Over the years, the Kullu – Manali twin towns have become a favourite spot amongst honeymooners. Apart from the scenic beauty that the valleys offer, Kullu is also famous for its hand woven shawls. Tourists having come here realize the true worth of this incumbent industry and then decide to purchase a few of these products mostly as souvenirs for their friends and relatives back home. However, over the years this industry is going through a severe decline for many reasons, most important of them being the entry of machine made products from Ludhiana.
A number of steps have been taken to combat the entry of these power loom players, thereby ensuring that Kullu continues to remain famous for its authentic handmade woollen products. These include the creation and approval of the Geographical Indicator (GI) and the presence of the handloom mark and Woolmark. This however, has not deterred the power loom players from continuing to grab the market, an outcome largely due to the existing nexus between the power loom retailers and other key stakeholders in the area.
A campaign to create awareness of this problem was launched last year, titled “Save the Weaver”. The campaign had tremendous reach and impact thereby educating the local consumer about the industry and its problems. It also helped to bring to light; existing threats that plague the industry and the desperate need for co-operation and innovation to revive and keep alive the long standing culture of this region.
As a follow up measure to the campaign, the most important step now is to cash in on the awareness generated and implement certain concrete plans to ensure the long term survival of this industry. Primary among them is the need for privatization. Privatization of this industry would benefit both the weavers and the private players in a number of ways:
Benefits to the weavers:
- Opening up of new untapped markets and multiple marketing channels, especially the internet
- Exposure to foreign markets thereby creating sustained demand
- A platform for the long term revival of this industry
- Ability to combat the threat of power looms
- Continuous access to latest consumer trends
- Creation of a strong quality check process that enhances the value of these products
- Establishment of a certain work ethic that regulates the industry and creates stable job opportunities
Benefits to private players:
- A strong competitive edge by capturing the first mover advantage
- Leveraging on their existing distribution channels to showcase newer products, basically – increased revenues at minimal costs
- Revival of the Kullu handloom industry thereby ensuring a continuous stream of revenues and profits
- Creation of a brand that showcases Indian handloom products to the world
- Creation of Kullu as an export hub
However, just like any other plan, this one is ridden with a number of obstacles as well. Some of the immediate obstacles are as follows:
- Cannibalization by power loom products
- The lack of awareness amongst the weavers about the sheer market potential of their products
- Lack of government policies and the ineffectiveness of the Apex Body and other numerous associations
- Lack of proper implementation of the GI and Handloom Mark
- Lack of a progressive attitude amongst the co-operatives and the weavers themselves
- More number of weavers opting out of this profession with every passing day
- The lack of proper training facilities
One of the immediate ways of tackling the above obstacles is by showcasing to private players, the plethora of opportunities present in this industry. This calls for a proper sales pitch to these players, a pitch that outlines the current status of the industry, the opportunities present and the benefits of entering the industry at such a time. Effective presentation of the above points should then lead to the setting up of buyer-seller meets. These buyer-seller meets would bring both parties abreast of the current situation in the industry, thereby helping them carve out a future plan that would benefit both parties involved.
Players such as Fab India, Bombay Store and the likes are known for promoting Indian products laden with culture and heritage and Kullu handloom definitely does fall into this category. There has also been an increasing trend in social entrepreneurship where private players scout for a dying art and does all that is possible to preserve the same. The time has now come to cash in on this trend and open the doors to the private players. This step, if implemented well, will go a long way in revival of this dying tradition and ensuring that “Kullu Shawls” carve out a brand for themselves in the years to come.
The above article has been written by Ajay Simha and Pooja Adiga. Both of them are students of S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai. They are currently on a 6 week internship with My Himachal as part of their DOCC (Development of Corporate Citizenship) program. They are working with My Himachal to put into place a strong revival mechanism for the traditional Kullu Shawl weaving industry and one of their immediate plans includes the privatization of this industry.