There is a reason why Himachal Pradesh is also known as “Devbhoomi” (Abode of Gods). Pristine valleys, towering mountains, sparkling rivers and vast stretches of green – where else would Gods reside, if not in Himachal. From times immemorial, the natural beauty and soothing climate of Himachal has lured people from all parts of the world. Like a doting mother, Himachal has embraced one and all irrespective of their shortcomings and disregard to the very ecosystem that supports them. Scenic hill-stations have now become major commercial centers and are visited by lakhs of tourists every year, thereby, putting immense pressure on their fragile and ever depleting ecosystem. Since tourism is one of the main sources of revenue generation for people of Himachal, it is essential that tourism should be promoted in a way that it preserves the natural ecosystem and propagates principle of self-sustainable growth.
Guided by its founding principles – preservation of natural ecosystem and creation of self-sustainable rural economy- myHimachal has entered into a partnership with Rural Tourism Network Enterprise (RTNE) to promote rural tourism in untainted regions of Himachal. The pilot project for this partnership has already taken off in pristine Upper Seraj Valley (USV). In its role as a Destination Management Company (DMC), My Himachal is responsible for collection, aggregation and distribution of rural home-stay content to RTNE. My Himachal’s team in USV is bridging the supply-chain gap between rural home-stay owners and potential tourists by utilizing RTNE’s established infrastructure.
Although USV is one of the most picturesque valleys in Himachal (read the details below), it is also one of the remotest region in Himachal, a factor that has hampered the efforts to install very basic infrastructure. Eventually, lack of infrastructure has limited the growth opportunities and employment avenues for local people who have to migrate to the cities to earn their livelihood and support their families. By partnering with RTNE and by utilizing untapped tourism potential of USV, myHimachal intends to provide various avenues for employment to local people in order to support the creation of self-sustainable rural economy.
Upper Seraj Valley Tourism – A Promotional Perspective (by Payson Stevens)
The Upper Seraj Valley (USV) is one of the more isolated and unique tourist destinations in the Kullu Valley. Located between the Jalori Pass to the south and the Gushani Village to the north, it is an area blessed with a peaceful ambience and wondrous, environmental features. If you like nightlife and parties you will not enjoy the USV, but if you love nature, hiking, trekking, and peaceful surroundings you won’t be disappointed. The mountain villagers are friendly and open.
They live in a more, rural traditional way and have a very serious relationship to nature and the reverence of their ancient deity (devi and devta) culture. This should be respected by all visiting outsiders, including attention to modest dress, no obnoxious drunkenness or use of drugs, and peaceful, respective behavior.
The USV is divided at Banjar with Jalori Pass to the south and Gushani towards the north. Guest houses, hotels, and cottages are all available (with a range of cost from Rs.300-10,000/night).
There are numerous USV attractions, some of which include:
? Banjar to Jalori Pass:
- Jalori Pass (10,000 ft elevation)
- Ruins of Raghunath Fort above Jalori
- Seroalsar Lake, a two hour hike from Jalori to a small lake and temple of religious/cultural
- The villages of Jibhi and Ghiyagi with their unique devta culture
- Shringi Rishi Temple (for the valley’s main diety)
- Beautiful hikes along the Hirub Nallah with old Deodar-Oak-Horse Chestnut forests
- Fishing along the Hirub nallah
- Shoja Village with views of the Mankikaran Sapphire high mountain ranges
- Banjar to Gushani
- Hikes along the Tirthan River
- Trout fishing in the Tirthan River
- Tent Camping Sites along the River
- The Sai Ropa Visitor Center of the Great Himalayan National Park/GHNP (with dormitories,
- single rooms, and a 1 km marked nature trail )
- Trail head to entry to GHNP with extensive trekking (days to weeks) throughout the 754 sq km of the Park (entry fees and permission required).
GHNP is one of the most unique, pristine areas of the Western Himalayas. Local ecotourism NGOs and logistic teams assist visitors with trekking in the Park to ensure that they financially benefit from tourism and help with sustainable
livelihoods to protect/conserve the Park resources.
Numerous seasonal festivals/melas occur in the region along with Dusshera in the Kullu Valley every late Fall.
Remember: If you love and respect nature and a peaceful, quiet place then a visit to the Upper Seraj Valley will be rewarded with memories of Dev Bhoomi that will last a lifetime.
Seraj Valley-Kullu: Two first year undergraduate students from reputed Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication (SIMC, Pune) completed a six-week internship starting May working with My Himachal in the rural Upper Seraj Valley of Kullu District.
