Arts and Crafts Development in India – a birds eye view

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Rural artisans form a significant part of our national community. The diversity is extremely rich and the products have a global market. However, the business models are more often than not unethical and most artisans live in deplorable conditions.
Philanthropists and the NGO sector have entered this space across the last 2 decades but have been unavailable to leverage the space much. When I say this, I mean it in the context of the potential that exists.
A marriage of mainstream commercial vehicles and advantages of the NGO model is required. On the production side, Schumacher’s famous “Small is Beautiful” model is the way to go, whereas commercial practices of organization development, Learning and Development processes and Umbrella Brand Building, Marketing across B2B and B2C models are vital to the survival of enterprise. In my experience with NGO IG programs, I have seen simple POS labelling like Crafted with Pride at NASEOH (an NGO) works wonders to retail push. Needless to add, this is a supplementary USP, the product quality and delivery should match mainstream competitive standards, they should not sell on emotional and sympathetic appeal. That would defeat the very purpose of main stream integration that we seek to achieve for the lesser privileged sections of society.
I also feel Brand India and Brand “hand crafted or created” could be winners juxtaposed against mechanized and automized processes. A handmade work of art has a part of its Creator intrinsic to it, something, mere utility objects can never bring to the fore. Energy is non-tangible; hence art object valuation is always dicey. Branding and presentation plays a critical role here.
Small artisans and craftsmen involved in relative mass production can be helped by NGOs through a centralized sourcing mechanism and a centralized selling mechanism using best and ethical practice guidelines. Quality control processes can also be introduced more effectively here. The economics also turn to be very favorable in a competitive market place.
Personally, I have been carrying a concept of the creation of SEZs, Special Economic Zones with shared privileges and facilities for artisan/SHG and other communities. Single entry and single exit strategies across the supply chains can work wonders. The model can be scalable and conducive to replication.
A critical aspect of enhanced go-to market efficacies is project funding parameters and contemporary marketing strategies. In social assisted projects for communities, I believe there is a case for leveraging sec 35AC exemption guidelines towards this sector. Influential players can also lobby the government to ensure the same. It would not only add great credibility to the sector but also bring in social venture capital in myriad ways.
To summarize my perspective, to do justice to the sector of rural and marginalized artisans, the small is beautiful production model has to be synergised with the large brand creation and promotions mainstream business approach to effect social integration of these marginalized sections and do justice to their talents and skills. A few years back, a huge retail brand in India made a game changing move, they provided ESOPS to their suppliers in addition to the regular purchase model. A path breaking way to go…..

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