The silk industry based in Kanjivaram in India is of significant cultural importance. Kanjivaram is a town known for its skilled and dedicated weavers. But despite the popularity of Kanjivaram silk sarees, the weavers who make them face several challenges today.
Competition from power looms
The biggest threat facing weavers today is the competition from machine-made saris. While it’s true that a hand-woven saree is far superior in finish and quality to a machine-made one, they do tend to be more expensive as well as take much longer to produce. A hand-woven saree can take as long as 20 days to weave compared to a maximum of 3 days for a machine-woven one.
To promote the production of hand-woven saris, the government has made the production of power loom saris in Kanjivaram illegal. On top of this, there are many exhibitions conducted by the consumer silk board of India with the goal of educating consumers on the key differences between a hand-woven and machine-woven sari.
The economics of weaving
The second challenge that weavers face today is that most weavers are still treated as disposable labor in many parts of Kanchipuram. They are in extreme demand when the demand for their saris is high and out of jobs in months where the demand for their saris is very low. While big manufacturers do keep them employed regardless of the market conditions, most manufacturers of saris are very small business that lack the capital to keep the weavers employed during periods of low demand.
There are some things that can be done to alleviate this issue. Quick loans at very low interest rates to those who employ weavers can help them ride out the waves of low demand.
The lack of status
A third challenge is that weaving is perceived as a low status job even though weavers can earn a very decent income and the process of weaving is not as laborious as it used to be. There has to be a change in the perception of this ancient artform and that can only be done by emphasizing the importance of the traditional weaves and their influence in the sub-continent.
As manufacturers/retailers of Kanjivaram silk sarees, we place a particular emphasis on supporting the skilled weavers of Kanjivaram and ensuring that the artform of weaving isn't lost. We have our own manufacturing facility in Kanjivaram where we employ weavers, support them financially and also use pneumatics to reduce the physical demand on them.