Dushyant Kumar and Maynak Susngi, SIMC students were involved with a number of My Himachal projects which included video documentation of the My Himachal Health Mela, 2010.
Two short PSA-like videos, The Work Continues and Don’t Forget Us, on My Himachal child healthcare efforts working with Jibhi CHAI/Lady Willingdon Hospital were produced.
The interns shot and edited the health mela video PSAs working under the direction of Payson Stevens, Advisory Board member My Himachal.
Working in collaboration with Padam Singh, My Himachal Manager, Dushyant and Mayank also hiked to remote villages and did surveys on two new projects; one focused on gathering written and photographic documentation on the quality of tourist accommodations (hotels, guest cottages, homestays) in the Upper Seraj Valley to support livelihood development in the tourism sector and the other project did surveys in the higher villages so as to assess chronic water shortages and awareness related global warming issues.
“We are under the impression that impacts of climate change have already commenced in Himachal Pradesh,” says Payson, leader of the My Himachal rural water recharge project. “There has been a great deal of variability in weather and monsoon conditions these last few years. Higher villages, especially those without sufficient green cover, are suffering from lack of water. The residents of a number of these villages are now forced to travel 1-3 km each way to get their daily water.
We’re hoping to initiate a My Himachal Water Recharge Pilot (WRP) to see whether traditional and modern techniques can help recharge the micro-water catchments for these villages and help alleviate the problem,” says Payson.
My Himachal advisors, Sanjeeva Pandey and Jessica Wallack, assisted Payson in the development of the survey questions along with input from the NGOs GrassRoots (Uttarakand) and Arghyam (Bangalore). Mayank helped Padam Singh in gathering data from 11 different villages as part of the WRP.
Dushyant assisted Padam in the data collection and photographic documentation for the tourism project visiting 14 accommodations.
Though the My Himachal intern program is in its fourth consecutive year, however, this was the first year SIMC student interns were mentored by the organisation.
Earlier students from the prestigious SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai (SPJIMR Mumbai) have interned with My Himachal at Kullu and Shimla.
Not many of you have ever heard of Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP). A piece of 765 sq-km area of land offers a vast range of tourism varieties to those seeking refreshing and adventurous break from their routine work. Far from busy and noisy life of cities, about 60-km from Kullu town, GHNP is a perfect place for getting feel of well deserved outing. Ironically even after its existence in 1984 the park has failed to witness desired attraction, as far as tourism is concerned.
GHNP, comprising the area of watersheds of Jiwa, Sainj, and Tirthan rivers was selected under the eco-tourism policy in May 2001 with other 5 locations in state. The policy was launched with much hope but with little result. Observations showed that the eco-tourism attraction has not much helped to enhance the tourist influx here. In fact the lack of publicity and soft approach in implementing the policy has failed to serve the desired result.
Initially when GHNP was created the major goal was to develop it as a national park. The goal was to convince the locals to preserve the environment and develop a sense of self conservation among villagers around the park.
The eco-tourism has not achieved its potential at GHNP despite it offers various attractions ranging from adventure sports like rock climbing, rappelling, river crossing, and fishing in the eco zone and long treks into the GHNP for bird watching, wildlife spotting and long nature trails. The treks are selected on the basis of the capabilities of tourists. Interestingly the tourists can have the feel of local culture and customs thanks to local fairs galore which are celebrated by villagers with much fanfare and enthusiasm.
No doubt, GHNP is an ideal location for eco-tourism. The 25 trekking guides who are locals are professionally trained for the eco zone. All the porters and cooks are also locals. There is a nursery which grows medicinal herbs so that the villagers who depended on the forest resources of the now protected area of the park can actually use the plants from nursery and grow their own medicinal plants for sustenance. In addition to this, entry in GHNP is permitted only with a local guide. This is done to restrict the number of people entering the region and also so that the local residents benefit from tourism in that area.
Moreover the home stays the main catchy feature of eco-tourism, is another untapped potential here. Inquires shows that many tourists want to experience the local culture and accustom and in that case there is no better way than home stays.
But despite all this, only a few locals are being benefited from the tourism that is being generated in the area. There is urgent need to build a model in which locals should have an opportunity to sell home made products like shawls, handicrafts and medicinal products to the tourists. Also building on the business model for home stays in the area will bring a tremendous benefit. Currently there is only one home stay which always remains overbooked. The eco-tourism will really be viable in park if a single governing body is created which has the authority to take the decisions for the park. Ironically, the BTCA model is not working as it was supposed to be. BTCA formerly known as SAHARA is formed for the betterment of locals.
