India's handloom product basket is a bit of a windfall. It ranges from generic products of mass consumption to high value-added products of reputation and demand. As most generic products can be replicated on modern, sophisticated looms, these products originating from the handloom sector cannot sustain in the price-sensitive market.


The intricate workmanship of handloom products not only provides this segment with a unique identity, but also guarantees its future success. Therefore, there is a need to focus on the production and marketing of value-added products that cater to market demand.


The stakeholders are master weavers, primary co-operative societies, apex handloom societies, retailers and exporters. They are directly involved in the production and marketing in the domestic as well as in the export market. A majority of stakeholders in the handloom industry are in need of a comprehensive marketing mechanism that will directly fetch a premium price and enhance their economic condition.


One important factor missing in the handloom marketing space is an assurance that it comes from handlooms and conforms to specifications claimed either by the producer or the seller. Branding will not only provide an assurance to consumers but also sustain the development agenda of the handloom industry. These value-added products need to be promoted under Brand India Handloom if they are to generate a special market space and bring increased earnings to the weavers. The ministry of textiles proposes to strengthen the visibility of handloom products by promoting Brand India Handlooms to rev up the marketability of handloom products and support the 'Make in India' campaign.


Do branding and handlooms go together?

A brand is a promise to the customer. It says, without speaking, that the customer

can expect certain basic qualities from the products and services, and it differentiates the offering from that of other similar products. Branding is the process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer's mind, mainly through advertising campaigns and other means with a consistent theme.

 

There are handloom products which evolved as a natural brand and are fetching premium price as that of branded products. The evolution of these natural brands is due to the reputation, memorability, quality, uniqueness in designs and weave. These are brands created by the people, which is opposite to the traditional method where the business creates a brand. This type of method minimises the risk of brand failure, since the people who might reject the brand in the traditional method are the ones who are participating in the branding process.


It is branding that will eventually sustain the development agenda of the handloom industry. These value-added products need to be promoted under Brand India Handloom if they are to generate a special market space and bring increased earnings to weavers, affirms the Secretary, Textiles Committee, Dr. P. Nayak.


The most obvious example of this is the case of Banaras saris and brocades. As it has built powerful brand equity in the consumer's mind over time, it can charge a premium for its product and customers will be ready to pay that higher price. This time-tested method of branding established names could be augmented with the new branding elements to evolve a Brand India Handloom for all the value added products of the country. The main elements in the branding process are brand name, logo/symbol, universal resource locator (URL), character, slogan/tagline jingle, packaging and signage.


How handlooms will be branded

The value-added handloom products will be branded under the Brand India Handloom umbrella to make them stand out as Brand India products. They will be given necessary visibility to attract the attention of customers in India and abroad. An institutional mechanism comprising textiles committee (TC), weavers' service centres (WSCs) and a third party agency will be set up to implement the initiative. The operational procedure involves:

•    Creating awareness

•    Registration

•    Quality maintenance

•    Supplying labels to registered stakeholders

•    Publicity campaign

•    Supply of packing materials


Creating awareness

One stumbling block in handloom's path of progress is inadequate knowledge. So, workshops to create awareness can play an important role in attracting the various stakeholders. The workshops will be held in major handloom clusters as well as in selected cities and towns across the country. These workshops will focus on the various issues of the initiatives including registration process, testing of products to be branded, maintaining quality standards, maintaining uniform packaging, etc. Potential stakeholders will be identified and encouraged to join the initiative. TC will organise these workshops with the active support of the WSC and state government departments.

 

Registration process

Interested stakeholders who have been identified to be a part of this initiative will be enrolled and registered. The provisional registration of these stakeholders will be provided instantly. Confirmation will come after due verification from TC. A web-based application has been proposed to make the registration simple.


Quality parameters and maintenance

If we are to win customer confidence, there is a need to maintain quality. The reputation of handloom products is embedded in a specific set of physical/ quality parameters:


•    Composition of the product, ends/inch, picks/inch, etc.

•    Dimensions like length and width of the product

•    Weight per unit of product

•    Fast colour

•    Use of vegetable dyes

•    Unique designs and motifs on the product

•    Use of zari and other embellishments

•    Any other specification required for the product; since the products come from the most unorganised sector, a permissible limit of (+/-) 5 per cent will be provided as leeway. However, there will not be any compromise on the quality of yarn, dyes and chemicals and reed and picks. The quality assurance to the customers cannot be compromised if we are to maintain the Brand India status for handlooms.


Packaging material for brand development and assurance

Packaging and showcasing of the products is an important aspect of the branding process. Branding and customer recognition demand consistency in certain parameters. Use of the same colour scheme, logo, slogan or tagline, look and feel throughout the packaging material have to be maintained by the registered stakeholders. The packaging material has to be chosen with care so that it assures the customer of quality and other physical parameters. Product-specific history and uniqueness and also the cluster of production will be a part of the pack or wrapper. This will provide the customer the pride in picking up something that has rich, traditional heritage. It will also enhance brand value.


Supply of labels

TC will print and distribute labels under the initiative through its network of 29 offices to the registered stakeholders. The offices of WSC and TPA will also act as contact points for acquiring the labels. The quota of the registered stakeholder will be set as per the declaration at the time of registration. A web-based management system will be developed for taking stock of the availability of the labels at each of the selling points and disbursal of the labels to the registered stakeholders' along with their quota. Each of the regional offices of the TC and WSC as well as TPAs will be provided access to update their stock positions and place the future demand in the designated website.


Publicity

The media plays an important role in the success of any product or policy. Acknowledging that, TC has done extensive publicity through print media during the initial period of the implementation of the scheme. Almost all the major dailies were given advertisements in vernacular languages for the spread of the initiative among the consumers.

 

Brand promotion

A series of activities will be undertaken by the TC, Handloom Export Promotion

Council (HEPC), National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and WSC to build a unique place in the minds of the consumers in the domestic and international markets about Brand India Handloom. Besides conventional methods of brand promotion, some modern techniques such as social media websites including


Facebook and Google+ could be used as a way to promote Brand India in a more relaxed environment. Outdoor advertising, e-marketing and mass advertising will also help.


The entire exercise will provide a statement of assurance to customers who have been loyal to handloom products besides increasing the visibility of handloom products in India and abroad. In the long run, handloom products will fetch a premium price, which they richly deserve. The proposition carries forward the Prime Minister's call for Zero Defect, No Effect (on the environment) and the 'Make in India' campaign.