Cutting the Threads Loose
“We know our limitations in terms of digital expertise. We are completely dependent on a third party to help us get access to the urban market.”
Mastu Devi, along with 10 other women, has been a Chamba Rumaal artist for the past 25 years. The group predominantly works with the Delhi Crafts Council who have employed these women as and provide training to them. The DCC also offers a platform to sell their products to the urban consumer, playing the role of a middleman. The women work on a commission basis and earn about 10k for each handicraft. The rumaal is sold further for about 30k. The DCC provides the raw materials and physical infrastructure to these women, hence, covering all the logistical requirements. The women are quite happy with this arrangement, saying that they do not have the time to sit in a shop and sell directly to the consumers.
While we spoke about the difference of working with a professional institution v/s as an independent embroider, we were told that a talent, willing to learn and the platform is vital to really take this art forward. An individual artisan (like Neelam) cannot work remotely since it will be a challenge to monitor one’s progress.
Apart from the DCC, the women also sell their products at exhibitions organized by the Himachal government. These women also believe that their art is too costly to be sold to the local population and they refuse to accept a lower price point than what DCC may offer.
With respect to government schemes, Mastu Devi tells us that if the government provides the infrastructure, they would be willing to train amateurs and new artists in the community. It is a highly skilled art form and takes years to master. The Panchayat, on the other hand, must work as an information dispersion center and aggregator.
Mastu Devi has a Samsung smartphone and uses an accord of apps including Google Pay, SBI and WhatsApp. Surprisingly, she doesn’t use any e-commerce apps and is skeptical about the advance payment options and the fear of overspending. She also finds the process time-consuming.
Centers like the Delhi Crafts Council are doing a brilliant job of reviving local crafts and providing stable sustainable employment to local communities. However, women like Mastu Devi are completely dependent on these parties to market and sell her artifacts. This is by virtue of the fact that she is hesitant to build an online store for herself, given the complexities of the process.
With a current internet penetration of about 18% in semi-urban and rural areas expected to grow to 45% in the next two years, this presents a significant opportunity both for e-commerce and reverse e-commerce as a potentially vital growth lever.
However, engaging a rural consumer requires an entirely different acquisition strategy. Trust and simplicity of transacting, along with a reliable logistics partner are key factors to onboard rural artisans and help them access urban markets. Artists like Mastu Devi are dependent on parties that provide precisely this. The question, we thus need to address is, can Mastu Devi do this herself?
Our Solution: Digital Dost, Dukaan, Logistics partner in India Post, CSC