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The COVID-19 Cloud with a Silver Lining for the Indian Handicraft

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

The Indian handicraft sector has evidently seen a downfall in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis in India. It has been months since the craftspeople in India have been to any Melas, or made any sales, or received orders or prospects. These are tough times, and it is hard to imagine why anyone would place an order for an art piece, a wedding lehenga that costs lakhs of rupees, or other items of crafts and handicrafts from an online handicrafts store. Times have changed, and it has become apparent to the artisan families in India that their approach needs to be changed too.

Amidst these times, one thing is crystal clear to the artisan communities in India – there are not going to be any orders for the traditional art pieces, the heavy embroidery clothing, tourist souvenirs, or other purely decorative home items. The shift needs to happen to produce handicraft items that are not only decorative but also very functional. It is perhaps time to go back to that golden age, where handicrafts were mainly focused on making everyday functional home items look more decorative and lively.

Many artisan families have already made this transition, while the rest of them are getting there. While most of the pessimistic economists are of an opinion that it is going to take years for the crafts sector to get back to business-as-usual, we believe there’s a big silver lining to this cloud of COVID-19, for the Indian handicraft industry.

The less tapped on big opportunities!

While COVID-19 has laid its evil impact on almost all sectors, there’s a big silver lining too. With most international brands and players that supplied the world with accessories, garments, tableware, furniture and fittings, home furnishings, toys, etc stopping their production and distribution, it is the best time for India to finally “Make in India.” While China is still struggling to recover, this might just be our chance to make a huge comeback and be the ‘maker to the world!’ With India’s massive human resources, it is possible to not just become self-reliant but also export goods of value to other countries in a COVID that struck the world.

Women who made beautiful embroideries are now transitioning to making ingenious face masks on one end. On the other end, the Kashmiri leather artisans have started making PPE gloves and outfits, instead of fabricating jute bags and totes. Another interesting area of huge potential growth is the packaging sector – with glass, stainless steel and synthetic surfaces being found to carry viruses for a long time, it’s a huge opportunity for artisans who work in fiber, paper, brass, wood and resin to make smart and sustainable packaging solutions.

Best time for architectural crafts to make a comeback?

Architectural Indian handicraft has been in the limelight for a long time now, and perhaps now is the best time for their comeback. There’s always a demand for beautiful home decor items – from chic blinds and retro wall pieces to vintage woodwork and cozy seatings! Online handicrafts stores have now moved beyond selling items of high visual and artistic value, to pretty functional items that everyone can buy.

At Akkaara, we are trying our best to help our artisan communities make this transition and not only survive but thrive through these times of global pandemic.

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