#UNLOCKHANDLOOM

NATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS CONSULTATION VIRTUAL MEETING

Excerpts of the Inaugural Introduction Speech of the Program held on Zoom on August 14, 2021 by me as the Convener.

Good Morning/Afternoon to one and all who have joined us today in the Stakeholders Consultation Virtual Meet #UNLOCKHANDLOOM.

The is small contribution to National Handloom Week and initiates the start of  year long activities of IAMKHADI Foundation with various stakeholders through our projects and initiatives towards #AtmaNirbharBharat and #VocalForLocal. Our activities are also geared towards commemorating 75 years of Independence which would run parallel to AMRIT MAHOTSAV. We look forward to support and active participation of all of you to make this possible!

BACKGROUND

National Handloom day is celeberated since 2015 to mark the Swadesi Andolan that began in 1905 on August 07. We still have a long way to go to truly do justice to the Handloom industry.

Considering that the Indian handloom industry is one of the largest unorganized sectors of economic activity in India providing employment to 43.31 lakh weavers from rural and semi-urban areas, a small change in the handloom economy creates a huge burden to the livelihood options as seen during the Pandemic. Most of them are women and people from economically disadvantaged groups and 77% of the adult weavers are women. For instance, TRIFED (Down to Earth, April 2020) reported that tribal handicrafts worth Rs. 100 crores were left unsold. The issue of unsold inventories was further compounded with no exhibitions, fairs or melas taking place last year, initially.

According to a report in the Observer Research Foundation (Sunaina Kumar, July 2021), there are 6.9 million

SHGs as of May 2021, with 75 million members. Traditionally, the members of SHGs are engaged in micro-enterprises, home-based businesses serve as the backbone of the handloom and handicraft economy, contributing nearly Rs 10,000 crores annually in export earnings, according to a report in 2018.

But soon, govt. and other bodies like EPCH, TRIFED, WTC, FICCI, ICC, etc. came forward to promote the handloom products through virtual exhibitions and campaigns. This resulted in many SHGs, artisans and entrepreneurs to design masks and new products to be sold during the pandemic and we played a small role to help to digitize their products and help to onboard them to the virtual platforms.

CURRENT

#UnlockHandloom is our initiative to engage with various stakeholders and actors in the handloom sector to unlock the true potential of Handloom and position it as a Sustainable fabric and a first choice of Consumers towards sustainable consumption.

During the Pandemic the consumption of handloom has declined both in domestic and international markets creating huge loss of Livelihood and unsold inventories across entire value chain and supply chain.

There is also a conscious effort in international markets to give preference to manmade fibers from plastic and organic waste (bamboo, hemp, orange, pineapple, soya, etc.) as sustainable material as  opposed to handloom to reduce the dominance of Asian countries for production and Sourcing.

Indian Handloom sector faces broken value chains and supply chains thereby being very vulnerable to situations like the pandemic to disrupt the situation. Poor market linkages both forward and backward contribute to aggravating the situation.

The silver lining for India is that the handloom sector employs some very sustainable processes in terms of production, eco-friendly material, vegetable dyeing and energy consumption.

WAY FORWARD:

The only people who can bring back the glory of INDIAN HANDLOOM DOMINANCE IN THE WORLD are the people in  this meet who are stakeholders and actors who have to act on the situation by coming up with supporting projects, campaigns and programs. We also need to make conscious effort to build capacities and capabilities of our weavers, artisans and other actors on one hand and support innovation and competitiveness to the Startups and Fashion designers on the other hand.

Enhancing exports is one of the key paths to achieving all this, as it offers great value addition opportunities and gives us a huge market. Today, with virtual platforms and ecommerce proliferation this is quite achievable, all that is needed is a strategic intent and focus  to create impact.

Technology plays a major role to play in enhancing the value preposition specially in innovating new business models to support circular economy and sustainability, using virtual try-ons and e-retail , digitization of products for ecommerce and virtual exhibitions and B2B summits. The emerging technologies have been a focus of few tech startups in this space and they are capturing the world market with their products in fashiontech space. We need to help channelize this expertise to the handloom and the textile sector in India too. New Textile technologies which support sustainable production (new material, dyeing and protection from virus, etc.) also need to adopted to keep abreast with international requirements. While on one hand we have great academic institutions like NIFT and NID, etc. to support building of world class professionals, we do not have enough support for fashion and design entrepreneurs and Weavers and artisans to market their products directly.  

Various research labs in textile sector have been playing a big role is creating innovative products and setting standards but this needs to be percolated to the key actors to use it to their competitive advantage. An ex. PPE kits production during pandemic. With the launch of National Foundation for Design Innovation (NFDI), we hope to see world class entrepreneurs in making this happen and we are proud be associated with them to bring and polish some of the raw talent in the Fashion, Apparel and Fashiontech space on Entrepreneurship and Export orientation.

CONCLUSION

We hope that by end of year, we should be able to with your help and participation create a platform of handloom sector consisting of artisans, weavers, fashion designers, exporters and all other stakeholders together to create:

  1. New Value added products
  2. Promoting Traditional Heritage and practices, GI products  and Designs
  3. New breed of Entrepreneurs and Exporters
  4. Solve some of the Challenges in the sector
  5. Bringing Focus  towards Sustainability & Circular economy
  6. Encouraging Innovation and Competitiveness
  7. Export Orientation to the weavers, artisans and micropreneurs.

Thank you and wishing all of you Happy 75th Independence day!

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