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Artisans and E-commerce

It’s been more than a year since I taught my grandparents to shop online, and my parents have indulged in this activity for so long that I’ve lost count of the items we have bought online. This is the new age. There a whole different world over internet which makes it easier for the consumer as well as the producers to connect with the best possible product and seal a deal.

In the light of its limitations, that is, the neutralising effect internet has over artisan’s culture, the lack of interpersonal interaction between the parties and the lack of awareness among Indian artisans, it becomes all the more necessary that we see what the other side has in store for the artisans.

India’s handicraft, a broad term, diversity is unmatched and thus have a lot to offer to the global market. The emerging sales platform, that is, e-commerce promises to revolutionise the sale of handicrafts. A number of ecommerce firms have now taken it upon themselves to market India’s innumerable handicraft items available to the world at large.

Availability of an open market at a national or rather at global level, beats the regional avenues for markets. Traditionally there have been middlemen, at every stage, extorting significant amount from the consumers while the producers, the artisans in this case, are left with bare minimum. But now once an artisan shifts to e-commerce, the low overhead in the realm provides the artisan with profits in his name. The demand for region specific crafts is increasing with engaging interest in heritage and cultural history of those regions and when combined with social media and internet based messaging services the aim for multifaceted marketing and brand development does not seem far.

An impotent challenge is to find ways to translate the richness of the craft form with its cultural tradition and heritage, and the artisans own style, into products. This does not mean producing ‘universal ‘ or ‘westernised’ products just for appealing masses. In fact an artisan can overcome this struggle with imbibing his story, the story of the craft in his product. Stories have a way with heart. They can create new craft product experiences by combining digital storytelling including themselves and their craft tradition with tales translating through their craft.

Now, I understand the struggle older generation have with technology, and its not their fault but that doesn’t mean that they have to be derived of the benefits of this world. I believe it is the duty of the younger generation to help equip them as well as indulge in the business themselves. Another important involvement that online mode encourages is the contact of female artisans with the buyers. For a long period of time in Indian history, men were supposed to go out and make economic deals, some of the patriarchal elements have not eroded yet in the countryside or among the artisans’ communities. However, today women are not bound with such measures, given the right circumstances.

The need for shifting to e-commerce came as a shock as well as a relief with the realisation of its presence. COVID-19, the pandemic staked artisans’ in their money belly really hard. But it was the e-commerce which came to their rescue. We have stories of artisans from all over the country claiming how technology helped them when they were practically handicapped by the nationwide lockdown. Slowly and steadily a large population of artisans moved on to e commerce during this time, and a much larger one awaits. Being targeted by the middlemen, robbed off their profits, and the limited market for the handicrafts have haunted the industry for so long that now a new method, which eliminates all of these problems, have to struggle its way through the heart and mind of the artisans of the twenty-first century.

About the author:

Khyati, is a history student and an aspiring researcher. She likes to dive into intricacies of society, culture and histories of the country. Further she has interest in writing, researching, and reading, so basically she's a nerd.

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