The keepers of the profession and the art - the weavers who have created exquisite and timeless classics on handloom from Benaras are a dying breed. The community has a lot of hopes from India's latest Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, not only because the PM represents the city, but also because they believe that the ancient craft form requires protection.
Problems plague the industry, not just from the supply of skilled manpower, but also from challenges in financing and competing with larger mechanised forms of production. Over the years, the demand for handloom has been dwindling due to price competition from mass produced sarees and textiles.
A study by the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Gandhinagar pointed out that the handloom sector has seen a consistent declne over the previous decade except for some short-lives rallies. There are fundamental issues that need to be solved before the sector can be revived. In our view, some of the key issues that plague the sector include,
- Duties on raw silk that are currently at 5%; these need to be increased at least 3x in order for the local industry to remain competitive
- National level Technology initiatives that help to set in place best practices for the sector so that the products can be competitive in terms of quality and finishing; this is currently missing
- Cheaper financing in the form of cheaper term loans that individual weavers and wearver communities can avail
Currently, the only people that turn to this craft form are doing so because of lack of options and opportunities - they are born into families that have pursued the profession. The sector is no longer lucrative or sustainable for families and the government of India needs to look into incentives for the sector seriously so that a boost may be given.