by T. E. Narasimhan
Over 7,000 artisans across 30 clusters will be trained under a capacity and skill development programme
The Union Minister for Textiles has directed the National Centre for Design and Product Development (NCDPD) and the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) to initiate capacity and skill development programmes for artisans across 30 clusters in the country.
According to Union Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran, the plan is to train over 7,000 artisans spread across the 30 clusters by the end of the current financial year, under the Human Resource Development Scheme of Artisans and Craftsmen.
He added that handicraft exports have grown by nearly 25 per cent to $1,139 million during April-November 2010, from $912 million (Rs 4,412 crore) in the corresponding period of 2009. Exports in 2009-10 were $1,830 million (Rs 8,719 crore). The government has raised the target for handicrafts exports in 2010-11 to $2.5 billion, from the original $2.2 billion.
According to EPCH data, the uptrend in handicraft exports came after a two-year slump. The handicrafts sector, after touching Rs 17,000 crore in 2006-07, plunged to Rs 8,000 crore in 2008-09, owing to the recession in Europe and the US. From the second half of 2009-10, it started to grow and the current scenario indicates that it may reach Rs 10,000 crore in 2010-11.
Handicraft products, which include fashion accessories like costume jewellery, hand-printed textiles and scarves, embroidered and crocheted garments, bags and stoles are in great demand.
While the end-products are manufactured mainly by small and micro units, they are sold at major retail outlets owned by both government and private retailers.
Empowerment and skill development for artisans will be the key to boosting the exports of handicrafts and sustaining the growth of the sector in the coming years, the minister said.
R K Srivastava, executive director of NCDPD, said the aim of the programme was to improve the quality of Indian handicrafts; make them competitive in the international market; improve the skills of craftsmen; upgrade technology; introduce contemporary tools for making better products; revamp manufacturing processes; improve designs and aid product development.
He said that in the absence of any customised skill development or training programmes, artisans, manufacturers and exporters were unable to compete with the well-trained and equipped artisans of China and other South East Asian countries in global markets.
M Koteeswaran, project co-ordinator of NCDPD (Chennai cluster), added that handicrafts have been a household business traditionally and have been run by SMEs. “Since their education level is lower, they are not able to introduce better-quality products and can’t sell products at the right prices.”
Koteeswaran said that every person who takes up the training programme would get Rs 500 per day, which would compensate for the loss of daily earnings during the five-day programme. Srivastava said this would help them to get additional inputs in design and product development to meet changing market needs.
The objective is to create awareness about new designs and adopt them with the help of experienced designers, and build a skilled workforce through industry-linked training programmes instead of classroom training.
The faculty for training has been picked from organisations like National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Pearl Academy of Fashion, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi), among others.