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'Our Focus Is On Rural Untouched Artisans'

Priyank Varshney, founder of Handikart, spoke to BW Businessworld on his new handicraft start-up and challenges associated with it

Photo Credit : Tarun Gupta

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India’s handicrafts industry pegged at Rs 46,000 crore which is highly fragmented. Being one of the most ‘hand-skilled’ countries in the world, India employs approximately 34.5 million artisans for its handicraft industry.

Priyank Varshney, founder of Handikart, spoke to BW Businessworld on his new handicraft start-up and challenges associated with it.

Excerpts:

What will be your focus?

Our focus is purely on rural and untouched artisans of India. We bring the genuine and unique hand made products from the remote interiors of the country directly to the consumers.

On Handikart we are giving an apt platform to India’s undisputed skilled craftsmanship and the exotic appeal of high quality handicraft products by artisans from across the country. These artisans do not otherwise get opportunity to showcase their unique art.

What are you doing to disrupt the disrupters?
The fact that distinguishes our business model is that we are direct sellers unlike other e-commerce giants. Our team travel to far-flung areas of the country, purchase directly from the artisans and pay them real time. The products procured from the artisans are stored in warehouses and sold according to the demand. This is both a challenging and gruelling exercise which is not otherwise followed by others who merely display the items on their portals and artisans’ revenue depends upon the number of sales.

We take pride in the knowing the fact that we are selling absolutely genuine products from artisans who have played a significant role in creating the Indian culture and traditions alive".

How difficult is this as compared to other businesses?

To bring the scattered yet original artefacts on a single marketplace is a task in itself. The skill of making these exquisite artefacts is handed down from generations but due to the unorganised industry, lack of skilled technicians and effective market linkages India’s handicraft sector in is in disarray.

Undertaking these issues, Handikart has opened avenues on the contemporary dais for them.

Are these products are at par with their new age contemporaries?
The Indian handicrafts are amazingly unique and their popularity cuts across Indian and global markets alike.

However, we must note that the advancements in the technology, present un-organization in the sector and other factors like degrading level of education in the new crop of artisans and limited excess to the urban markets certainly do pose some considerable threats.

Nevertheless, the popularity of these products is bound to grow. And the fact that sector has increased to 16.4 per cent since 2008-09 and is a $100 industry now is a testimony to this fact.

What is/are the biggest threat/s to this art form?
The unorganised nature of this sector is the biggest threat to handicraft industry. Scarcity of organised help, paucity of professional infrastructure, lack of skill-based training for artisan leads to this unfortunate state of the rich Indian handicraft sector. The products made in the down trodden areas of the country often do not see the light of established promoters because of the supply-side issues. Lack of modern machinery leads to lower supply of artefacts to the exporters or consumers. To overcome the outdated methods of production artisans sometimes compromise on quality as well.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these crafts?

Earlier this sector was considered as a sunset industry and no schemes were being designed by the government to market the fading Indian skilled artisans or their artefacts. This led to the disinterest of upcoming generations in their craft traditions which resulted in lack of skilled artisans. Surprisingly, these traditions are often associated with the family’s caste which discourages the rural youth to pursue their art form.

But today, various institutes and government bodies have introduced financial and technical aid to the downtrodden artisans. E-commerce has opened the global dais. We deal in those products that are part of Indian handicraft history for a very long time and are helping to preserve the fading art forms.

What is the profit ratio for start-ups like you?
With just three months into the market we are still in an embryonic stage. We began selling in Delhi-NCR and within a short span of two months we are now present pan-India with around 1,000 products across 27 categories.

Simultaneously, we are also exploring some possible opportunities of tie-ups for brand promotion. We are certain that we will create a strong brand recall for our brand with our unique products.


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