Handloom weaving constitues one of the richest and most vibrant aspects of the Indian Culture heritage.
Indian handloom has gone through tremendous revolution in terms of innovation and modernization. Today, the handloom sector is considered to be one of the largest unorganized sectors after agriculture and forms an integral part of the rural and semi-rural livelihood.
Handloom is known for flexibility, versatility and innovativeness. The strength of handloom lies in ease of introducing new designs, which cannot be replicated by the Power loom sector. The advantages of the sector include less capital intensive, use of minimal power, eco-friendly quality, flexibility of small production and adaptability to market requirements. It is a natural productive asset and tradition at cottage-level, which has sustained and grown by transfer of skill from one generation to other.
Handloom weaving is largely decentralized and the weavers are mainly from the weaker sections of the society, for whom this is the primary and for some the only source of income. Handloom weaving is spread across many states in the country and is at a considerable decline in some of them.
The level of artistry and intricacy achieved in the handloom fabrics is unparalleled and certain weaves/designs are still beyond the scope of modern machines. It is ironic that we ignore this existing goldmine, for this is precisely the sector that could make the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ initiatives work. For lack of equal opportunity, the weavers are leaving the sector in droves. And today if the handloom industry is attributed as ‘sunset industry’ then it’s solely because of our failure to protect it. In other words, we are staring at a landmine where the handloom industry is concerned and it is time to hear the alarm bells!
While handloom always will face threats and competition from the price aggressive power-loom industry, in terms of skill, aesthetics and delivery of certain very high-end sensibilities handlooms are unmatched. The weavers are also constantly re-inventing themselves and providing value addition to make their products more and more relevant to the modern consumer behavior and needs. This is apart from the more obvious advantages of low set up cost, low and minimal use of power, large design database, easy training of skill due to the family based business model.
One of the greatest boons to the Indian handloom industry, is the “new Digital India”. Social media platforms have managed to do bring together, the discerning, socially conscious handloom-users worldwide giving them a platform to interact, post pictures, flaunt, discuss and showcase their beautiful handloom products thus building awareness and interest in the product. This naturally leads to an increase in the demand for the products, apart from the enthusiasm to safekeep heritage handloom saris. Active social media users are quickly turning influencers and collaborating, and having a substantial impact on the market demands.
The E-commerce Impact
The largest impact on the handloom industry would be the ability to service the market demands. With Indians proliferation all over the world, and with the whole world becoming more of handloom users, the Indian e commerce Industry is the answer to making handloom available to every discerning customer’s door step. We are also utilizing this facility and the handloom products which are made through this initiative is finding it customers through our E-commerce platform “Handlooom.com”
Nishanth Muraleedharan (Nishani) is a handloom evangelist with 25+ years of experience in the textile industry. The Foundation’s main motto is to revive the Indian Handloom Industry. The infinite potential of the Indian handloom offers a high degree of complexity. Interestingly Indian handloom is a culmination of 5000 years of a rich heritage that has never been adequately recorded or documented in any significant form. For past 3 years Nishanth is closely working with the artisans and weavers through the length and breadth of this country has assimilated the know-how and pedagogy and developed deep market insights which make him an unmatched professional in this field.