In fact the progress has been slow and the true potential of GHNP is really not being exploited. Although responsible tourism is the key to eco tourism, awareness levels of GHNP have been very low which is a major problem here.
Interestingly, Divya Sawant and Gautam Bhatia the students of SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, currently on their Development of Corporate Citizenship program with My Himachal, a NGO are working on a plan to develop a sustainable model for eco tourism in the GHNP area. Their immediate plan is to develop a marketing strategy for eco-tourism in GHNP.
Says Divya and Gautam, there has been hardly any promotion for this location and also the present efforts are towards treks inside the park for the extreme trekkers when there is actually scope for the park to be a family retreat also with activities in the eco zone. Accessibility to the region is another issue. The roads are poor due to persistent rain and poor maintenance, points out Divya and Gautam who are currently doing extensive field survey and analysis of situation on the hand involving interactions with villagers residing there.
They have met the locals staying within the eco-zone the western boundary of the park inhabited by 160 villages. While disclosing their plans the students say, we talked to the villagers living there in order to gauge what they feel about their source of sustenance being converted into a protected park. We wanted to know on how they have adapted to this change and in what way have the local governing bodies helped their employment opportunities and income generation activities.
The villagers in the area were used to depend on medicinal plants from the park for their livelihood but since the park have become a protected area, they now have to rear goats for their living. Most women are part of the Women Saving and Credit Group an initiative by BTCA. The villagers outlook towards life in the valley was quite defeatist and they were resigned to the belief that their life would not improve. On further probing about the initiatives taken by the successive state governments, they seemed sceptical and have lost faith in governing bodies.
Judama Devi, a member of the Women’s Saving and Credit Group was used to depend on medicinal plants from the park for her family’s livelihood. However since the park has become a protected area, she along with her unemployed husband now rear goats to make their both ends meet. The family have lost faith in state government and BTCA as well. They seem to have the opinion that nothing is really being done to support them and even the initiatives being taken by BTCA are not working well. Judama Devi further says, BTCA currently offered locals the option to purchase medicinal plants from the nursery so that the villagers could grow them on their own. But the soil was infertile and the plants were not really growing in and around their house. So finally the benefit was nil, she rues.
Another sufferer, Harilal from Dhar village is pessimistic over the present initiatives. The BTCA members have not visited Dhar which is one of the more accessible villages in the area, he laments. According to Mr. Gopal the current in-charge of BTCA, despite some of the initiatives taken so far, the time to get approval for each initiative is very long. The most proposals are lost in government offices and the proposals are actually never implemented, rues Gopal who is also the Panchayat Pradhan.
Awareness about GHNP is another major roadblock, inform Divya and Gautam. GHNP is not even listed as a tourist destination on the Himachal Tourism Website. Being one of the largest national parks in the country one would think that it would be given the necessary importance to bring responsible to tourist to the area.
Providing alternate means of sustenance to locals who previously depended on the forest also is an uphill task especially since most villagers are losing faith in the present system and further time passing by without any action is not helping, point out Divya and Gautam. The handloom, handicrafts, medicinal plants in the eco zone etc are few of the employment opportunities which are being explored, but some strong decisions need to be taken accompanied with an implementing action plan is the need of the hour, they suggest .
Developing small scale tourism in GHNP while striving to have as little impact on the fragile and pristine protected areas of GHNP is one of our primary objectives, they reveal. Educating the travelers while directly benefiting the social stability, economic development and political empowerment for the local communities (Community Based Ecotourism) will be another key objective of our study, they inform.
Based on their surveys and study, Divya and Gautam suggest few measures to improve the situation at GHNP. They Say, improving accessibility to the region is most crucial one. The state government should look at starting a special bus service for travellers to the park which would provide convenience, comfort and ease of luggage space for the tourists. Improving awareness is another thing that can help lot to popularise the park all over. The developing of comprehensive and extensive website as the internet is the major source for information for most tourists these days. The need is also there to create new independent governing body comprising of government officials, local NGO and representatives from local villages to act as the decision maker for the region and help the overall development of the region.
This independent governing body which would not only provide a channel for local villagers to raise their concerns but having locals on the board may build trust in the villages. It will also ensure the training and skill development of the locals; provide avenues for locals to sell their home made products and co-ordinate home stays etc to bring direct benefit to the locals.
Ironically, Divya and Gautam have also done awareness survey on GHNP, in which only 23 people out of 80 were heard about it.
