Theme: Heritage Preservation and Rural Communities
by Ms. Barjesh Kumari
HeritageForAll Intern (Call 2019) from Bilaspur, India
Internship Program “Rural Heritage and Traditional Food”
M.A. in Tourism Administration, Himachal Pradesh University
Handloom is not only the vibrant cultural heritage based on traditional tools and methods but also, an opportunity for Indian rural generating a non-farm rural employment, an income, and livelihood. Indian Rural has its own social, economical, and environmental challenges. These can only be addressed by rural entrepreneurship. Handloom sector has a great global business potential as handloom products are unique, cost effective, have positive impact on people (society), and do not affect the planet (environment). Hence, handloom industry is a best suitable industry to be set up in natural rural realms and contribute in heritage conservation, promotion, community involvement and social upliftment.
Handloom is a simple machine used to weave clothes. It takes no electrical power or energy than mechanical energy to operate this machine. So, it is an environmental practice that contributes in energy conservation. Although, use of handloom declined during the colonial period in British rule as a number of machines were imported to India but the country is rich in wide variety of handloom textiles even today. Many leaders in India promoted hand weaving in India after realizing its significance.
There are different weaving styles that were flourished in various Indian regions from cotton and dyeing to different types of silk. Each style is divided and delivered from its own geography and cultures. These fabrics reflect the colorful traditions of weavers and needs of people wearing them. Handloom products are the pure jewels as they are hand woven and handmade. Weavers put their emotions in making these beautiful fabrics. Each and every thread is hand woven, and unique. It takes more time and efforts for making these fabrics as each and every step in the process is manual.
Handloom sector has lost the mainstream. Machine made clothes are easily, available, and less costs while the hand woven clothes are highly priced in market as it takes more efforts and time of its manufacturing. Although the government provides various incentives to promote handlooms in India yet it is quite challenging to ensure authenticity and promote their use in this competitive modern era of technological advancements.
Handloom and Entrepreneurship
Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation quotes, “The real solution to the problems of this country is production by its masses and not mass level production.” Major population of India live in villages. Entrepreneurship with it roots at villages can be a better option to solve the economic problems of rural people. It will not only provide income and jobs but can also reduce a number of migrants from rural to urban areas. It can contribute in rural economic development and development of economy as a whole.
Handloom entrepreneurship in rural areas also reduces social prejudices as the most weavers are women and by providing the employment and livelihood to women through handloom industry it can really contribute in women empowerment. When a woman starts earning, it enhances her status in the society. Handloom sector has its roots in agriculture as the raw material like cotton, and wool come from agriculture and allied activities. It can contribute in enhancing the farmers’ income.
Many organizations and entrepreneurs work for reviving this culture of hand weaving. Many Indian designers have started using hand woven fabrics for their designs to promote this age old rich tradition. Indian Government has also started “Made in India” campaign where it provides assistance to such entrepreneurial initiatives. Plus the age of digitization where people can browse various handloom products through web by skipping the congesting routes, to visit the handloom emporiums, or authentic shops to buy handloom products, has also helped the handloom industry to grow in this digital era. There are so many great startups that have now come up in India promoting this heritage tradition, earning from these products by providing job opportunity and livelihood to community weaving them.
HimalayanKraft- Empowering Those Who Weave Magic
“HimalayanKraft” is an entrepreneurial startup initiated by a young entrepreneur Mr. Kiran Thakur who, after completion of his Master degree in Tourism Administration from Himachal Pradesh University in 2016, joined the Travel and Tourism corporate in metropolitan cities. After a year of experience, he returns and works for his community and heritage. He is a part of various governmental and non-governmental programs that focus on a rural development such as Institute of Integrated Rural Development (IIRD). He starts his own startup “HimalayanKraft” in October 2017.
What is HimalayanKraft?
HimalayanKraft is a community based initiative to empower heritage art of Kullu. Kullu is a small district in state of Himachal in India. It lies in Great Himalayan region. Climate is mainly cold during winter with temperature ranging from -5 to 15 degree Celsius and snowfall. In summers weather remains quite pleasant. Weaving the woolen clothes is the age old tradition of the people. In every home there were the looms installed to weave plain shawls, caps, and clothes to protect them in winters from cold.
This art of weaving was learnt by people from generation to generation. Now these looms are still functional but in very few households. HimalayanKraft try to conserve this art by providing these artisans the demand for their products. They weave woolen, and Angora Products. Woolen products are made up of wool collected from shearing of sheep. Angora products are also woven from rabbits’ shearing. Then the wool so collected is dyed in different colors. These fabrics are then hand weaved in the local style that is indigenous to this region using manual looms by wrap and weft technique to make these beautiful woolen clothes filled with love and warmth.
