Leading the charge in craft revival
Official figures suggest that India is home to about seven million artisans skilled in various crafts. However, several of these handicrafts are now failing to flourish due to a lack of demand and mainstream opportunity. Unable to monetise their expertise in a multi-generational profession, many artisans are joining other sectors for livelihood security.
In an attempt to give a new lease of life to crafts that are languishing in obscurity, the Enactus team of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) launched Project Virasat in 2018. This organisation was introduced to collaborate with artisans skilled in handicrafts such as Pichwai, a style of painting from Rajasthan, and other crafts, and helps promote them.
Bolstering the segment
The first initiative of this Project was to engage the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru in Amritsar. These artisans are skilled in a craft with a legacy of around 200 years; they handcraft copper and brass utensils. However, with the popularity of steel vessels in most households, the demand for these dishes has reduced.
“When we visited the community, we realised that while there was a lot of market potential for the craft, there was barely any demand,” shares Aakriti Jain (20), an Economics Honours student of SRCC. After conducting surveys and identifying their problems, the members devised a strategy to establish a website (P-Tal) for the community. “Our aim is not to make the artisans mere sources of goods’ supply, but to turn them into self-sufficient entrepreneurs,” adds Jain, the current Project Director.
“Every craft has a different set of problems,” says Jain. The Virasat team, therefore, looks at each of the problems of the artisans and provides solutions accordingly. Virasat has also worked with the artisans skilled in Pichwai painting from Nathdwara, Rajasthan and established a website for these artisans called ‘Artist of Nathdwara’.
Currently, the team is focusing on the Usta artist community of Rajasthan and artisans from Uttar Pradesh making Gaurahari stonework products made from ‘Gaura Pathar’, a natural stone. With a digital presence, Virasat displays these products on their site for purchase. The products are sold globally and while the revenue goes to the artisan, about 30 per cent is retained as operating cost.
Still going strong
“Any market model that is based on a community is, to an extent, dependent on that community,” mentions Jain. Due to such co-dependency, Jain mentions that they faced challenges along the way. “There were trust issues because when we started working with the Usta and Gaurahari artisans, we could not meet them directly before bringing them on board,” Jain adds.
At a time when the Government’s ‘Make in India’ policy and other schemes are helping artisans, Project Virasat, too, has been instrumental in offering support in helping India’s handicrafts become relevant and sustainable again.