Creating global markets for rural artisans of India

Walking through the bylanes of Koyyalagudem, a village in Telangana, one hears the rhythmic clacking of handlooms. A community of weavers is at work, producing exquisite handcrafted products using skills and techniques passed down generations. It offers a stunning contrast to the nearby city of Hyderabad; traditional arts and crafts existing side by side with technology companies like Google, Microsoft and Uber.

Women weaving livelihoods in India
Koyyalagudem is just one village that’s part of a nationwide community of over 9 million artisans and weavers, making India the world’s largest producer of handmade goods. Women play a major role in handloom weaving. The handloom sector is the second largest employment provider next to agriculture in India with close to 3 million households engaged in weaving and allied activities, out of which 87 per cent are located in the rural areas.

However, industrialization has posed considerable challenges for traditional sources of livelihoods. The handloom sector has seen a decline over the last few decades. There are many factors behind this including a lack of strong marketing channels and competition from cheaper machine made look-alike products. Additionally, long supply chains dominated by local traders have a negative effect on the artisans: they get exploited on their payments. Handcrafted products are sold at higher prices (between three to ten times the original price) in urban and international markets, but these profits are rarely shared with the artisans. That’s why Women on Wings’ business partners work without the middle men.

Social marketplace
Women on Wings’ business partner GoCoop believes that technology can drive social change. Its dream is to enable a sustainable livelihood for artisans through a simple, transparent, online marketplace platform. A platform which facilitates artisans to come online easily and supports them in selling their handmade products to buyers directly. This direct access to buyers helps artisans discover the end pricing and also helps them in realizing greater value for their products. Most artisans working through the GoCoop marketplace have realized a 15-30% higher value for their products as compared to the local channels.

Preparing for global markets
To support GoCoop in its growth, Women on Wings expert Edwin van den Brand worked with the GoCoop team early March on developing a plan for targeting sales channels in Europe. Edwin also took the team on a journey about quality in its value chain, preparing GoCoop even more for its global ambition.

Read the full story about the weavers.