Preserving the handloom heritage by enabling sustainable livelihood for weavers

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Indian handloom industry is deeply rooted in the sociocultural traditions with a rich heritage of skills and talent that needs to be preserved, perpetuated and promoted. The Indian hand-woven fabrics and its textiles are known from ancient times and were exported to other parts of the world for very long. India has regionally distinct varieties of handlooms like Ikats from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, tie and dye from Gujarat and Rajasthan, brocades from Banaras, Pashmina from Kashmir and many more. There’s hardly any part of India that does not have a handloom or handicraft unique to that region. Kalamkari printing technique from Andhra Pradesh still uses natural pigments obtained from the flowers, leaves, barks of local trees and chemicals obtained from clay and river sands for the fabrics.

To understand more about how the handloom industry has changed today in terms of design, marketing, and training of weavers, we met sales executives and designers associated with the Telangana handlooms. We are thankful to the employees of Cheneta Bhavan and Handloom House Hyderabad to talking to us and helping us learn about weaving skills, training, use of technology, marketing and efforts being made to help weavers by keeping connected with customers. Read on to know more.

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Picture credit: Handloom House Hyderabad

Sourcing handloom products from the weavers

“We provide weavers with yarn, recommend colour combinations and help them with design aspects, then our procurement officers and technical officers check if the fabric matches certain parameters and fix a rate”, says Ms. Kavita, a sales executive who currently works at a showroom associated with Telangana State Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society (TSCO).

However, the yarn is provided to the weavers who are registered with the handloom weavers’ cooperative society through the society and not directly. The yarn that is provided to weavers is sourced from National Handloom Development Corporation (NHDC).

Related article: The warp and weft of the Indian Handloom Industry: Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship – Read more: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/the-warp-and-weft-of-the-indian-handloom-industry-education-skill-development-and-entrepreneurship/

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Picture credit: Cheneta Bhavan Hyderabad

“Once the fabric or material is approved by the procurement and technical officers, they are brought to warehouses from where the handloom items are sent to showrooms for sale”, adds Ms. Kavitha.

Value-addition in handlooms

The handloom industry across platforms is trying to add value to its products both in terms of design and marketing to compete with global apparel brands. The design element in the handlooms is not just about creating new designs but also reviving some of the old patterns.

“We have a design cell, where we develop new designs from time to time”. We also do a colour forecast for the upcoming season and recommend colour combination to the weavers”, says Shravan Manda, an alumnus of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), who is currently working as Creative Director, TSCO. The new colour combinations and new design to the weavers add value to the products. “We use the latest software like CAD for our colour forecast and designing purpose”, adds Shravan.

Apart from the design aspect, the handloom fabrics are diversified into various other items apart from sarees and dress materials. They include bedsheets, sarees, carpets, curtains, bags, export carpets, mosquito nets, diwan sets, handkerchiefs, shirts, kurtas and handloom blazers. Over the period, handlooms have also branched out from cotton to silk items in many handloom varieties Pochampally, Ikkat, Narayanpet, Gadwal etc.

Training in handlooms

The designs in the handlooms are upgraded or changed from time to time to meet the requirements of the market.  As designs cannot be changed very easily on the handloom machines which are adjusted to a certain pattern, it takes time for weavers to adapt to the new designs and patterns. The weavers’ cooperative societies train both the existing weavers and youngsters in the technique of weaving.

“The cooperative societies hold these training sessions in a vast area such as parks or grounds in the village to attract the youngsters who are forgetting or not interested in the skill of weaving”, says Murthy, Manager, Handloom House, Hyderabad.

This way we believe it creates an ecosystem for young handloom weavers to take up this profession. If the right aspirational value and economic viability are added they will be many youngsters contributing towards the growth of the handloom industry.

How do festivals affect your turnover?

“There are many festival offers during major Telangana festivals like Diwali, Dasara, Bathukamma and Ugadi. The government also supports us in giving an extra discount to the customers by giving subsidies and extending support through various government schemes”, says Kavitha.

“Based on the customer requirements and handloom demand during festivals, we place an order with weaver’s society, who source the material for us, which we, in turn, sell it in our stores across the country”, says Mr. Murthy.

Shravan Manda at HandloomApart from showroom sales, the Telangana State Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society (TSCO) also runs sales on its website. “Promotion of various handloom items is also done by uploading photographs of the items on our website – www.tsco.co.in ”, adds Mr. Shravan.

“For improving sales during festivals and otherwise, we send invitations and offers to the customer base that we built over the years, through WhatsApp”, says Ms. Kavitha.

Are handloom products exported to other countries and states?

Apart from selling the handloom products in one’s state, these items are also sold across other states and countries. As the handloom items in India are regional very distinct, each weaving out the traditional beauty of its heritage, the exchange between the regions is also common.

“Apart from 17 Handloom showrooms across various cities in India, there are export units in Noida, Chennai and other places from where we export the handlooms items to other countries. We give market support to the weavers through the cooperative society. There are different cooperative societies for different regions”, says Mr. Murthy.

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