Saturday, December 29, 2012

retailing malkha garments

At Malkha Marketing Trust our aim is to make malkha available to the large middle market, with  the lowest possible marketing overheads. In this approach there are lots of dilemmas which need to be resolved in a creative way. Regular mainstream marketing  needs a mark-up of AT LEAST 100% and often more, to make it viable. That would make the retail price of an average malkha kurti Rs 960 [2 metres fabric Rs 320, tailoring Rs 100, transport and overheads Rs 60], while we would like it to retail for around Rs 650-700.Then there is the investment and working capital cost to be factored in because we will need to hold stocks of garments in different designs and sizes.... aaarrrgh!

On-line retail is one possible way. Malkha fabrics are already available on i-tokri, but retail of garments is a whole other ball-game - sizes, styles etc. And on-line cannot be the ONLY way, we also need some direct access to introduce malkha to people who have not seen/touched/worn malkha before.

Ideas and suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

stamps on traditional textiles

A First Day cover featuring traditional Indian textiles, available at most POs in the country.

Monday, December 17, 2012

the cradle on the loom

One of our favourite images from the handloom archives, the picture shows an ideal weaving situation - a cradle mounted on a loom in which a fat-cheeked baby comfortably sleeps, lulled by the continuous clacking of the fly-shuttle, in a spacious stone-floored room. The photograph was taken by Pankaj Sekhsaria in Koyyalagudem village, Andhra, about 10 years ago.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

from The Hindu, December 10, 2012:

Weft and warp of a crisis

Vivek S.
Aseem Shrivastava

DISCOLOURATION: Orienting the handloom industry towards the international economy is a wrong step by the government. 

Though more people in India are in the textile sector, than in any other of the economy, bar agriculture, hostile and indifferent government policies are giving it short shrift.

Handloom weavers from all over the country are on a 72-hour hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi from today in protest against the government’s textile policy. The protest is led by Rastra Cheneta Jana Samakhya, the State Handloom Weavers’ Union of Andhra Pradesh. Weavers from Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are participating in it.
Some of the most pressing issues of the handloom industry relate to budget allocation and policy-making. Hence the protest is timed to coincide with the winter session of Parliament. Its aim is to draw national attention to the long-standing problems of this industry before the Budget Session. Meagre budgets for handlooms year after year have not recognised the significance of this industry in providing productive livelihoods in rural areas.
More people in India are in the textile sector than in any other of the economy, bar agriculture. Approximately, one out of 12 households in India derives its primary income from it. And the survival of one out of 60 Indian households (according to the founding president of the National Handloom Weavers Union, Macherla Mohan Rao) depends on the viability of the handloom economy.
Debt, intermediaries
However, thanks to indifferent, even hostile, policies by successive governments, handloom-weaving is in severe crisis today. In some States, the advent of intensified competition in the era of aggressive globalisation has forced scores of weavers to take their own lives. Even official estimates show that due to unbearable debt burdens, about a 1,000 weavers may have committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh alone since 2002. According to the National Handloom Census of 2009-10, close to 60 per cent of India’s weavers today fall below the poverty line, and 80 per cent face high debts, being at the mercy of intermediaries who also double up as moneylenders, controlling access to both markets and raw materials. These key inputs have become increasingly more expensive since the advent of globalisation in the 1980s.
From the colonial era, the handloom economy has had to face the consequences of State policies that have consistently promoted increasing mechanisation and automation. While the mill sector — in the throes of crippling debt — continues to find favour with governments ever willing to offer sops and subsidies (often in the name of scientific or technical advancement) to it, the handloom economy has consistently received third class treatment.
One metre out of every four of the country’s cloth is produced in the handloom economy, yet it gets just one rupee out of 20 spent by the government on the textile industry. Another way to comprehend the injustice is to remember that while one out of five people working in the textile sector as a whole is a handloom weaver, s/he gets just one government rupee for every Rs.20 allocated per worker in the mill sector (and even this is cornered by the captains of industry).
For reservation act
At the heart of the weavers’ demands is that the government redress the situation through the implementation of the Handloom Reservation Act, negated by blatant and illegal duplication of handlooms by powerlooms. They are also demanding their entitlement of higher allocation in the central budget and an assured, affordable supply of the key inputs of yarns and dyes.
The government has sought to address the weavers’ crisis by trying to orient the handloom industry towards the international economy. This is outrageous folly.
The truth is that the handloom economy is deeply rooted in local cultures, traditions and markets. To lose sight of this is to persist with the mindset that is the source of the handloom industry’s crisis. Such an outlook also betrays a poor understanding both of the unemployment in the country’s modern sectors as well as of the handloom economy’s capacity to meet the challenge of large-scale rural employment, if enlightened policies are followed.
Those protesting at Jantar Mantar from December 10 to 13 are there in the faith that the resolution of these issues lies in the strength of collective action by weavers from around the country.
(Vivek S. is a Hyderabad-based analyst. Aseem Shrivastava, a Delhi-based writer and economist, is the author, with Ashish Kothari, of Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India, Viking Penguin, New Delhi, 2012).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kala Ashram in Adilabad recently celebrated Ravindra Sharma's 'sasthipurthi', 6oth birthday, and honoured some of the folk artists and craftspersons with whom he has been closely involved for most of his life. The 3 day event was an aesthetic feast, and there should be some photographs posted soon on internet.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from an article about him:

