As the COVID-19 pandemic causes widespread shutdowns across the globe, home decor—with all small and big players— is feeling its adverse effects. The art and craft sector—the underlying steel of Indian home decor—too is struggling with the disease’s slow but certain decimation of business.
Crafts communities face a plethora of issues, from possible cancellations of orders to lack of awareness about the disease.
In the long term, though we feel human interaction at a bazaar is the best way to appreciate the texture and contours of craft products currently e-commerce could be an option. Recently at a big conference at Hyderabad, senior karigars said that orders and long-term clientele still come through exhibitions and bazaars, and less through digital channels.
Another way of structuring work on a long-term basis is through engaging craft communities in big design and craft projects from corporates, hospitality bodies, architects, interior designers. The earnings in these cases are far more and give them a secure and better livelihood.
People say that one result of worldwide self-isolation will be a major increase in online buying instead of hands-on retail. Few craftspeople have the technical and economic resources or knowhow to go online; those of us in the craft sector have to equip ourselves to help them.
Artisan-entrepreneurs, who work independently are immediately affected as exhibitions, craft bazaars have been cancelled. Loss of sale channels will affect sales of cotton handlooms. Artisans working with designers on consignment basis will face loss of income, since designers are already expressing slowdown of sales. Those on payroll, however, still have a protective cover. Then there are artisans linked with handloom cooperatives, who can provide safety nets with inputs from the state. NGOs and civil society initiatives will be able to absorb risks of slowdown, but for only some time.
Civil societies, NGOs, individuals working in the craft sector and the Government will have to come forward on a war footing to resolve issues arising from the pandemic. It is also an opportune time to reimagine production and market models, to be able to relook at localising markets and learn how technology and social media can complement and leverage the enterprise and resilience of these communities.