How HCSSC is reviving Handicrafts and Carpets industry in the time of COVID-19 crisis

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Mr Om Prakash Prahladka Chairman HCSSC

Mr Om Prakash Prahladka

The Handicrafts and Carpets industry of India is vast and versatile. The expansion of handicrafts and carpet sector in the country has been increasingly export driven and these sectors have extremely high employment potential, perhaps the most eminent among all the product sectors. With the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the Handicraft sector is going through some changes. Being an informal and unorganized sector, the Handicrafts and Carpets industry would need a prominent revival plan during the post COVID-19 scenario.

To know more about the current challenges in the Handicrafts and Carpet industry and their post COVID-19 revival plan, Team NSN interacted with Mr Om Prakash Prahladka, Chairman, Handicrafts and Carpet Sector Skill Council (HCSSC). Let’s read further…

Q. What kind of changes is the Handicrafts and Carpets industry going through during the COVID-19 crisis? Being most informal and unorganized, what needs to be done to revive it?

A: The Handicrafts sector of India is a major supplier of high quality Handicrafts and Carpet goods and services. It represents India in the international market for maintaining the quality and international standards of the products and services. For the development of the sector, we have started developing the necessary infrastructure along with a good marketing strategy. We have also started promoting the sector on several recognized platforms to create awareness among people.

The unprecedented outbreak of the pandemic has definitely caused a setback for the industry. The IHGF Delhi Fair, which was planned on 15th to 19th April 2020 was also cancelled.

To revive the industry’s glory in the post COVID-19 scenario, we are working on an interactive virtual platform to connect the sellers with the buyers. The platform will have individual booths for each exporter/ manufacturer to exhibit their products.

Buyers and Buying agents can explore the new designs and unique products through this platform. They will be able to connect with the seller and inquire regarding the product. This initiative aims to help the entire artisan community, craftsman and weavers.

Q. With the return of migrant workers to their native places, will the industry see a boost in younger talent? If yes, how should the industry cater to their skill development and employment needs?

A: The government of India is closely working with different state governments to reskill unemployed migrant and informal sector workers. The initiatives will not only help rehabilitate those who have lost their jobs due to the crisis but also make the workforce readily available. The handicraft sector is also working towards creating everyday use/essential products like masks along with other high-end products.

Artisans are one of the most resilient communities; they work very hard to sustain their livelihoods and at the same time, they guard their legacy. This is when the government, industry, entrepreneurs, designers, and civil society should vigorously support this age-old industry and revive it in this instant of crisis. With strong focus, the Handicrafts and Carpet industry can contribute to generating lakhs of rural jobs and sustainable livelihoods.

HCSSCQ. There is no dearth of talent in this sector. However the younger generation is not willingly to join the industry due to low income and lack of aspirational values. What should the industry do to attract more young talent to join the workforce in the future?

There is a lack of awareness about the Handicraft and Carpet industry among the youth. Education plays an essential part when it comes to awareness creation. And in India, we still don’t have a formalized education structure for unorganized sectors like Handicrafts and Carpets. Building on the key outcome of the vocationalization program i.e. career in vocational stream, this program will contribute toward increase in number of students pursuing vocational career/ studies in the field of handicrafts and carpets. The awareness on new-age technologies should also provide an understanding of diversified educational opportunities for these students, once they complete school education.

HCSSC, EPCH and CEPC together have introduced additional training programs at different production clusters all over the country. Participants have to pay for these programs and in the end of these re-skilling programs, they will have job assurance or they can start their own enterprise.

Q. As the Handicrafts and Carpet industry is an integral part of India’s history and culture, how do you think the initiatives like “Make in India” and “Vocal for Local” are going to impact the industry?

A: The pandemic has introduced fresh challenges for the country’s economy, causing drastic disruptive impact on both demand and supply side elements. The government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative is furnishing a new lease of life to some relatively-unknown categories of inherent fabrics and products. The ‘Make in India’ programme is an enthusiastic nation-building drive to promote more multinational and overseas businesses to invest in manufacturing in India. Nevertheless, there are numerous small and large arts and crafts setups in India that will also benefit from the support of this campaign.

Earlier our industry members’ mindset was focused only on export but now with a new emerging India and with several Training Programs introduced by HCSSC Skill Council, EPCH & CEPC, we have been successful in changing the mindset of our industry members and they have already started taking very active initiative in servicing the domestic market which will help in reducing substantial Imports of lifestyle products, Home Décor products, Lamps and Furniture for individual homes and for the Hospitality industry and for multiple retailers and gifting industry.

Q. How do you think the adoption of technology will impact the future of Handicraft industry?

A: Our industry members are very progressive and over the past few years they have invested substantially in technology and advanced manufacturing equipment and they are still readily availing the technologies.

To change people’s mindset and for capacity building to produce in large numbers, the sector requires investment, infrastructure, right equipment and re-skilling of the workforce. We have asked for government help in doing so. We are also looking forward to establishing Vocational Education schools and training centres where we will provide courses on advanced design and development of Handicrafts.

Q. What is your advice or vision for the younger generation who are yet to join the industry?

A.There is a huge employment opportunity in the Handicraft sector which should be leveraged wisely. This unorganized sector is expanding rapidly and the products are now started getting global recognition on all the reputed platforms. To steadily advance the quality of crafts and ensure fine craftsmanship in the twenty-first century, focus is directed towards design, research and development to meet contemporary challenges. The stakeholders are now covering all the aspects of this sector including education and training to achieve the potential results. Now there are opportunities for the young generation to try and explore these areas as their career options. The industry could furnish sustainability while working in an industry environment.

Those who aspire to build a career in the Handicrafts and Carpet sector should invest in developing their skill sets and should get work exposure during while they are students.

Also read: How HCSSC is nurturing talent in the Handicrafts and Carpet sector  https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/how-hcssc-is-nurturing-talent-in-the-handicrafts-and-carpet-sector/

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