Craft-based Livelihoods

Employing over seven million families in India, the craft sector is the country’s largest source of employment after agriculture. In addition to having a high potential of employment, the sector also has great economic importance in terms of foreign exchange earnings. Despite this, the sector is grappling with problems like the inability to produce high quality market driven artifacts and low access to domestic and export markets. Handloom weavers, particularly the young ones, are drifting away from the sector at an alarming pace, thus painting a not-so-happy picture.

Antaran – Transforming Crafts

Antaran is a key intervention of the Trusts’ Craft-based Livelihood Programme, initiated to bring seminal changes in craft development. This comprehensive programme aims at rejuvenating ailing handloom clusters through an end-to-end programme. In the first year, three handloom clusters have been chosen, one each in Odisha, Assam and Nagaland. Three more handloom clusters will be added in the second year. The overarching objective of this intervention is to transform the six pilot weaving clusters by creating entrepreneur-led microenterprises across each element of the value chain.

Antaran will benefit 3,000 people directly involved in pre-loom, on-loom and post loom processes, impacting the livelihood of thousands of weavers in these regions. As part of the initiative, incubation centres are being opened in Maniabandha village of Cuttack district (Odisha), Bhagawatipara village of Kamrup district (Assam) and 5th Mile of Dimapur district (Nagaland).

Guiding principles of Antaran

  • The core strength of handloom textiles lies in natural fibres, hand spun yarn, natural dyes and in weaving different designs in shorter warp lengths. All efforts towards strengthening weavers, pre-loom and post-loom service providers should be directed towards gradually building the core strength in the selected clusters.
  • Business practices have changed significantly in the last three decades. Weavers and their current market interfaces are not equipped to connect with these markets and leverage the real share of couture products. Education on design and business, rooted in handloom value chain, is required right at their door step.
  • Weavers earn the most when they speak to markets directly. All efforts of upskilling and re-skilling should be directed at empowering weavers towards entrepreneurship and self-employment.
  • Every weaver is different and will learn and absorb different elements of the programme at their own pace. For example, some weavers would be more interested in design, some in entrepreneurship, while some may simply like to improve their technical skills. The team should be cognizant of the specific needs and orient the weavers on their core strengths.
  • Interventions should be organic, enabling and rooted in the traditional knowledge. Longer duration of the programme allows time for this to happen.