Rural Artisans of Purulia, West Bengal making their way in global market

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Technological innovation has become leading factor for regulating changes within the society. Technology has become master of every field be it political, socio-economical, societal, psychological environmental etc. Today technology has reached every nuke and corner of the society in different form. None of us can leave without technology. We have become slave of the technology. Technology has been driving the economy of the nation since decades. Every product manufacturer wants to sell their product in the market and they want to highlight the specialties of their product through advertisement or promotional events. It’s the competition of the market that forces every manufacturer to use the means of advertisement. Our mixed economy entertains every manufacturer to enter in the market. To survive the manufacture has to come up with new means and ideas to sell their product in the market. Every producer cum seller has to think it very differently to sell the product and earn their livelihood. All these initiatives catch their respective customer. There is customer of every goods that is being manufacture in the globe as well as in our country be it a shoe from Ajanta or be it a Shoe from Woodlands.   Each and every product of daily usage gets promoted through advertisement in Televisions or Radios. Previously people used to go through these advertisements with the help of technology i.e. either through TV or through Radio. Other than that people would also come across newly launched product in the market through News Paper, road side banners or handouts etc. But in this 21st century people take the help of web or internet to know, scrutinize and purchase the products sitting at home with a click of mouse.

The artisans of Purulia, West Bengal, one of the Left Wing Extremist Affected districts are following the same kind of ploy to sell their products such as jewelry, showpieces, Chau mask, bags, hat etc. made from shellac, jute, wood, paper pulp, bamboo, docra , babui etc throughout the globe to prove themselves through their art and survive.

Brief History

Purulia district of West Bengal is known for its culture and heritage. The district is epicenter of martial dance form called Chau .Other than that the district is also known for production of lac and babaui grass. All these three components ensures livelihood to a section of population in the Left Wing Affected district. A section of people produce lac and babui and maintains the value chain where there are cultivator, middleman, artisan, bank or credit lender etc. The district which ranks 16th in the Human Development Index report of 2005 find every way and mean to keep themselves alive through their passion. The district has produced eminent tribal martial dancer of Chau dance like Padamshree Gambhir Singh Mura, Nepal Mahato and Jhumur Singers like Sindhubala Devi etc, these artist have made their soil proud through their performance throughout the globe be it America, Germany, London or France. Their performance and artistic skill has been recognized worldwide.

In the year 1982, Queen Elizabeth has even appreciated the art after watching the performance of Nepal Mahato and recommended Government of India for felicitation.

Concept of Digital Marketing is quite new to our country. But this has engulfed the whole nation. In the age of technology every business man or women is giving their best to promote their saleable items. The artisans of Purulia who has adopted the art from their forefathers continued their art but in recent years their expenses towards manufacturing has increased to abruptly compare to their market and sale. The artisans used to depend on their seasonal market and the fair market of Kolkata, Delhi or Purulia. Both these markets were discreating in nature and these fairs not even ensure market to every artisan. At this point of time the rural women self help group members under the guidance of Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow and under the large umbrella of District Mission Management Unit (DMMU) which is headed by District Mission Director cum District Collector, could not resist themselves for creating virtual store after hearing about the whole concept of digital marketing in late 2013.

Same kind of initiative was taken in other states where PMRDFs were working but the initiative could not take a structure. But the artisans of Purulia under DMMU’s explicate supervision, conceptualized the whole structure of this e-commerce website and implemented it successfully to eradicate the following emerging problems:-

  1. Lack of continuous market for the artisans
  2. Middle men at every nuke and corner reducing the profit of artisans
  3. Lack of fair price to the art and craft of artisans
  4. Lack of initiatives from concerned authorities to support dyeing art and craft of the district
  5. Poor socio-economic status of the artisans
  6. Lack of credit facilities among the artisans
  7. Lack of publicity of the rich culture and heritage of Purulia

It has been assumed from experiences that an ecommerce platform will be able to eradicate the above mentioned problem to some extent.

Fundamentals

In the year 2013-14 a date base was collected on the instruction of District Collector through a survey in Blocks to find the number of Self Help Groups engaged in some kind of product producing activities. Their produce was categorized into perishable, semi-perishable and non-perishable categories. During this survey it was found that there are 382 Self Help Groups who are engaged in some kind of product producing activities. It was also found their there are 64 types of products which gets manufactured within Purulia. This includes processed food items to handicraft items. After lots of brain storming among the senior officials of the district administration it was decided that Purulia will promote and sell the non-perishable handicraft items in the first phase of the project named “egraminhaat.com”.

On the basis of this decision, mode of operation was decided in coordination with the Block Development Officers of 20 Blocks of Purulia under direction of Additional District Magistrate (Development), Project Director and Deputy Projector Directors of Purulia.

During same meeting it was also decided that initially six different types of products will be showcased on the website based on the raw materials which has high demand. Professional Photographer took snaps of 70 different products of six different raw materials from different angles with suitable background for displaying them on the website.

Backward Linkage:

Based on the discussions held at the district it was decided that the Women Development Officer /Self Help Group Supervisor / Gram Sevika / Block Project Manager , any one among them will be assigned the responsibility of identifying two group leader from each category of produced products be it Babui or Mask or Jute etc. They will also maintain a data base of the surveyed data held earlier to get in touch with the product manufacturers that will also help the block to maintain liaison with DIC and other related departments. They will also help the Block to create a counter at every Block premises to promote and sell handicraft items manufacture within their Block.

The group leaders will ensure finishing, quality, price, environment friendly raw materials and design of the products.

The group leader will run the Block level counter. The Block Development Officer was asked to take a decision on the mode of operation of these Block level Counters on the basis of the situation of the ground. But the functionality of these counter would be to procure promote and sell different kinds of SHG manufactured produced from remotest corners of the Blocks.

The Non-perishable items will be procured by the district level counter i.e. Bipanan Kendra as per the order in their counter from an assortment of customers.

Forward Linkage:

An ecommerce website platform has been designed for creating forward linkage to the handicraft items produced in Purulia. Basically, “egraminhaat.com” is following two ways for selling their products, firstly, Business to Customer model and secondly, Business to Business Model (B2B).

Under B2B model “egraminhaat.com” is exploring opportunities with jute board, flip kart, amazon, India Mart etc. and in the meantime egraminhaat.com has already initiated business with smaller business agencies such as craftsnation.com etc.

Under business to customer model, we have customers all around the world. We have sold our rural handicrafts at USA to UAE outside India via other agencies, since egraminhaat.com is yet to get export license. Further, “egraminhaat.com” has been getting orders from Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Raipur, Jalandhar to Kolkata.

(This is the first part in the two-part series)

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Animesh Ghosh works with the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchyati Raj (NIRDPR), Hyderabad as Officer on Special Duty(OSD).