E-commerce is playing a crucial role in supporting Indian craftsmen and artisans, offering them a new ray of hope during the pandemic-induced crisis

India is famous for its rich culture, spicy food, Hindi film industry, temples, festivals, population, cricket, and many more aspects. Handicraft is also a crucial element in this list. The handicraft sector is one of the largest job creators, employing over 7 million artisans and over 67,000 exporters, with a presence in both domestic and international markets. In fact, even in a decidedly challenging year like 2020, India exported handicrafts to the tune of 126 billion. 

And the sector is growing fast. It is poised to reach $60 billion by 2024. However, owing to its fragmented nature, the sector faces numerous challenges. For ages, many artisans have been leading a challenging life due to factors like lack of funds for product development, involvement of middlemen and sale of products at lower price points.

Added to this is the shrinking awareness of consumers around authentic handicraft items. The situation calls for a strong revival strategy to help craftsmen regain their footing, and what could be a better solution at this juncture than going online.

E-commerce unlocking new possibilities 

One of the most significant challenges for artisans who were selling offline is the ongoing pandemic, which has dramatically affected them in the form of plummeting sales and revenues. Since consumers prefer to stay home due to the fear of contracting the virus, these offline craftsmen are witnessing lesser or no footfalls.

Therefore, building an online presence has become a necessity for these traditional players to sustain their businesses and revive from the losses they had incurred, especially in the past few months. Although the economy has gradually started unlocking, digitising the business will be critical in the new world order, as more and more consumers come online in search of handicrafts. But what makes e-commerce a boon?

The benefits of switching to online platforms

COVID-19 has presented numerous overnight transitions in our lives. As social distancing and lockdown became a part of our daily lexicon, these transitions pushed businesses to adopt a digital route to continue seamlessly serving customers and introduced consumers to an online world that is different from what it was earlier.  The revenue from the e-commerce sector in India is going to increase from $39 billion in 2017 to $120 billion in 2020, growing at a rate of 51 per cent, the highest in the world. The interweb is, thus, brimming with opportunities for the handicraft sector.

The new and fast-growing online universe is more appealing in terms of innovative products launched by existing and new players, focusing on educating consumers and reigniting the trend of handicraft in their lives. Hence, e-commerce players are not only serving as a platform for artisans to showcase their products but are also helping them build and strengthen their connection with consumers with a fresh start.

Moreover, these platforms are acting as a massive support system for craftsmen who don't have adequate resources to maximise their reach, giving them collaborative opportunities to work with domain leaders and helping them scale their businesses in the long term. To support and boost the handicraft market, several online players have come forward and are collaborating now with craftsmen to help them sell their work online while also promoting their art and giving it the required visibility.

A one-stop-shop for all handicraft needs

With a vast pool of handicraft items available under a single umbrella, the online space acts as a one-stop-shop for consumers to meet their diverse needs. For instance, while one group of customers might look for organic cotton fabric, another group might seek designer fabrics.

Besides this, new players in the market are also coming up with more innovative services like digital printing, enabling consumers to customise printing and get their design of choice printed on any fabric at minimal cost. This, in turn, helps in digitising their shopping journey, fueling convenience, and ensuring cost-effectiveness in the process, all at one go.

On top of that, consumers have access to a wide array of Indian handicrafts to try out and augment their fashion statement, which otherwise is not possible in an offline model. This positively impacts the overall consumer journey, making it more superior and unparalleled for customers in every sense.

The final word

E-commerce has played a critical role in supporting Indian handicrafts and giving artisans a new ray of hope to hone their craft and receive the value they deserve. Although the pandemic has affected the overall business of the craftsmen community, online players are providing them with new growth opportunities to boost their sales and revive faster. The handicrafts industry is estimated to be around a $7-8 billion market, and e-commerce is acting as a catalyst for handicraft businesses to ride on a growth trajectory while creating a positive and lucrative future for them.