The handicraft sector is amongst the largest decentralised and unorganised sectors of the Indian economy with nearly 42 per cent artisans working out of their homes. The sector is usually identified as a home-based industry with approximately 50 per cent of household heads of such families having minimal access to schooling; moreover, 90 per cent of the women in these families barely receive any education.
A recent report titled ‘Crafting a Livelihood’, released by Dasra in collaboration with The Rothschild Foundation, traces the 'current craft landscape in India, challenges and opportunities for rural artisans, roles of various stakeholders - government, corporates, social businesses, non-profits - and best practices currently implemented within this space'.
With a meagre two per cent share in the $400 billion global handicrafts market, India definitely has tremendous scope for growth in this sector. Dasra’s team for the past six months traced and mapped the crafts sector, reviewing over 250 non-profit organisations and interviewing key sector experts to chart out 'the cornerstones for building the crafts ecosystem in India'.
An understanding of Indian craft entails an insight into the current scenario marked by a loss of demand, dwindling skills and difficulty in catering to new markets and rural artisans increasingly moving to urban areas looking for often low, unskilled unemployment. According to the report, over the past 30 years, the number of artisans has decreased by 30 per cent; highlighting the requirement to re-invest in artisans in order to safeguard history, culture and an important source of livelihood.
'An estimated 71 per cent of artisans work as family units, so crafts is a powerful tool to create catalytic impact on the lives of women, marginalised communities and social outcomes of entire families engaged in the sector,' said Gayatri Divecha, Manager (Business Development and Partnerships), Dasra.
Additionally, Ms. Divecha explains that to realize the full potential of the crafts sector, the gaps, overlaps and challenges in the value chain must be overcome to create an ecosystem that enables crafts to thrive. She identifies that philanthropy has a 'key role to play in supporting the creation of such an ecosystem'.
The report reveals that investment in the sector needs a greater focus on building artisans’ sustainability through four key approaches: handholding the artisan through the value chain; increasing demand for crafts and strengthening market linkages; strengthening the decentralized production model; building a multi-stakeholder approach. More specifically, the report also identifies the top 11 Indian non-profit organisations that are effectively working to promote the best practices and engaged the most innovative and scalable models in order to create large scale change in this sector.
'I operate a business, which is one of the most profitable businesses in the retail space in India. Yet, it is also one in which the central theme is to enable all our producers to become stakeholders and beneficiaries of the larger wealth creation process.'
Speaking about the non profit craft organizations highlighted in Dasra’s report, he further adds, 'There are several very successful small scale stories in the crafts space. Taking these to the next level necessitates investment and resources which recognise the value of craft and the socio-economic returns it generates for craftspeople,' said William Bissell, Managing Director, Fab India.
In order to enhance the understanding of the craft sector with a special focus or bringing together multiple stakeholders including philanthropists and policy makers, Dasra is organising a series of events in India and overseas.