The handicrafts sector is the second largest employer after agriculture in India. It holds huge potential for sustaining livelihoods for artisans spread over length and breadth of the country. However, the sector is plagued by several problems. It is an unorganized sector which has its own constraints such as lack of education, low exposure to new technologies, absence of market intelligence, and availability of capital. It is needless to say that each problem can be turned into an opportunity. Exploiting these opportunities can give rise to businesses taking on the problems one at a time, thus, contributing to the revival of the economy.
The future of the handicrafts sector is promising because of the ever-increasing demand in the international market. In addition to this, the gradual shift to a sustainable lifestyle will give the required boost to the sector. But more concerted efforts are needed to bring the best out of the sector. Let us look at some ways to do just that:
1. Global Style Products: Develop more products that please the potential buyers. It can be done by embracing the concept of global style. In order to access the growing demand of contemporary design and remain distinctive in the market, exporters should educate the artisans about the styles that are in vogue. There are opportunities for handicrafts existing in all market segments, but they are most abundant for products that fit comfortably into people’s homes and utility to their lives.
2. Packaging: Packaging is one of the components in the marketing mix. It should be in accordance with the buyers’ requirements and should meet all criteria required for shipments. The exporters should emphasis on proper packaging of the products. It is important so that the last elements of the supply chain are not affected by improper packaging because an export shipment, while in transit, changes hands, climatic conditions, etc.
3. Quality certification: In order to be credible, the handcrafted products should be of good quality and compliant with various quality certifications. Constantly upgrading the skills and techniques, product development and customer service will help the products remain competitive, difficult to imitate and while maintaining their appeal. Investments to reliably deliver modest quantities of unique and high quality goods to higher-end retail stores are more preferable than those intended to compete with low-cost and high capacity producers.
4. Branding: It is necessary in today’s competitive world to create a distinct image of the product in the minds of the customers. It can be done through branding. For example, Indian handicrafts need to be branded as they have ethnic and traditional value, which is valued by the western customers.
5. Employing the Indian Student Community Abroad: In the recent years, India has had a large number of students pursuing higher education from the USA, UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Australia, etc., which also happen to be major handicraft importing countries. This can be availed as an opportunity for the small and medium sized handicraft exporters who cannot afford to visit these countries on a regular basis. They can collaborate with the trying-to-be-self-dependent Indian students abroad by offering them work in form of business development in their host country. The Indian business can also help the students monetarily by bearing their tuition and living expenses to some extent. For example, the exporters can target the business management students who have good communication and presentation skills. The exporters can nominate them as their business executives to the importers/buyers in the host countries. On one hand, the students will also get an opportunity to explore different facets of running a business. On the other hand, the students will bring in business for the handicraft exporters from the host country.
Sure, the recent campaign #VocalForLocal is of paramount importance. It will cause the necessary shifts in attitudes which will be important to achieve this goal. But making the handicrafts sector shine in the international market will take more than just an attitude change. It needs continuous strategic initiatives in the right direction and the day will not be far when we have achieved the goal!