Indian Handicrafts

  • Textiles represent a significant share of Indian arts and crafts.
  • In the 17th & 18th centuries, these fabrics were so popular that French and British banned the import of Indian textiles to counter dwindling sales of domestic cloth. Rough European fabrics were simply no match for elegance of Indian textiles.
  • Textiles are part of living traditions which are influenced by social, economic and cultural factors.
  • Strengths
    • Large employer especially in rural and semi-urban areas particularly women.
    • Richness of designs and diversity.
    • Despite pressures the designs and demands for this have endured.
    • Large raw material base and tradition.
    • Fashion industry can engage with India’s traditional textiles.

Challenges Faced by Handicraft Artisans

  1. Social and demographic changes that adversely impacts intergenerational knowledge transfer due to migration, urbanisation and lack of free time to master a skill.
  2. Lack of technical documentation: Skills and technical knowledge for traditional textiles are often passed orally due to dearth of detailed documentation. This knowledge can be lost when master-craftsmen age or pass away.
  3. Inadequate skill development: There is a lack quality training, lack of certified courses and limited opportunities for skill development.
  4. Difficulty of attracting youth to textile crafts due to devaluing of traditional knowledge and skills as book learning and formal education is of greater value and traditional knowledge is seen as low status by craftspeople.
  5. Changing demand patterns: Due to urbanisation, the old system of patronage the linkages between users and makers have been broken. Also, modernity has changed consumer tastes.
  6. Uncompetitive against industrial mass production: Handmade textiles are made using painstaking process which takes months from ideation to execution and simply cannot compete with industrial competitors.
  7. Low quality of life for artisans: Rising cost and unavailability of raw material, difficulty to access tools etc. make it difficult for artisans to a living by practicing traditional crafts. They also do not have knowledge about marketing, branding, sales or GST compliances.
  8. Copies and fakes are rife in textile industry and practitioners of handmade textiles have limited legal recourse in such cases. These mill-made or digital textile products are available at much lower prices.
  9. Environmental issues like lack of water, pollution control and other environmental concerns affects a craft’s viability.


  • Formulate a comprehensive policy for handmade textiles to make this industry viable, competitive and equitably structured. The needs of this sector are different from power-loom industry, screen and digital printing, machine embroidery and large textile mills.
  • Create systematic and scientific database on handmade textile and their practitioners
  • Facilitate convergence within the hand skills sector
  • Protect intellectual property rights of practitioners and raise consumer awareness about authentic versus copied products.
  • Support ancillary artisans and professions
  • Recognise women artisans and given them equal opportunities: As men move away from
  • Provide appropriate infrastructure and technology
  • Focus on educating, training and upskilling practitioners.
  • Encourage innovation in design and product development
  • Enable access to credit: Access to credit at low interest rates would help textile makers access raw materials and cover their working capital needs. Loans for housing cum work sheds are also needed.
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