Handicrafts and textiles are an integral part of Indian festivals. The Indian textile and handicrafts industry, though largely unorganized, forms an important part of Indian economy providing employment to rural population. And this sector is the largest employment creator after agriculture, employing more than 7 million people, mostly women. Our team visited Shilparamam, the crafts village located in the heart of Hitech city of Hyderabad to talk to some of the skilled artisans and vendors to know more about their craft and their concerns as the Diwali festivities are in full swing. Though the place has been designed and meant for direct selling through the craftspersons, today it attracts many vendors who purchase from the suppliers and sell through the stalls. Apparently this is because, the artisans and craftspersons can not leave their place and travel since they do not have people to support them in making their crafts during their absence.
Shilparamam boosts textiles and handicrafts business through fairs and festivals
Mamta Sehgal from Mohali has her stall neatly displaying many Phulkari crafts. Since she is a Phulkari artist herself, she is concerned about the future of the craft that is intimately woven into Punjabi culture. The traditional and moderns forms of this embroidery with bright colours could be been on the dupattas, stoles and dress materials. Mamta is an entrepreneur and employs a group of women, back home in Mohali who embroider the
intricate designs. “Phulkari is a dying art and we need to revive it, that’s the reason we travel all across India to create awareness and sell our products. It is not easy to sell it to everyone, only people who appreciate handicrafts or those who know about Phulkari and its value, purchase it. I am able to create employment for other women by teaching this handicraft and I have been at Shilparamam for the last 4 years.” Mamta is not keen about selling online since she doesn’t have the time, however, there are people who source the products from her for their online business.
For Raghu, who was deeply engrossed in painting the diyas or earthen lamps, it is a profitable business. But, he is not a craftsman; he just paints them and sells during the festival. When asked about his interest in this job and why he needs to paint terracotta, he says “these days, people don’t like natural terracotta diyas , they like it with bright colours. Only 10% will buy natural colours, so we paint them using oil colours. The diyas are originally made in Chittoor, but I am from West Godavari, working in Hyderabad for more than 10 years. I work in companies, I am into sales and I do diya painting over the weekend and during Diwali. We sell these diyas for Rs. 200 to Rs 300 depending on the effort that went into painting. Of, course there is profit in this business and I work very hard to complete as many diyas as possible.
Pottery has long been must-buy for all those who visit Shilparamam. There are many pottery stalls manned by people from Uttar Pradesh who sell the wares and make a living. Sunil from Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh has been selling at Shilparamam for more than 10 years. Though he sounded happy about the sales during festivals like Diwali and the annual fair in December, he voiced his need for better facilities when he said “ Pottery sales is not very seasonal, we get regular customers but of course Diwali is a special time for us. We get these items from Khurja; though they are neatly packed and shipped, we lose about 20% in damage. And I pay a rent of Rs.8,500 per month for the space. I have been in this business for long and I earn about Rs. 40,000 to Rs.50000 per month, depending on the number of visitors. Though we pay the rent, the stall needs to be improved, we should be getting a proper cover for our stall since all pottery items are exposed to sun and rain being in open space.”
Besides handicrafts, Shilparamam is also home to many artists like Pavan Kumar Jha, the Madhubani artist from Bihar. Being a state awardee, Pavan Kumar’s credentials improve his prospects for creating awareness about the art, selling and even teaching it in some of the gated communities in Hyderabad. However, all is not well for him with the impact of computers and the internet. “I have been at Shilparamam for 18 years. Most of the time I don’t get to sell the painting I create. Often, I hear people saying that they get the same for much lower prices on e-commerce sites. Many people don’t understand the difference between original paintings and computerized re-prints. They are more attracted to artificial colours whereas we use natural colour most of the time and it may not be very eye-catching. Nevertheless, I don’t lose hope since those who value Madhubani always come looking for it and there are other buyer who appreciate my art.”
Kalamkari, a popular hand or block painted textile from Andhra Pradesh and Telanagana is sold at Shilparamam. At one of the stalls, Shanti was busy arranging the items on display and she was quite knowledgeable about the craft and is concerned about the drop in sales since there are many other outlets in the city that sell Kalamkari. She manages the sales and she is hired by the business owner sources from the artisans and lives in Kakinada; she gets a monthly salary. Though a meager 5 pieces get sold on an average, the festive season brings them cheer as there are most buyers who are keen on purchasing Kalamkari sarees, dress materials, dupattas and bedsheets.
Talking to these vendors and artisans was definitely a great experience. What left us thinking was the emerging supply chain costs and how much the actual artisan would benefit from it. Since textiles and handicrafts represent our rich cultural heritage and contribute significantly to the economy, we need tremendous support in helping the artisans improve their lives and continue with their craft to sell in global markets.