The idea for forming an apex body for the craft
industry emerged out of various discussions between some
of the current members of AIACA's board, especially
William Bissell, the Managing Director of FabIndia and
Laila Tyabji, the Chairperson of Dastkar.
While there were many individuals and organizations
in the sector engaging with the government on various
issues like the need to reform unclear policies, tax
regulations with respect to starting and running a
crafts-based business, lack of access to credit and
social security services for craftworkers and various
other issues, there was no impact due to the isolated
nature of these attempts. The crafts sector is the
second largest employer in the country after
agriculture, yet the government gave it a low priority
vis-à-vis other sectors in policy-making due to their
unorganized nature and the fact that most craftworkers
operated in the informal sector. The rapidly changing
economic scenario within India was creating new threats
and opportunities for the sector and these developments
required pro-active research to support policy-making to
enable craftworkers to deal with the threats and to take
advantage of domestic market opportunities created by
economic and trade liberalization.
To address these concerns there was a clear need for a membership-based apex
body that would represent craftworkers at the national level, serving to help
them articulate their needs and advocate for favorable policies for the sector.
This body would start by bringing together private businesses, non-profit
organizations and cooperatives working in the crafts sector since all of them
were affected by the lack of effective policies for the sector.
Within this context, the All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare
Association (AIACA) started functioning in March 2003 as an informal association
of Craft NGOs and producer organizations spread throughout India. After
operating as an informal association for one year, AIACA was formally registered
under the Societies Registration Act on 30th of January, 2004.
However, AIACA’s work in the initial years saw that providing policy inputs
was not adequate as the need for many producer groups was first access to
markets and to technical inputs. Hence, the focus of AIACA's work expanded to
create programs and platforms that would assist craft producers to showcase
their products and become commercially sustainable organizations.