Not many of us know that just 60 kms away from Kullu town lies a 765 sq km area known as the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP). As management students we were given the task to build a sustainable model for ecotourism in the park but when we started our project on the its promotion of we were clueless about the complexities of the issue at hand. Two weeks into this project and we realized that there are three main issues that plague the GHNP accessibility, awareness and improper flow of information among concerned authorities.
The poor condition of the roads leading to the park which is aggravated by other uncontrollable forces such as persistent rain is a major obstacle in the way of tourism in the Great Himalayan National Park. The lack of available transport on this route is another major issue. The government should look at starting a special bus service for travelers to the park which would provide convenience, comfort and ease of luggage space for the tourists. Currently the GHNP is targeting only the hardcore adventure trekkers and the Eco-zone treks are not really highlighted or given any importance when they can attract a large set of tourists looking for a family getaway with a little adventure. The Eco-zone treks provide the right mix of small treks and a few adventure activities for the complete family trip.
One of the most important issues for the GHNP is the lack of awareness about it among people in and out of Himachal Pradesh. Internet being one of the most used avenues for travellers to research their planned destinations, it is a shame that GHNP being a national park is not even present as a tourist destination on the HPTDC website. Most Indian ecotourism websites have no mention of GHNP as an ecotourism destination. Even the Lonely Planet – India ( a travel guide) which is considered the bible for tourists has just a mention about the park with no contact information or website information about the park. The lack of sign boards on the road leading to the park – only two sign boards from Sairopa up to the GHNP Gate doesn’t provide a pretty picture. Boards providing interesting facts about the park and eco tourism need to be put along the trek to at least keep the tourist focussed on the eco tourism and the idea behind the concept.
The need of the hour is a new and improved comprehensive website with information such as varied packages for the varied consumer (with prices), a reviews section, a query section and one which is regularly updated with the latest happenings in and around the park. Brochures, posters and postcards need to be made available to key locations (Shops, HPTDC hotels, other key tourist destinations) in Himachal to make the traveller aware that such a destination exists. A documentary about the GHNP on travel shows on television channels like Discovery, National Geographic and NDTV will go a long way in making tourist all over the country aware of such a location in Himachal.
People need to be aware that such a park exists in the country which houses many an endangered species. Ecotourism itself in India needs to be encouraged. Responsible tourism which boosts the local economy while conserving the pristine environment of the park needs impetus.
The key factor in an ecotourism model is to bring an overall positive effect to the locals of the region. The GHNP has the potential to develop an ecotourism model which can then be followed by many around the country. Presently the governing bodies as well as the BTCA group are ineffective and are struggling to bring any improvement to the region. Any suggestion (either from BTCA or the locals of the region) has to go through so many levels for approval and most of the time is lost in the paperwork of the governing offices that hardly any improvement has been brought to the region. A new empowered governing body is the need of the hour. This would not only provide a channel for local villagers to raise their concerns but having locals on the board may build trust level among the villagers. This body should be a non profit organisation consisting of representation from locals, government as well as the local NGO and it should be given the authority to act on behalf of the government. It will also ensure the training and skill development of the locals; provide avenues for locals to sell their home made products and co-ordinate home stays in the region to bring direct benefit to the locals. The information flow would be quick, effective and this body will work towards bringing about the quick development of the region.
Currently there is no fixed structure to either make your bookings or to raise your queries about the park. Most queries are lost in a chain of mails going from one person to another before finally reaching the concerned person after two weeks. An attempt to make the bookings by phone is struggle as there is no fixed price list nor is there a single person handling all the queries. It is quite possible for duplication of information or even inconsistent information passing to the same customer. This ineffective and inefficient operating model must be changed immediately. Allocation of at least two resources for bookings/answering queries is very important and their contact information should be available on the website as well as any other mode of communication to the traveller. Making a standard price list and bringing about consistency in the information been given out to consumers is the least one expects from any service.
The problems in the GHNP are vast but solutions exist to bring about a quick change. It is up to the concerned authorities to take up the challenge and take the necessary strong decisions to bring about the change. A lot of people have come before us and highlighted the problems and most people working in the park are aware of these problems but still no action seems to be taken. The road ahead for the GHNP has to be carved by the concerned authorities; it can be one leading to becoming a key tourist destination in India or one in which GHNP remains an unexplored paradise.
The above article has been written by Divya Sawant and Gautam Bhatia. Both of them are students of SP 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 presently working on a plan to develop a sustainable model for eco tourism in the GHNP area. Their immediate plan is develop a marketing strategy for ecotourism in GHNP.
