Almost a decade ago, Daisy Tanwani marveled at a piece of tapestry at a major home decor retailer in the United States. As she turned the label for more, the beautiful copy read, Handmade in India. It was a moment of pride and disappointment for her. Tanwani explains how important it is for brands to celebrate Indian heritage. Here is Tanwani’s point of view in his own words.
The pride for it was my heritage ~ exquisite, detailed and rare. Disappointment for such things was not readily available to Indians in India. This is just one of many incidents over the years that I have seen Indian craftsmanship find reverence around the world, but not so much in India.
Indian craftsmanship has been a source of inspiration for many global brands. Our varied crafts and designs have often been used to adorn homes and wardrobes around the world. But, Indian brands have traditionally been reluctant to adopt them, until recently. The changing consumer preferences of the modern Indian has given new life to Indian craftsmanship. Gone are the days, the Made in Elsewhere was more credible than the Made in India. The feeling of the present is unmistakably Indian. Unsurprisingly, global brands are also moving to India to meet this growing demand and consumer preferences.
The handicrafts sector in India is very poorly organized and the number of artisans employed in the sector ranges from 10 million to 140 million. In many cases, entire families, even villages, are involved in the craft sector. With such a huge pool, it is only wise to use local talents and resources to find more sustainable and economical solutions.
Over 50% of the artisans involved in various trades are women, and like them, a financially independent woman can be the backbone of a stronger family and a stronger nation. The nature of the craft allows work to travel to women and in many cases, such as loom weaving, quilting, embroidery, families or entire communities can be engaged in the craft, which facilitates the employment of women even in disadvantaged socio-economic areas.
That said, many handicrafts are on the verge of extinction because the younger generation does not want to get involved. There are seemingly better and more lucrative options elsewhere. The main reason for this exodus is the imbalanced effort-to-pay ratio, which can change as designers and contractors make crafts more relevant. The key lies in infusing modern sensibilities into traditional craft forms to make them more desirable and suited to the needs and tastes of the modern Indian. The Indian handicraft industry has traditionally been slow to reorganize its products to meet the demands of the new age. For the sector to be successful, new age entrepreneurs need to revisit traditional craftsmanship in a new light with a thoughtful approach to design and quality that matches new lifestyle needs.
Soft power source
Just like food, art and architecture, crafts are the cultural identity of our country. An asset in a world where mechanization and technology are rapidly gaining the upper hand. In the process, handmade is a luxury, with consumers around the world grateful and willing to pay extra for artisanal products. India is a developing country and can do with so much brand building to strengthen our global identity; our unique designs and our craftsmanship reinvented correctly to meet modern needs can do just that. As is the fashion and diamond industry in Italy and Israel. I would go so far as to say that handicrafts, if properly promoted, can be a source of soft power in world trade and commerce for India. In addition, bringing handcrafts to the fore can not only enhance India’s image on the world map, but also boost domestic consumption and recognition of handcrafts in different regions of India.
Designed and made in India
Indian designers, traders and fashion entrepreneurs are reaching new heights like never before. Designed in India is recognized and the burgeoning creative power is well positioned to promote India, from the simple manufacturer behind the curtain to the center of design and innovation. It would be a shame if Indian designers and entrepreneurs could not take their own local talent and shape it to dominate the craft sector on a global scale.
Finally, sustainability, slow living, mindfulness are the buzzwords of today’s evolved living; however, they have always been present in our crafts where master craftsmen meticulously craft and create each piece being fully present and involved in the process from design to final production. This places Indian craftsmanship in a unique position to capitalize on this trend and create its own brand and position itself in global trade. By embracing our own heritage, Indian entrepreneurs can not only help revive and bring Indian craftsmanship to the fore, but also create a profitable and socially inclusive avenue.
Daisy Tanwani, CEO and Creative Head of Pinklay. The opinions expressed are those of the author.