For a long time, the handloom market has been attempting to establish itself in retail by selling through offline channels. In contrast to the other fashion divisions, handloom did not have a strong presence in the e-commerce sector. But the future of handmade is gradually improving as small enterprises work to introduce handloom and handcrafted collections. Will this industry eventually benefit from online retailing?
A number of emerging firms are increasing their production and USP by utilising handmade techniques. To sell their goods, these modern firms rely on digital platforms and online marketplaces. Since the pandemic, some weavers have really been able to establish their online presence and sell their inventories thanks to some of their devoted consumers. However, does e-commerce for handcrafted and handloom products seem like a hopeless possibility and are all sales one-off?
When discussing the realities of this industry, it is stated that “the handicraft industry was already in danger, and the pandemic just made matters worse for weavers all throughout the nation. Despite all of the initiatives, subsidies, and policies of the federal and state governments, the number of weavers who are actively working has decreased for a variety of reasons. The pandemic disrupted the supply chain for raw materials and raised prices. We hope that the increased discussion of handlooms, sustainable livelihoods, and production methods in the public sphere will lead to a rise in demand for handcrafted goods. For the future of the craft to be better, handmade needs to be shown in a luxurious setting and market.
Making handloom online ready:
Except for the yarn that gets processed in a mill, handloom is entirely hand touched and produced with no use of energy or causing minimum carbon footprint. It’s laborious but the weavers do not get livable wages by practicing it. A good 92 per cent weavers in this country make less than Rs. 5000 a month. That’s the greatest irony. So, beginning from low wages there are many challenges, and the sector claiming to be the second largest employer in this country, has to reinvent the wheel. Handmade is precious and should fetch right value for the product, dignity and social stature for the weaver as well at the same time.
In its existing state, handloom is unfit for an e-commerce platform. “A new algorithm must be created that is not based on the discounting price that “was” and “is,” which is the standard used by all e-commerce sites. If properly constructed and produced in its woven form, handmade products will have minimal deadstock, be timeless, have set costs, and have constrained profit margins. Any pricing error brought on by market demands will only be detrimental to the market’s ability to survive. For the consumer to learn, comprehend, and respect what goes into the entire process, we need to share stories about handmade products. Handmade products will always be in small quantities, thus it is necessary to develop the proper pricing and online selling channels. We are currently trying to figure out this technique through our e-commerce platform and help the weavers & artisans get a fair price for their work and round the year work as well.
But at the moment, the handloom industry has benefited greatly from internet selling. Previously, the weavers used to supply their clothing to large offline retailers, and the retailers would only pay them after the clothes were sold. The weaver’s money would thus be trapped in these establishments for days. In addition, the buyer had limited options when choosing the item they intended to purchase. Customization was not an option. However, the idea of purchasing handlooms has taken on a more modern feel as a result of social media and the opening of the online market for sale. People that request customization can purchase whatever they wish. Additionally, the price you pay to the weavers when you buy straight from them is higher and it helps them to have a normal life.
The client is prepared to spend:
The idea that consumers always want cheaper goods is untrue. According to our experience, if you give the customer the proper back story, they will always be willing to pay the right price or spend more money. We collaborated with a co-operative group in Kerala and some weavers from West Bengal when the pandemic first broke out, and the products we produced ranged in price from Rs. 1200 to Rs. 25,000. We were pleasantly pleased by the response we received from the global audience.
Today’s customers are very aware of what they are purchasing, making supplying them through digital channels incredibly frictionless and simple. “These platforms are increasing the visibility of weavers and companies or organisations who work with weavers. Today, a quick video may show the buyer where their garment is being woven and how attentively the weavers are assembling each component to create a design. Prior to this, we would simply let the buyer know that the weaving is delayed because of bad weather or another labour difficulty. But now that the concept is clearer, all we need to do is tell the issues or share information about the weaver or the creation process, and customers will understand it and will be satisfied.
As a last observation on the industry, It’s like any other industry. Layers will be present. The handloom is at the top of the pyramid, followed by spinoffs. There will always be a high-end customer that appreciates handmade goods, their values, and their affordability. You don’t go into Chanel or Dior and complain about how expensive it is or how it only appeals to a small market, or how there are even more well-known handmade labels that are more expensive than them and target an elite clientele. We must answer this issue clearly: Is ensuring that skilled craftspeople have access to better living conditions and social fairness more crucial than mass affordability?
No other country that produces machines can ever compete with the refinement, quality, and workmanship of handmade in India, which should command the greatest price and be recognised for. The fact that India is the home to 95% of the world’s handwoven textiles should be a source of pride and opportunity for us. Simply designating handcrafted as the pinnacle of luxury will do. Each piece has a unique personality and sense of craftsmanship.