As two nature enthusiasts from SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai we were quite excited when we were lucky enough to get an opportunity to work as part of our curriculum (Development of Corporate Citizenship – DOCC) with My Himachal on an eco-tourism project for the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) in the Kullu district.
Almost three days into our project we were still struggling to come up with a suitable definition for the word ‘Eco tourism’ with respect to the GHNP and spending hours researching online was not getting us anywhere. We decided the best way to define our objectives for this project and to actually understand our role here was to visit the park and get a firsthand experience on what the park has to offer.
We began our journey to the hallowed portals of the Great Himachal National Park with a visit to the main office at Shamshi. The officials there were very helpful and on such short notice arranged for our transport and accommodation at the Park. On reaching Sairopa we eagerly awaited the trek into GHNP. We were told that it is a 9 km trek from Gushaini (a small village on the outskirts of the park) to the GHNP entrance. Though we knew that one can only reach GHNP on foot, a 9 km trek seemed a little difficult for us business school students used to a life across our laptop screens, buried into our assignments. But our excitement knew no bounds since we were astounded by the beauty of Sairopa and we waited for what would greet us in the interiors of this untouched land called GHNP.
The genuineness of the people of this region was no shock to us since each soul we met in Himachal was out to make us feel as comfortable as we city-breed students could. Our guide for the trek was a lad named Charan Chauhan, a sweet, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and energetic trekker. He kept us engrossed throughout the 9 km walk to the park with stories on how the park’s existence had come about and how he came about being a trekking guide at the GHNP.
Our main objective of the trek was to meet the locals staying within the Eco-zone (the western boundary of the Park inhabited by 160 villages historically dependent on forest resources) , to talk to them in order to gauge what they feel about their source of sustenance being converted into a protected park. We wanted to know on how they have adapted to this change and in what way have the local governing bodies helped their employment opportunities and income generation activities. We felt a firsthand experience of a journey into the Park would help a long way into understanding its strengths and weaknesses.
We met a quaint family of five living in small log hut en route to GHNP. They used to depend on medicinal plants from the park for their livelihood but since the park had become a protected area they now reared goats for a living. The woman of the house was a part of the WSCGs here (Women’s Saving and Credit Group-an initiative by the Biodiversity Tourism and Community Advancement (BTCA) group) and the man of the house was comparatively inactive. This family’s outlook towards life in the valley was quite defeatist and they were resigned to the belief that their life would not improve. On further probing about the initiatives taken by the Government they seemed sceptical and had lost faith in the present governing bodies.
Trekking further we were lucky to meet a man named Harilal from a village called Dhar. We were astounded by his positive attitude, his smiling face was inspiring. He told us that his family relied on a little farming and cattle for sustenance and said that he was on the lookout for more job opportunities. We found that there were primary schools within a radius of 1km around each village though the middle school was quite far. He said that children in his village were studying and he had high hopes for their future. But again he was pessimistic about the present initiatives been taken by the governing bodies.
All the other people we met fell into either one of the above categories but most locals were accepting the fact that the Park was now a protected area and had to look for other avenues for their sustenance. After speaking to the villagers we started our journey back to Gushaini and then to Sairopa.
We learnt about the wide spectrum of activities the Eco zone and GHNP had to offer for a tourist when we spoke to Mr Shesh Ram, the oldest serving trekking guide in Sairopa. One has an array of choice between adventure sports such as rock climbing, rappelling, river crossing, and fishing in the Eco zone or long treks into the GHNP for bird watching, wildlife spotting and long nature trails in GHNP. Also we were lucky to have the opportunity to speak to some tourists from Mumbai who had been on a trek to Shilt hut in GHNP. They were more than satisfied with the service provided and they could not stop talking about their experiences. But speaking to them we realized that they had carried out a careful search of national parks in India and had extensively planned their trip unlike most Indian tourists. We wondered if these nature lovers would have come to GHNP if they had not had the patience to keep researching and not giving up each time they met a road block in the planning of their trip – be it the fact that there is no brochure/website about GHNP which mentions the prevailing rates or the fact that there is not even a mention of GHNP on the Himachal Pradesh Tourism website!
