The handloom and handicraft sector represent an important source of livelihood in India, especially in rural areas. After agriculture, handicrafts is the second largest employer in rural India, with many agricultural communities depending on it as secondary form of income generation during times of drought, lean harvests and famines. Despite a significant contribution to the national GDP and export earning, little effort has been made to enhance the incomes of craftworkers at a macro level.
The All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association (AIACA) is a membership-based apex body for the handloom and handicraft sectors. AIACA seeks to represent a range of organizations in these sectors and to engage in policy advocacy activities aimed at increasing the domestic and international market for handloom and handicraft products along with improving the standard of living of craft workers and to explore new and commercially sustainable models of livelihood promotion.
AIACA implements a range of initiatives like:
Policy Advocacy and Research
AIACA has been working consistently on creating a national policy research and advocacy network for the handloom and handicrafts sectors. Dearth of organized data, unavailability of information and the unorganized nature of the sector prevent voices of change from effectively organizing themselves. Hence, in the last few years AIACA has commissioned various studies like Access to Credit for Craftworkers, Handloom Cooperative Reform, Yarn Supply, Baseline study on Environment, Occupational Health and Safety issues in the crafts sector etc. Various national level workshops and consultations are also organized to engage various stakeholders like the government, private business and grassroot level NGO's.
Liberalization of the Indian economy has created many threats and opportunities for the Indian crafts sector. While there is a great demand for handicrafts in India and abroad, there is also fierce competition from low cost machine made products impersonating as handicrafts. The Craftmark initiative is an effort by AIACA to help denote genuine Indian handicrafts, develop sector-wide minimum standards and norms for labeling a product as a handicraft product, and increase consumer awareness of distinct handicraft traditions. Craftmark authenticates craft processes to be handmade and provides the use of the Craftmark trademark to craft producers and retailers post verification of their craft processes.
Enterprise Support Program (ESP)
The Enterprise Support program was started by AIACA based on the need of craft producers to acquire technical knowledge and professional expertise required to scale up their business operations. The program provides business-development and capacity building inputs along several key aspects of the value chain and enables producer groups to expand and streamline their operations in order to become commercially sustainable.