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Points to Consider if Make in India to Focus on Indian Handloom and Handicrafts

India has a rich inventory of handloom and handicraft products. Fine quality of these products have enabled them to carve their own niche in the world market. The demand for handloom and handicraft items is very high. European and Arab countries, America and south East Asian countries are major importers of these products. But it is a sad news that even though people are crazy about these, this industry is dying. It is so because the artisans engaged in these professions are denied of their due wages. The middle men between these manufacturers and the customers usurp the entire profit and make hay while the sun shines. On the contrary, the weavers and artisans find it difficult even to meet their ends, leave aside any other of requirements of life like education and clothing. A weaver who toils for weeks and months to make one Benarasi or Kanchipuram silk saree worth thousands and sometimes even lakhs, thinks his offspring should not continue his legacy. At least any other profession would ensure food and education. This is the limit of deprivation. And this is the picture of almost all handicraft and handloom industry. Government’s newest policy of Make in India can bring a change if implemented properly.

The Planning Commission has proposed for a stand-alone policy named Handmade in India to leverage all sort of correspondence and activity taking place in the handloom, handicraft and small scale village industries. And everything can be brought under one brand name of Handmade in India. This can reduce the deprivation and exploitation of artists involved in these industries to large extent. As a matter of fact, e-commerce can be a great platform to put these items as merchandises for the world niche market.

Indian handloom sarees are always in demand
Indian handloom sarees are always in demand

Handloom and handicraft is a huge but unorganized economic sector preceded only by agriculture. Government’s Make in India policy can start with the baby steps of making an attempt to organize it and bring it under single umbrella. Latest technology, long term vision, marketing support and design innovations can do wonder for this industry. Loans on lower interest rate should be offered to modernize the technology. Elimination of the middle men or the industrialists is important whenever necessary so that the profit is shared with the artisans. This is not only for the financial upliftment but to boost the industry because if they shift their job, a huge market of India’s indigenous products will come crashing down. But at the same time, education of these young artists is also important so that they learn new technologies and implement it to make even better products in less time.

About 4.5 millions of weavers and subsidiary workers are engaged in this labour-intensive industry. About 11% of the total fabric produced in India comes from this industry. Silk, wool and khadi contribute 1% together to this 11% of fabric produce. Even the preceding governments and several NGOs have been working for the betterment of these workers and the industry, but very little could be done due to the several loopholes in the policies. So, government should include modernisation of the process, expedite rate of production and low priced products in its effort to improve this industry through Make in India. These are the very basic factors due to which we find Chinese products all around us. They have blended technology with human labour. Make in India can use this approach as well.

A little of responsibilities lay with us, the common people as well. We should encourage ourselves more to use locally made goods. Lighting earthen lamps on Diwali instead of tiny bulbs from China, handloom sarees, khadi kurta etc can be easily accommodated in our lives.

Why Sambalpuri Sarees are Always in Demand?

It all started towards the end of the decade of 60s in last century, when the first woman Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi unofficially declared it to be her official wardrobe, the popularity of Sambalpuri sarees suddenly soared high in the sky. Obviously it was not an overnight procedure, but as Mrs Prime Minister made more and more of her public appearances in this particular variety of saree, it almost became synonymous with Indian politics. In course of time, we could see more and more women politicians draped in this handloom saree.

Its popularity among women politicians can be reasoned with its fabric material which does not get crushed even after a long day. While silk radiates an aura of affluence, pure cotton sarees get crushed and soiled easily in first hour itself. It does not remain wearable for another day unless it is starched and ironed again. Both the images are not good for the looks of politicians because they need to look down to earth yet never look clumsy. Sambalpuri sarees thus fit this bill perfectly.

This is the same reason these sarees are so popular among working women. Handloom sarees are almost synonymous with power. This is the simplest way to nail sophisticated, elegant yet powerful look. Another factor behind the high demand of Sambalpuri sarees is the comfort. Being cotton, it is easy to manage and it does not let you feel the heat. Synthetic colours or threads are used in the yarn. So what you get is the ultimate comfort wear.

Well-known Sambalpuri Silk Sarees with Pasapalli Design
Well-known Sambalpuri Silk Sarees with Pasapalli Design

Silk sarees from Sambalpur are the perfect example of opulence meeting sophistication. But whether it is Sambalpuri silk sarees or cotton, there are few stock motifs that help you determine them. These motifs are shankha or conch shells, chakra or wheel (one you get to see in Konark Temple) and flowers. Apart from these, there are Sambalpuri Ikkats which are known for their intricate weaving. In these Sambalpuri sarees, the threads are tied and dyed before being woven in loom. Thus, one saree may take weeks to be completed. The clusters in Odisha where these sarees are woven include Sambalpur, Bargarh, Sonegarh, Berhampur and Balangir district. To protect this industry and retain the livelihood of artisans involved in this industry, government of India’s Geographical Indications registry has included the silk sarees manufactured in handloom.

