Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dastkar's biggest annual event, the Delhi Nature Bazar ends today and not only has the malkha stall has done very well, achieving substantially more than its target sale, but Malkha household made-ups at the stall next door seem to have done well too, and I hope to post some photographs soon of the beautiful things Delhi Crafts Council has made from malkha. We hope they will continue to retail the products from their shop Kamala, and design more stuff too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Now that malkha has created a name and a demand for itself in the market, we in the Decentralized Cotton Yarn Trust and the Malkha Marketing Trust with our technical collaborators Fractal Foundation have to put all our energies into streamlining production. This is not easy, as some of the earlier blogs have discussed, because the pre-spinning activity is entirely new to villages... or can be considered new since it has not been done at this level [and certainly not in this way] for at least half a century except in the extraordinary villages of Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh, where they still use traditional technology. Certainly the Gramaspinner pre-spinning machinery with its micro-processor controls is new to rural settings.

The entire production process has to work smoothly, employing people who have never before worked in such an enterprise that combines a traditional artisan activity such as hand-weaving with the running of state-of-the-art pre-spinning machinery, and which includes either mechanized spinning or domestic motorized yarn spinning. Each stage has a different speed and rate of production, and of course each stage is dependent on the one before, so all the producers must collaborate and co-operate for the whole operation to work.

Though that is a huge problem an even bigger drawback is the lack of electricity, with swingeing power cuts reducing working times: this is the biggest drawback to productivity that we face today. In the long term we hope with the help of Fractal to address this problem by trying out alternative energy sources, but in the short term this is a serious handicap. However, we cannot wait for solutions to the power problem before we go ahead with setting up more malkha centres. We hope that while we go ahead and commission more malkha production that the various experiments currently going on - in the country and throughout the world - in generating energy through sun, wind or bio-mass will come up with a viable solution for small-scale, dispersed, low-energy, village based production.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The malkha stall at the Nature Bazar has done well, reaching its target sales figure in four and a half of the 10 days of the Bazar. For the first time there is a malkha garment, a plain, well tailored unisex tunic at a reasonable price in 4 sizes. Prints and natural dyed fabrics have been selling particularly well. Much of the sale, as is usual in Delhi but not in Bangalore, has been of large quantities to retailers. In Bangalore on the other hand 90% of our sales are direct to customers.

We have also managed to offend a customer who wanted fabric that had already been sold but not yet packed, but have assured her that we will produce and deliver the fabric later.

The Malkha Project, an initiative of 3 designers Mayank Mansingh Kaul, Peter D'Ascoli and Aneeth Arora was launched at Melange boutique in Mumbai on October 18. The designers now plan to hold more such events in other cities. Malkha also figures in Tarun Tahiliani's grand finale show at Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in a few days. Ipshita Maitra's film team has already filmed the Mumbai event and will be shooting Tarun's show. They will also shoot at the Nature Bazar and at malkha production centres.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A malkha culture is being built, based on on mutual respect among producers, marketers and customers. In this way of doing things, producers learn to do quality work, marketers learn to charge fair prices from customers and to share returns with producers... and customers too are changing. In the old way all three tried to extract more from the process for themselves at the cost of the others. Producers were the weakest of all and got the least share of the value. The customer was king and he, she or they often abused the privilege of power. Intermediary marketing agents approriated value from both customer and producer.

But when the protocols of market exchange do not evolve in tune with prevailing socio-political norms and conditions individuals at the weakest end of the production chain refuse to accept unfair roles. This is what is happening in the handloom industry of India today: weavers are leaving the profession in droves, as much because of the lack of respect they get from market agents and customers as because of their low earnings.

In the malkha process democratic traditions are slowly taking hold. Malkha Marketing Trust introduces weavers and pre-spinning machine operators directly to customers at exhibitions, and they see that their products are valued and in demand. This promotes trust and transparency and makes producers proud of their work and therefore interested in quality aspects. Customers appreciate not only the qualities of the cloth but also the story behind it. It is rare that a customer questions the price. And MMT hopes to become a model for commercial marketing agencies that treat both customer and producer fairly.