In one of our previous articles written during the beginning of the first lock down, we outlined how the Indian cottage textile sector was already very fragile and could be critically damaged by the economic impact of Covid 19. Fast forward around three months and we can clearly see the devastation it has caused among weavers, from the south to the north. Weavers are usually hired on a contract basis and paid per sari woven. During the lock down, most of them have been asked to halt production owing to issues in the supply chain and a drastic reduction in the demand.
As a result, their only source of income was cut. The relief packages announced by the government were targeted towards MSMEs but a very small portion of these funds are expected to trickle down to the weavers. In this article, we outline some of the measures that can be taken to revive the hand loom sector of the nation. Our weavers and their skill that has been passed down many generations are some of our prized possessions and we believe that all of us can play a part in helping a recovery in this sector.
The livelihood of a lot of weavers has been upset due to the pandemic.
Support hand loom
A hand made silk saree can take anywhere from a week to ten days to get woven while a machine made sari can be made in 24 hours with considerably less human involvement. There is a small possibility post the covid crisis that the market gets dumped with machine made saris which are cheaper and of lower quality compared to the hand made ones. One of the easiest ways to contribute to these weavers is to support the purchase and use of hand woven saris. Make sure that the brand you purchase from are selling authentic hand woven saris. Every purchase of a hand woven silk or cotton sari ultimately leads to a weaver getting paid for his hard work and skill.
Shuttles used to hand-weave saris. Hand-woven sarees have a distinct texture and finish.
Be local, buy local
One of the things we have adopted in our manufacturing units is the use of silk made in India. We have completely stopped the use of Chinese silk for weaving our saris. When you encourage the purchase and use of locally made materials, it not only supports the weavers but also all the labor involved in the seri culture sector. As consumers, you can try to source silk sarees which use mulberry silk made in India rather than imported silk. Self-reliance is going to be a major factor in reviving the Indian economy and this small step might play a big role in this revival.
Using domestically made silk helps support both weavers and laborers involved in sericulture.
Digital payments and ecommerce
Over the last three years, India has seen the number of digital payments made increase drastically. The addition of the UPI-pay system and growth of a number of payment gateways shows that more and more people are now willing to transact digitally. This digital infrastructure is now paving the way for a huge growth in the ecommerce segment, particularly in the sector of hand woven saris. It is now possible to purchase saris directly from the level of a weaver or master weaver at a very reasonable price. Our saris, for example, are shipped directly from our weaving units to the location of a customer, on order. While the retail sector might expect a slow down in the next few months, the ecommerce sector looks very strong with huge growth prospects. Purchasing hand woven saris online and from stores which directly source from weavers can also be a big contributing factor in the revival.
The digital infrastructure established in the last few years is finally paying off in the post pandemic era.
Support from the manufacturers
Lastly, it is up to the companies which make the saris to support their weavers. While its true that the demand for saris has shrunk rapidly during the lock down, the long term prospects for this sector are still positive. Hand woven silk sarees, for example, are still leagues better than machine made ones with regards to texture, luster and the nature of the weave. There are a number of things manufacturers can do in order for the weavers to help sustain their lives until the situation improves such as providing a reasonable monthly income to to the weavers, guaranteeing bank loans, etc.