HimalayanKraft has organized different Self Help Groups, local artisans, and NGOs from the region and brought their products to one common marketing platform in the name of HimalayanKraft. At present they have active 30 members, and around 150+ weavers. They sell through different e-commerce sites Snapdeal, Amazon, Shopclues, Kraftly, and their own website https://himalayankraft.in. It is quite difficult to capture demand today. In the words of Mr. Kiran Thakur the person behind HimalayanKraft “It’s not that easy as it looks like. It’s not just ‘go online and sell.’ It takes a lot of planning and efforts. Hope we will be able to create demand as much as the weavers are in the valley”.
It obviously is the strong vision and dedication of this young guy who is working for this age old art and the community. He is putting his all day and night and making these tireless efforts to promote heritage. One of his quote says” “If We Wore Handloom Once a Week, It will Create Work for Millions of Artisans.” They have no regular office set up but a huge and diverse online marketplace from where they are getting the buyers as he says “Online marketing is like an ocean, we don’t know where our customer is sitting at.” One can find them on different social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn by the name “HimalayanKraft”.
To work for heritage and community is a strong motivation that keeps Mr. Kiran Thakur going with total annual turnover of 1.2-1.3 million; he only keeps 20-30% by never negotiating with the members. They sell on very reasonable price by just adding his part to what members ask for their products, to earn and keep the business going. The prices of the products depend on the quality of thread, the designs, and the efforts of the artisans. Their story is featured on many media platforms and they are getting many nominations and recognitions in country at the very initial stage of their work.
What they Sell?
The products offered by HimalayanKraft are pure, and genuine. These products are authentic unlike many products sold in the name of Kullu Shawls as these are actually woven by the local artisans of Kullu who have learnt this art from their ancestors. Most of these weavers (90%) are women. The fabrics they use are organic and dyeing is also done in organic colors. Below are some few products from the wide collection of the HimalayanKraft store:-
1) Kullu Shawl:Kullu shawl is a unique woolen garments identified by its unique patterns drawn on it. It is a rectangular woolen cloth with various geometric patterns, and flowers drawn on both the ends or sometimes all over the shawl. Vibrant colors are used in these shawls. Generally around eight colors are used in designs. It is preferred by tourists visiting Manali as souvenir. It is provided with Geographical Indicator to avoid sale of unauthentic products in the name of Kullu Shawl. It is 2 meter in length and wide enough preferred by all men and women in winters. It is draped on and around shoulder by people. The shawl so hand-woven is unique in design that the design put on one side of the shawl resembles to the other. HimalayaKraft offers wide variety of shawls with different wool material, different designs, and of different price ranges.
2) Kullu Cap: Kullu caps are pure in wool; the thick wools are used in making of Kullu caps. Kullu caps use same patterns of Kullu designs. The bright colors are used in designing. These are round in shape with a flat top. These caps are the part of traditional men’s attire of Kullu people.
3) Stoles: Stoles are the draping clothes just like the shawls that are 2 meters in length but less wide than a shawl. These are preferred by young girls as stole goes well with all kind of dresses- Indian as well as western wears.
4) Mufflers: It is draped around the neck by men and women it is made up of soft wool- Angora or Pashmina. The length of the ladies’ muffler is smaller than that of the men’s. They are worn in winters as rescue from the extreme colds.
5) Jackets/Waistcoats: In Kullu and Shimla region of Himachal in India there is an age old tradition of wearing waistcoat by men and women that is basically an upper body garment with no sleeves. It gives a traditional look. HialayanKraft in their store has a wide variety of men and women woolen jackets with pockets and traditional designs that completely look attractive.
6) Hand Knitted Baby Socks: HimalayanKraft also has in their store the baby socks which are hand knitted by women that can be used as shoes for babies in winters. They are woolen and protect children from winter cools.
All products offered by HimalayanKraft are hand-picked, Hand-woven, and handmade. These products are the real value for money. This initiative is a great effort to conserve the traditional art, the traditional heritage of Kullu. One can really feel the love, warmth, and care of these weavers by wearing them.
Rural areas are rich in cultural and artistic heritage; the age old traditions which were environment friendly are rarely seen in this technologically advanced world. Our rural heritage can be best preserved if young generation connects with it and realize the importance of it. In the process of preserving rural arts we actually uplift the standards of rural people by providing them livelihood through such entrepreneurial initiatives.
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