How India Became the Center Stage of the Global Handicraft Market Post Pandemic?

The Handicraft sector of India represents a significant position in the Indian context as it resembles the rich traditions and cultural heritage of India. The uniqueness of this sector is derived from its range of products produced across various parts of the country with exquisite designs and unique quality attributes representing the culture and traditions of that particular region. The handicraft sector of India is the second most employment generating sector after agriculture employing around 1.48 crore people consisting of artisans and craftsmen from rural and urban parts of the country. It plays a significant role in the growth of the country’s economy by bringing in foreign exchange through exports. The Covid pandemic and the lockdown that came along with it because of the increasing numbers of positive cases of Coronavirus disease resulted in the economic slowdown of the country. All the sectors were adversely affected. The stock market across the globe fell massively during that period. One of the worst affected industries was the handicraft industry. The pandemic brought many handicrafts businesses to a standstill. Export of handicrafts fell drastically affecting millions of artisans and thousands of exporters and export houses. However, as John Adams quotes ‘Every problem is an opportunity in disguise, the same happened with the handicrafts industry too. In this article, we will discuss how India during the tough times of the Covid pandemic turned adversities into an opportunity and became the center stage of the global handicraft market. Table of Contents
  1. Impact of the Covid Pandemic on the Handicraft Industry
  2. Steps Taken to Fight Against Covid-19 and Protect the Interest of Handicraft Industry
    • Support by the Government
    • Help from E-commerce platforms.
  3. How is the India Handicraft Market Starting to Get its Due Post Covid?

Impact of the Covid Pandemic on The Handicraft Industry

Impact of the Covid Pandemic on The Handicraft Industry

The handicraft industry is a highly unorganized and decentralized sector. Thus, it is one of the sectors that has faced the most problems because of the pandemic. The demand and the supply chain of the handicrafts during the Covid pandemic were disrupted resulting in the loss of jobs of the craftsmen and artisans across the country. Thousands of exporters and export houses had to close their businesses and look out for alternative sources of income during the period. A survey conducted by Fashion Revolution India in its report ‘ Reimagining the Craft Economy Post Covid-19’ reveals the following key insights to help us understand the impact of Covid-19 on artisans, handicraft organizations, and buying behavior of the consumers.

28 percent of the handicraft organizations had to deal with deadstock.
40 percent of the artisans and craftspeople faced the loss of employment.
16 percent of the handicrafts organizations saw their incomes reduced.
46 percent of the handicrafts organizations faced the problem of delay in payments from the buyers.
48 percent of the handicraft organizations faced issues in logistics.
44 percent of the handicraft organizations faced cancellation of orders by the buyers.
76 percent of the artisans complained that their work is negatively impacted due to the Covid pandemic.

The people employed in this sector are amongst the most vulnerable sections. When the Covid pandemic broke out, these artisans were faced with the dilemma of what was more dangerous for their lives- the Coronavirus disease or not having economic opportunities to support livelihoods. The pandemic has had a fatalistic influence on global trade and commerce as well as economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), job creation, private consumption, and new investment opportunities. The handicraft sector along with all other sectors has suffered immensely because of the unforeseen economic disruptions caused by the temporary limitations on public activities and domestic lockdowns.

Steps Taken to Fight Against the Covid-19 and Protect the Interest of Handicraft Industry

Steps Taken to Fight Against the Covid-19 and Protect the Interest of Handicraft Industry
  1. 1) Support by the Government

The support provided by the government of India has been very crucial for this sector. Starting from providing immediate relief funds to raising awareness on supporting artisans through the ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign, the government has come a long way. After the announcement of the lockdown, there was immense panic and fear among the artisans. The Central government and the state governments, through a systematic decentralized approach, played a big role in providing immediate relief. State governments that have higher concentrations of craftspeople and artisans have been proactive with policy-making and driving support on the ground. Let us now discuss some of the dedicated initiatives taken by the governing bodies for artisans and the handicraft sector.
        • Covid-19 Artisans Help Fund: This fund was created by the Delhi Crafts Council to support artisans for daily sustenance, mobilizing unsold stocks, and help in procurement of raw materials and online marketing of products.
        • Vocal for Local: During the National Handloom Day on the 9th November 2020, the Ministry of Textiles launched a social media campaign to garner support for the weavers, artisans, and SMEs. This took place in partnership with all the stakeholders of different industries, and social media influencers to promote the handloom legacy of India and encourage the procurement of handicraft products for Diwali. This campaign was aligned to the Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India) initiative. This campaign has proved to renew the interest of the customers in Indian handicrafts and several e-commerce platforms have reported an increase in the revenue numbers of the products, both in the domestic and international market.
        • Setting Up of Design Resource Centers: These centers are being set up in Weavers Service Centers in collaboration with the National Institute of Fashion Technology. The primary motive of these centers is to help artisans through innovative interventions. These centers have been set up in Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Bhubaneshwar, and Mumbai.
        • Government e-Market place: The central government launched an online platform to enable artisans to sell their products directly to various government departments and organizations. Around 1.7 lakh artisans had registered on the website by the end of 2020.
        • Connecting Handloom Weavers Virtually: Since it was not feasible to hold marketing events such as exhibitions, melas, etc due to the Covid-19 wave, Handloom Export Promotion Council (HEPC) came to the forefront and took initiatives to virtually connect the handloom weavers and exporters from the different parts of the country with the global market.

    2) Help of  E-commerce Platforms

The power of technology and e-commerce websites was leveraged during the Covid pandemic which helped artisans and craft organizations to reach out to consumers and sell products globally. Due to the advent of Covid-19 across the globe, the traditional methods such as exhibitions, trade shows, and trade fairs were no longer the route available for exporters and artisans to sell their products. Pre-pandemic, many organizations had adopted technology in several aspects of their businesses. However, the lockdown during the Covid accelerated the change to digitalization in the sector of handicrafts. Platforms like Craftezy, Amazon, Wix, and so on provided a platform for both the buyers and sellers of handicrafts. Talking specifically about Craaftezy, the platform works on a commission based-model that allows suppliers and artisans to join with no added cost. A user is charged a minimal fee for each transaction. Buyers can buy verified and authentic handicrafts of premium quality while sellers get increased visibility with its user-friendly platform. This in turn helps India contribute to the export of handicrafts globally and earn a decent amount of foreign exchange.

How is the Indian Handicraft Market Starting to Get its Due Post Covid?

How is the Indian Handicraft Market Starting to Get its Due Post Covid

Although thousands of exporters and millions of artisans had been affected by the pandemic, it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In the FY22 (until August 2021), the export of handicrafts from India stood at around US$ 1584.15 million, which is a greater number keeping the Corona situation in mind. Consumers amid the Covid pandemic have started to spend more on art and crafts which has increased the revenue numbers of handicraft exports of India.

According to research, the world handicraft market is expected to be worth the US $1091.2 billion by the end of 2024, growing at the rate of 11%. In the last five years, exports of handicraft products from India have gone up by more than 40%, as three-fourth of the handicrafts produced in India are exported. The share of handicraft products from India is still very low in the global market, but the overall scope of increasing exports is quite enormous as the global market has started to expand once again.

E-commerce platforms like Craftezy have provided a wonderful opportunity for both the buyers and the sellers to interact with each other and promote the rich culture and tradition of India through its exports. The government of India is also working hand in hand by introducing schemes and programmes like National Handicrafts Development Programme (NHDP), Technology Upgradation Fund, Artisan Credit Card Scheme, and so on to cater to the need of demand of the global market of handicrafts. It is also passionate about protecting the interests of artisans and craftspeople spread across the country.

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