The diversity of the historical folk culture of Adilabad, with its different roles and relationships is unimaginable to our modernized, sanitized and homogenized minds.  Besides the forest dwelling adivasi and the cultivators there are the artists, the entertainers, the story tellers, bards and musicians, the magicians, healers, priests, and scholars, the makers, weavers of cotton and wool and tassar, stonemasons, potters, carvers of wooden deities, metalsmiths and brass casters, toy-makers, bamboo specialists, toddy tappers, oil pressers, the service jatis[1], the herders of cows and sheep, those who travel for most of the year but who have a home here nonetheless, and the nomads, passing through on annual migrations.  The various strands of these peoples’ ways, customs and occupations are at the same time distinctly separate and yet intimately connected with each other, forming an intricate tapestry of local society and tradition.
We spent hours and days listening to Sharmaji[also known as Guruji]'s recreation of the past.  The village day was defined by the visits of the sanchar jatis, the itinerants, beginning before daybreak with the budubudukalodu, whose songs drove away evil spirits, the balasantodu with conch and bell, and the gosamolu, a huband and wife playing an ektara.  There were people with skills such as water divining, general entertainers and educators, and story-tellers of particular communities, the bhikshavruthi, who were each attached to a specific jati the as oral historians for that jati, and were supported by their patrons.  Each community, the weavers, the potters, the Manevarlu, the Golla shepherds, has its own story-tellers who trace the history of the jati back to link it up to Puranic times, and each story is told with the help of a patt, and sometimes also with separate painted wooden figures.  These histories connect the past to the present in a continuous thread.  The weaving caste of the Padmasalis traces its origins through Markandeya to Bhavanarushi, their deity, clothes maker to the gods.  From these beginning the stories are updated to today, and tell where the current generation of Padmashalis has migrated to, who has married whom, and the names of the newborn children.  This relationship between the story tellers and the weavers amplifies the role of bhiksha in our samaj, far from the pattern of dependency and condescension connoted by the words begging and beggars.
There is mobility too among the samaaj. Weaving is taken up by the ‘netagani’, ‘non-weavers’, when it pays, dropped in favour of other work when it is not remunerative. 
Guruji’s involvement with the samaaj in and around Adilabad has been focused on the jatis who made up the largest part of the samaaj, who took pride in their particular and specific skills, who had lateral and interdependent relations among themselves, far from the European picture of a rigid,  hierarchic Indian society. Guruji has shared the lives of many of them, travelling through the forests with parrot-catchers, attending the ten day wedding celebrations of the Mathurias and the jatras[2] where the metal casting Ohtaris sell their craft.  He has learnt wax wire casting from the Ojhas and taught them how to make larger objects in their own technique. He has taught art in a tribal school for ten years, teaching Kolam boys the techniques of the artist, first how to draw, then to paint, and later modeling  in matti, wax-wire brass casting and other local craft techniques to express their own unique inner world.

[1] Jati: occupational grouping
[2] Jatra: journey, usually pilgrimage