Indian Crafts and Mobiles

The handicraft sector is the largest decentralised and unorganised sector of the Indian economy, and is amongst India’s largest foreign exchange earners.

  • Craftspeople form the second largest employment sector in India, second only to agriculture.
  • Handicrafts are rightly described as the craft of the people: there are twenty-three million craftspeople in India today (Jaitly, 2001).
  • No Indian craft is ever purely decorative. While handicrafts, be it metal ware, pottery, mats, wood-work or weaving, fullfill a positive need in the daily life of people, they also act as a vehicle of self-expression, and of a conscious aesthetic approach.
  • The change in consumer buying trends and the entry of various new, aggressively promoted factory produced commodities into the rural and urban market, has meant that craft producers need more support than ever if they are to become viable and competitive. This will help them to generate a surplus and a higher standard of living.

While I have been hearing about mobile phones turning into -‘Hand held devices’- the term has been a mystery to me. Dina Mehta’s post is actually an eye opener for me. Especially the bit on Nokia is very interesting.

Since I work with craftsmen in rural India, the applicability of mobile innovation, and the changes it could bring in my field about seem almost limitless. Mobiles could impact:

  • Craft services
  • NGO services
  • Artisans

1. Craft services: This service could actually tie up with either a Dastkar, Dastkari haat – these are NGO’s that work with several groups of craftswomen across India. These NGO’s could be providers of information on the different products available in their regions. A mapping device associated with this service could be used by the network of entrepreneurs, buyers and artisans to update product availability and nature of skill.

2. NGO services: This could go beyond just remunerative work – but area wise give updates on different NGOS working in the region, the dev work ongoing their links and contacts:

  • Textile services
  • Updates of yarn prices – cotton,wool, silk
  • Textile activities in different areas
  • Information on the NGO’s involved as well

3. Now a thought on how a phone could help the artisans:

  • Information about different fairs happening in different parts of india and information on how to participate in them
  • Information on how to take loans from banks – special Grameen banks and schemes
  • List of NGO’s that were working in the area and he could join them
  • Information on to free education for his kids, skill based learning institutions/ workshops for his wife to learn a few skills, help in design development
  • Information of other groups doing similar craft and how to join them

It is important for us to understand that in order to help people ‘at the bottom of the pyramid’ they need to be pushed to the first rung of the business ladder and then be made to help them selves. The dependency of funds from Government should cease and give way to self sustained activity. The mobile phone could give them the most important tools to face the world – timely information and the ability to connect.

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