Over the last 3 days spent at the GHNP we have realised the road ahead is long and has many obstacles. GHNP is a paradise on earth but its inaccessibility (by road) and lack of information about it do pose a major challenge in attracting people to it. Providing alternate means of sustenance to locals who previously depended on the forest also is an uphill task especially since most villagers are losing faith in the present system and further time passing by without any action is not helping. Handloom, handicrafts, medicinal plants in the Eco zone etc are few of the employment opportunities which are being explored, but some strong decisions need to be taken accompanied with a implementable action plan is the need of the hour. Keeping in mind that responsible tourism has to be the key outline we have come to understand what really eco tourism is about. We have realised that developing small scale tourism in GHNP while striving to have as little impact on the fragile and pristine protected areas of GHNP is one of our primary objectives. Educating the traveller while directly benefiting the social stability, economic development and political empowerment for the local communities (Community Based Ecotourism) will be another key objective of our study.
Our visit to the GHNP has been a completely new experience from the bustling streets of Mumbai to being surrounded by lush mountains roofed by clouds. GHNP gives the mind the peace which no place else can give and has lot to offer an adventurous traveller. Over the next few weeks we hope to bring about a significant positive impact to this region to the best of our abilities.
The above article has been written by Divya Sawant and Gautam Bhatia. Both of them are students of SP 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 presently working on a plan to develop a sustainable model for eco tourism in the GHNP area. Their immediate plan is to develop a marketing strategy for ecotourism in GHNP.
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.
Payson Stevens returns to SDMA to give a talk and show a documentary he made at Tabo Ancient Monastery in the Spiti Valley of India. Once part of Tibet, the monastery is a repository of ancient and powerful Buddhist art where Tibetan Buddhism has been continuously practiced since 996 AD. In September 2008, Payson and his wife, Kamla Kapur, were trapped in Tabo for two weeks when a huge storm blocked all roads going in and out of the village. He will recount their experi- ences and tell how the Abbot opened up the temples for him to make his documentary of rarely photographed murals and sculpture.
Since 2003, Payson and Kamla have been living half the year in a remote valley of the Indian Himalayas, where they built a home. Trained in science and art, Kamla, Abbot Gesheji, Payson, and Zangpo Lama Payson now spends his time painting and exhibiting in India (www.energylandscapes.com). He has been an advisor to the Great Himalayan National Park since 2000 on nature conservation and sustainable livelihood issues. He is a founding member and on the advisory board of the NGO, My Himachal (www.myhimachal.com), where he is involved with child healthcare and nutritional issues in the rural Kullu Valley.
THE PROGRAM: 3:00 pm, SDMA Boardroom
3:30 pm Lecture: Payson Stevens
WHEN? Saturday,February 7, 2009
For advance registration call 858-792-9439 or email jas[at]dutia[dot]net.
WHERE? Boardroom, San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park, San Diego
For tourists from across the globe, the hilly terrain of Manali-Shimla is a shoppers’ paradise for woollens. The heart of the weaving industry is in the small town of Kullu, 40Kms away from Manali. As one enters this scenic valley, colourful traditional Kullu shawls dot the sideways of every market street and one can see huge signboards atop tiny shops flashing ‘Traditional Kullu Shawls’. This is bait to the blind crocodile. Many of these shawls are not handcrafted, sometimes not even made in Kullu. They are mostly machine made shawls sourced from other towns in the country.
Is it that one doesn’t care enough to make an informed decision while buying or is it that one fails to see the value in a handcrafted product?
I am afraid it’s both. On one hand, tourists have little or no time on their itinerary to go searching for an authentic store and are more often than not directed by their local travel guides or the rickshaw drivers and cabbies to one of the numerous bogus shops that sell machine made shawls at hefty discounts (sometimes as high as 50%). A setup of a few handlooms in the periphery of the store serve as a perfect backdrop to disguise the machine made shawls as handmade shawls. While the tourist walks out of the store with discounted shawls, the local guide walks away with his share of commission, thus making this whole money making act a farce in the name of tourism.
On the other hand, as consumers, we fail to recognize the value of a handcrafted product. The value of art does not reside in the price we pay for it, but in the efforts that have gone into making that masterpiece; that masterpiece which is born out of the dexterity of the weaver, his eye for weaving an intricate design from his own palette of colours, the long hours of adeptly crossing the warp and woof to create kaleidoscopic patterns on the fabric, creating designs which by no means can be replicated on a programmed machine that churns out batch after batch of immaculate shawls at the press of a button. The power looms can produce a shawl in a couple of minutes while the weaver spends an average of four days to weave an elaborate design on his handloom. We must learn to appreciate the beauty of inherent imperfections in a handcrafted product that renders it it’s exclusivity. No price is too high to pay for unadulterated art, be it for the purity of the wool, the sanctity of the natural organic dyes or the simplicity and genuineness of the heart of the person who is making it.