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.

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