There are few varieties of Sambalpuri sarees- Bomkai, Bapta, Pasapali, Sonepuri etc. As the names themselves suggest, the sarees have been named according to their place of origin. All these sarees are very high on demand worldwide. Even in the glamour of designer sarees, they have not lost their charm among their admirers. They still stand tall with their undisputable position among the saree lovers. You get lots of colour combinations in these sarees. There are  combinations of two contrasting colours like grey and maroon, yellow and green, blue and black or golden and maroon, as well as multicoloured ones with zari work that look gorgeous and are indeed expensive as well.

More variations are added in Sambalpuri sarees keeping pace with the fashion and demand. Patli pallu, stripes in the body, and Meena are some of them. But they are there to just add another dimension to the saree. They never overshadow the original nuances of these sarees for which they are admired and are in so much demand. An average silk saree of Sambalpur will cost you anywhere between Rs 5000 to Rs 6000. Cotton sarees are comparatively cheaper and can be bought for Rs 1000 to Rs 3000. Saree is definitely a complete feminine wear but when you want to show the prowess of this feminine gender even without uttering a word, drape a Sambalpuri saree.

Why NRI Women of USA Always Like to Wear Ethnic Indian Sarees?

It is sad but true that Indians understood the value of ethnic products only when they are settled outside the Indian boundaries. When they are within the Indian premises, they get them easily thus prefer various other things. Once they are settled outside India and get no longer hold of these things, they started missing it. This is the reason that at a time when everyone thought the market of ethnic Indian sarees does not exist for young generation, ethnic retailing boomed due to its demand in foreign countries, mainly USA.

Even a few decades ago, young girls felt shy to wear sarees for formal occasions or festivals. It was as if they were bound to wear sarees after marriage, so why now. Equation changed as export of ethnic Indian sarees increased exponentially. For NRI women sarees were new sensation. Since they rarely get to wear Indian dresses, do not miss any opportunity to flaunt their best collection. As a result, demand for these sarees kept on increasing.

There was a time when silk sarees were high on demand. Kanjivaram silk, Walkalam, Ikkat, Dharmavaram etc caught the attention of everyone present in a gathering due to their grace and glamour. But these days, designer georgette, net and chiffon sarees are more popular. For NRI women, sarees mean Bollywood. Movies and television shows are a good source for them to know what kind of sarees are in fashion. Since silver screens are mainly sizzled by these designer ethnic sarees, they have become a favourite of NRI women of USA as well. Though the price range of these sarees is quite a vast one, still the fashionable designer sarees are less expensive than the original ethnic sarees like silk. Moreover, the young NRI women find these designer sarees to be more stylish and fashionable than the traditional silk and cotton sarees. As a result, the silk sarees which used to represent India have become more of an honorary position while designer georgette, chiffon and crepe sarees are enjoying the limelight. Silk sarees come out of the cupboard on rare traditional occasions. Wedding, cultural functions etc are surely not one of them.

Thanks to various fashion designers, movies, television serials and provision of availing these facilities here, sarees have never been so global ever before. Actresses in the exotic locales with their flowing sarees have become one icon with which every NRI woman wants to relate to. Another favourite and popular NRI women sarees is handloom. With revival of sarees as fashion, many fabrics regained their lost sheen. Khadi and hand loom are just to name a few. Everyday new types of sarees are introduced. Net, super net, ghicha, khes, kalamkari, zardosi, and embroidery are overwhelming the shelves. Rather than sticking to silk to patronise India in a foreign land, ladies are ready to embrace these latest designs and materials. Many young girls are inclined towards khadi and khes because it makes them look a little fuller which is considered best for that perfect Indian look.

One of the most typical of NRI women sarees is readymade saree designed especially for young girls and women who do not wear sarees and thus are sceptic about carrying it off well. Ready draped sarees are worn like skirts. Pleats come at the centre and the entire package is pre stitched. This became a path breaking introduction not only for NRI women but also for young girls in India who want to wear sarees but are afraid that it may come off. So, whether it is traditional silk sarees, designer ones or pre stitched, they are still popular among the women based far across the distance.