The gifting space – Us vs. Them, or is it ?

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According to Technopak, the total size of Indian corporate & personal gifting market put together is about 250,000 crore today. The organised gifting market must be easily 100,000 crore . By organised, I mean the sellers operating via the rule books, imports, duties paid etc. and GST billed buyers. It’s no surprise that this sector is dominated by imported goods. Chinese, Hong Kong … it’s not a very long list. One has to hand it to the Chinese in their manufacturing efficacy and creating products that suit the contemporary lifestyle and their ability to price products much lower than the perceived value.

The buyers of these products are also extremely happy as the turn-around time required for ‘customisation’ ( implies logo printing mostly ) in these products is very short.

Now let’s take a look at the handicraft industry in India.

As one can see India’s richness in Handicrafts is unparalleled. Including apparel we have 744 craft clusters across India creating 35,312 unique products ! Wow !

According to the national census of handicrafts, undertaken by the NCAER, the value of handicrafts produced last year was Rs.26,213 Crore.The total exports of crafts items was Rs.13413 Crore. About 50% + of our handicrafts were exported.

This provides huge employment opportunities to artisans that include women and people belonging to backward and weaker society.

The Indian gifting market has a general apathy towards its own craft. I am unable to find exact data on what portion currently goes to indigenous creations but my guess is that it’s a miniscule share and comprises probably of traditional products linked to our popular festivals. I apportion a few reasons to this :

  • Trading in the imported products is extremely lucrative. The gross margins in imported goods is extremely high. Most land at our ports at say 10 Paise for a final customer price of INR 100/- ( Referred a few examples for this and this is generally true ) . All channel members in the gifting trade also earn good margins. There is also spare margin left to handle any graft requirements – hence sellers & buyers are happy wherever kickbacks have to be provisioned.
  • Our own society for long has aspired for the ‘imported’ tag on the products they consume as well as those they gift. This is changing slightly, especially with Indians who are traveling the world realising that there is a richness in our arts & culture which is difficult to find elsewhere. But handicrafts still lack the right marketing effort. There have been pockets of success and some large ones like the Jharcraft PSU which has done fabulous work for handlooms & handicraft & art and the practising craftspeople. 
  • The lack of awareness of the rich arts & craft heritage of India stems primarily from the fact that Indian art is not part of our school educational system, be it CBSE, ICSE or the State board curriculum. 
  • Not enough has been done to promote the knowledge of Indian Art & craft. Though there are craft clusters, trade provisions & handicraft emporia, all these components do not work as one well oiled machine.
  • There are organisations created painstakingly over the last three decades like Dastkar whose primary focus has been to help bring recognition and a certain premiumness to the native arts & crafts but they are still few and far between.
  • Our native craft has remained static in terms of design and innovation and adaptability to a new age lifestyle. Which is also probably the reason that it’s consumption is related to traditional occasions ( primarily Hindu festivals/occasions )
  • Government bodies like the Regional Design and Technical Research Centres are being phased out. These centres have both tremendous resources and a decade back had hundreds of master craftspeople. Today they are being “retired” out.

Is there any way we can get native craft  & art into the gifting market ?

Why should we do it ?

Well, the why is very clear to me – with a market size in India of INR 250,000 cr., even a 1% penetration of this market value can generate employment for lakhs of our rural artisans. It can help sustain their livelihoods in their traditional craft which most of them enjoy doing even today and reduce urban migration.  But is this doable ? Or a pied piper’s dream… 

I would think yes, but we will need to do the following : 

  • create multiple levels and intensities of interactions of artisans with the potential patron through workshops/discussions. This puts a human face to the art/craft.
  • build story-telling using the historical/ mythological/nativity aspects as a mechanism to create involvement in the traditional craft
  • tap into the emerging/existing pride/Indianness
  • look at contemporary design to make the traditional craft relevant
  • design innovation to make traditional craft more acceptable/usable in modern lifestyle

All the above actions are for better customer understanding & appreciation. However there are many other things which need to be done especially at policy levels which is not an area we can directly influence and hence i have largely left that out of this discussion.

It’s important to do all the above in all forms. Every individual relates to art & craft in their own unique way. I would be very happy to receive suggestions on what the way forward should be.

Also suggestions welcome on what a boot strapped player like Tamaala ought to be doing in this space.   

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