to effectively cater to the aesthetic gap and fulfil the needs of modern consumers. To make handicraft products relevant for today's times, an innovative approach for design and quality is required.
Hence, various ventures identify artists, train them, and collaborate with them on designs. They also help the craftsmen create new handicrafts, enabling them to sell their self-designed pieces to customers online and offline.
The startup community possesses the capacity to extend the required assistance and spotlight to the handicrafts industry.
Ranging from better exposure in the market to more significant ways to generate revenues for their handcrafted skills, they are making a pivotal role in upscaling the handicraft community at various levels.
Startups are leaving no stone unturned to save the sector from disappearing into thin air and are making concerted efforts to give the requisite push to the artisans to grow and proliferate.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)