TBI Blogs: Why the ‘Make in India’ Movement Might Just Be What the Indigenous Arts & Crafts of India Need

The ‘Make in India’ programme is an ambitious nation-building initiative to encourage more multinational and overseas companies to invest in manufacturing in India. However, there are several small and large arts & crafts setups in India that will also benefit from the support of this movement.

The ‘Make in India’ programme is an ambitious nation-building initiative to encourage more multinational and overseas companies to invest in manufacturing in India. However, there are several small and large arts & crafts setups in India that will also benefit from the support of this movement.

India’s 3,000 crafts and millions of craftsmen in the Art & Craft space present the country with a large opportunity for Make in India. The Arts & Crafts born from hundreds of years of traditions, apprenticeship, and improvisations can easily be leveraged to create big Make in India opportunities for India’s rural and urban youth. The designs, the expertise, processes, and materials exist. All that’s required is repositioning and rethinking to make it attractive for the youth to join, the country to buy, and for the export market to be tapped.

With the renewed interest throughout the world in things natural and organic, and in sustainable development, frugal engineering, and production, we need to revive what we have always had for centuries.

Positioning – Design(ed) in India

It is important to focus on Design(ed) in India products with India’s traditional and modern imagination. Skills that have created so many new geometrical, mathematical, scientific, and aesthetic models need to be (re)presented to Indians and the world.

Similar to IITs ranking amongst the top talent pools in the world, our National Institutes of Design (NIDs), and scores of new Design Institutes, need to showcase to the world through their illustrious alumni. We can introduce our soft power to the world through a bunch of our talented artists from the various arts who have made a name for themselves worldwide. They can be our ambassadors, and introduce Indian design expertise and sensibilities through their work.

Developing our Human Resources

As in the IT sector—where Indians used modern management techniques and global work culture to leapfrog the way of working, yet maintaining roots in the Indian ethos—we need to work with rural community leaders to help create a new work ethos by:

  • Creating an environment of Swachh Bharat in the villages, small factories, and offices of these arts & crafts that help attract the youth to these trades, and make them stay in the villages rather than go compete for a watchman’s job in the cities. Sustained electric supply, a few ACs, clean surroundings, and nicely designed workplaces with all the required resources and tools will make a huge difference to the youth wanting to join.
  • Having HR experts from institutes like TISS, XLRI, and others work with the Gram Panchayat and village-level social organisations. They can develop new and modern community structures. These will help the youth get appreciation for hard work, new ideas, attention to detail, and pride in their work. These qualities are more important than age-old reverence merely to the elderly, and old (often caste-based) social structures.
  • Having a number of designers, NID-like institutions, and master craftsmen create training modules and apprentices. These can teach the youth the traditions, materials, motifs, and processes of the crafts, and modern developments in equal measure. Have the youth work on modern interpretations of the arts & crafts to make today’s utility items. Seeing the world using and appreciating their products will greatly motivate them.
Artisans work environment
Clean and comfortable work environments will attract the youth.

Capacity Demonstrators: Manufacturing Setups and Product Showcases

Each state can create a showcase model of the best “clean and modern” manufacturing setups, HR models, and product showcases. Other crafts in the state, or other related crafts around the country, can then replicate these. These are great ways to showcase capacities to buyers and the world to seek outsourced manufacturing opportunities from related industries.

Villages that are experts: auto industry-like specialization

The Art & Craft manufacturing processes can get specialised by breaking them up into smaller focused activities. Neighbouring villages can then do these focused activities. They will help bring in quality, innovations, and pride into each step of the process. Along the way, they will also teach the trade communities to work together to make world-class products.

Workplaces that set a way of working! Artisans D’Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Green Manufacturing: traditional eco-friendly materials and processes

Most of the Arts & Crafts have the ethos of lean, frugal, and green manufacturing. We must give the “reduced carbon footprint” of these manufacturing setups a monetary value. In turn, we can use it for funding the infrastructure, training, and marketing activities for these crafts. We must promote green manufacturing through incentives. Fiscal benefits and thorough recognition to such honourable efforts can go a long way to attracting talent.

Support the entire value chain!

Displaying Handicrafts
Displaying and marketing crafts through modern retail formats.

All the effort will come to nought, however, if we don’t sell goods, and generate business for these capacities. We must participate in world-class retail formats and properties. Showcasing these products at malls, lifestyle stores, airports, and modern trade shows in India and abroad will make this sustainable. Many startups will seize these opportunities as they develop and create capacities in design, manufacturing, and marketing.

The Government just needs to be a true facilitator with measurable objectives across the value chain. It can help entrepreneurs bridge all requirements of Human Resources, Finance, Infrastructure, Regulatory Support, and Marketing frameworks. It can work, and it’s slowly happening.

Heart for Art Trust works with many arts & crafts across India, giving a marketing platform to the design and manufacturing capacities that have already been created across the country.

If you know artisans Heart for Art can support, please share details of the same via email or Facebook.

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