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Tribal Craft Development Initiative

Tribals in India have been producing different handicrafts, both utilitarian and decorative, for centuries. The self-engaged tribal communities tend to have limited knowledge and resources to meet the requirements of regular markets and poor awareness of their potentialities for their handicrafts. Therefore, supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland this project aims to locally engage with appropriate partner organizations that understand the strengths and limitations of the community and conduct necessary interventions to develop the cluster and train them in order to set up self-sustainable enterprises.

We are working with the following communities:

Toda Embroidery :Todas are a small and closed pastoral community of 1500 members in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu. The Toda women do a very distinctive and aesthetically intricate form of embroidery on matted fabric and this form of art holds a cultural uniqueness for the community. Despite good recognition, this art is dying and may vanish altogether if not properly safeguarded. Further, due to poor market linkages and more diverse occupations, the skill is not getting transferred to the next generation from a livelihoods perspective.

Lambani embroidery : The Lambani artisans of Kendra belong to a nomadic tribe known as the Banjara, who are often referred to as the “gypsies of India.” Their rich embroidery is made on cotton or silk, with intricate needle-work. The women working with Porgai, our partner organization in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu, currently have regained the lost skill of Lambani embroidery with the help of training.

Bamboo crafts : Several bamboo based product development initiatives in Kerala are conducted to counter ecological crisis and economic backwardness of the marginalized forest-based groups. One such initiative is by Uravu, our partner organization in Wayanad, Kerala that has redefined the bamboo craft sector and currently engage more than 250 artisans. The products by Uravuare quite innovative and market driven, however, there is a requirement to meet necessary quality standards to ensure sustained market demand.

Duration:

1st of April 2012 – 31st March 2016

Location:

  • The bamboo cluster falls under Kalpetta Block in Wayanad District of Kerala.
  • The Toda cluster based in Nilgiris District of Tamil Nadu comprises six taluks viz., Ooty, Kundah, Coonoor, Kotagiri, Gudalur and Pandalur.
  • The Lambani cluster is baed in Sittlingi Valley falls under Harur Taluk, Dharmapuridistrict of Tamil Nadu.

Implementation Plan

  • Cluster Development activities in each location to establish an operational team and field staff.
  • Business Plan Development: A business plan for the clusters will be imperative to describe project goals and outline the roadmap to achieve it with regards to sourcing, production and marketing.
  • Streamlining operations : Solving current bottlenecks such as supply of raw materials, addressing problems related to product finishing, etc. We will conduct trainings and workshops on skill upgradation, design, dyeing, etc.
  • Supply Chain Planning and Marketing related activities to develop new product lines, approach domestic retail, export and corporate markets, etc.

Project Activities

As first steps to establishing systems and performance control, a business plan was developed for each of the three clusters after studying the financial reports and discussions with the clusters and the project coordinators appointed by AIACA.

We conducted design workshops with Porgai, Shalom and Uravu each year and also gathered product feedback from various categories of buyers and designers (through fairs, catalogue and buyer seller meet). In addition to this, every year, as part of project handholding we ensured that the group and its coordinators are equipped with the tools and techniques to understand the way the business functions and are capable of decision making, the team has initiated an entrepreneurial capacity building exercise.

AIACA also facilitated the procurement of various types of tools and machinery to set the production base locally. Equipment that contribute to various production requirements to make the process smoother and cost effective have been successfully deployed across the three clusters.

We have also developed adequate product development and finishing mechanisms. Additionally, AIACA has development compact catalogues as an effective marketing tool for a craft enterprise. On the marketing front we have created social media pages for each group to increase awareness amongst existing and potential buyers. AIACA has also collaborated with groups marketing calendar to participate in prominent fairs and exhibitions to showcase the product range from the clusters. Each year, platforms such as RBS Festive Exhibitions, Dastkar, Concern India Fairs, Artisan Cottage Fair, etc. and some other metro level exhibitions were explored with necessary marketing assistance to increase awareness, promotion and sales.

Additionally, AIACA has setup Management Information Systems to help collate data on a periodic basis and also provide a valuable time saving benefit with quick analysis and reporting.