The idea for forming an apex body for the craft industry emerged out of various discussions between some of the eminent personalities of this industry who have also been members of AIACA's board, especially William Bissell, the Managing Director of FabIndia and Laila Tyabji, the Chairperson of Dastkar.
While many individuals and organizations in this sector, over the years, have been engaging with the government on various issues such as 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 craft workers and various other issues, there has been little impact due to the isolated nature of these initiatives. 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 craft workers 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 for enabling craft workers to deal with the threats as well as 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 craft workers at the national level, serving to help them articulate their needs and advocate for favorable policies for the sector. This body aimed to bring 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 and an enabling environment for their growth.
Thus, the All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association (AIACA) commenced in March 2003 as an informal association of Craft NGOs and producer organizations spread across India. After operating as an informal association for one year, AIACA was formally registered under the Societies Registration Act on 30th -January, 2004.
However, AIACA’s experience in the initial years led to the under standing that providing policy inputs was not adequate as the critical needs for most of theproducer groups was access to markets and 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.