Tata Trusts, through its craft-based livelihood programme Antaran, will launch a mobile app and website Craft Xchange to enable retailers, designers, boutiques buy directly from the artisans across the country.
"The intent of creating this app is to bring in transparency and facilitate easy communication between artisans and buyers. One of the key problems we found was the communication gap between the two and the app is built to overcome that," says Sharda Gautam, Head of Crafts, Tata Trusts.
The app will offer artisans a platform to share their designs for buyers to view. It will also allow buyers to raise their own enquiries on the app if they want to have their own designs made from artisans. Buyers can then select the artisan they want to work with, interact with them to get their deliverables customised and finally place the order.
Upon receiving the order, artisans will post updates in real time regarding the stages of the production cycle so that the buyer is in the loop about delivery timelines and in case they need to be prepared for a delay. "The artisans will raise the invoice and dispatch the products directly, to ensure that all the money is going to artisans," says Gautam.
Antaran's team will also play the role of facilitator between artisans and buyers on the app, as part of its Education Programme for Artisans, to facilitate seamless communications and delivery of the products.
The app is already in beta phase and is being piloted with 30 artisans, five from each of the six clusters where Antaran is working. Till now they have worked with big retail chains such as Nalli Silks, Taneira, Reliance Swadeshi, Raymond, etc. The application will be rolled out on Android and iOS along with a website.
While the app is the store front, a considerable work at the backend has gone in training and upskilling of artisans through Antaran where the focus is on handholding the artisans to be entrepreneurs.
Antaran runs incubation and design centres in six clusters spread across Odisha, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, and Nagaland where the focus is on reviving and promoting regional craft techniques.
At each of these clusters, artisans go through the basic coursework that varies between four to eight months with the focus on transfer of knowledge and skills. It is then followed up with hands-on education to transform artisans into entrepreneurs. "At this level their brands and logos are developed and we work with them till the point we find them completely financially independent, that is they should reach a turnover of Rs 8-10 lakh per annum," says Gautam.
The focus, says Gautam, is to ensure artisans are trained not only in the craft but also taught to innovate and design themselves; they learn principles of design and the elements of fashion designing. "The effort is to enable the karigars who had essentially become majdoors, only copying the designs being handed to them, to transition to becoming kalakars," he says.
That is why, he says, the number of artisans they work with is small. "We don't have a template driven approach because everyone's training needs are different, depending on several parameters including their existing skill set, their family circumstances," he says.