Promotion and development of traditional handicrafts – Okhai and cluster development

Started to promote traditional handicrafts of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, through Blossom, Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development aims to provide ample opportunities for employment.

The rural economy is dependent mostly on agricultural production but, at the same time, handicrafts of a region are also important in terms of economic development. Handicrafts not only represent the traditional art, heritage and culture of a region but also provide ample opportunities for employment.

Rural handicraft is perishing because of lack of local market, problems of transportation to urban markets and lack of awareness about available avenues of marketing. The Blossom programme of Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD) was started to promote traditional handicrafts of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

The Okhai-Centre for Empowerment was registered as a separate entity to give a formal structure to the programme and boost sales of handicraft products. The programme has been scaled up and is currently supporting a number of clusters engaged in the production of handicraft products in Mithapur and Uttar Pradesh, and also by NGOs.

The programme works through two approaches:

  • Market linkage through Okhai Centre for Empowerment
  • Cluster development

Okhai Centre for Empowerment

The Okhai Centre for Empowerment has been established to provide a platform across the value chain for handicraft products. The aim of Okhai is to develop employment opportunities for rural women artisans by training, understanding customer needs, manufacturing and retailing apparel and home decor products, and providing best-in-class quality and service.

Okhai has started an online portal for the sale of handicraft products which are also sold through different sales outlets across the country. The organisation at present is working with about 900 artisans across India.

Cluster development

Cluster development has been adopted by Blossom to give a formal structure to the different artisan groups engaged with the production of handicraft items. Cluster development is a rural entrepreneurship development programme that promotes group enterprises. TCSRD organised training programmes on entrepreneurship development, group dynamics, book keeping and accounts, material stocks, etc. for members of clusters. The cluster members were also imparted training on advanced skills required for producing goods which have high demand in the market.

The different clusters which were supported during the year are:

Saptrangi bandhani cluster

The cluster was started in 2010-11 in Mithapur. It comprises 38 members engaged in making women’s garments with bandhani work. The products being made by the cluster are satin cotton dress materials, bandhani sarees and bandhani garments.

Jute cluster

The jute cluster was started by TCSRD at Mithapur in 2011-12. The cluster is engaged in the production of jute bags, pouches and covers, ornamental showpieces, office accessories, rugs and coasters, novelties and cutlery, files and folders, lamps and curtains. The group is also trained to screen print on jute products.

Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar leather and rexine cluster

TCSRD started the Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar leather and rexine cluster in 2009. This was the first cluster started by TCSRD under the Tata Affirmative Action Programme which is meant for the development of the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities. The cluster members united to start a production unit after training, as part of the Rural Entrepreneurship Development Programme. TCSRD also supported technical skills training at GRIMCO, so that the cluster members could acquire production skills in leather and rexine products. There are 25 women who earn their livelihood through the cluster. The range of products includes office bags, laptop bags, carry bags, small handbags, big fire material carry bags, files, belts, school bags, college bags, mobile covers, keychains, leather mirrors, tiffin bags, shopping bags, purses, etc. The cluster receives repeat orders from Kanex Fire, Tata Chemicals and Essar Foundation, and also from local sales outlets.

Sevarthi Seva Samiti cluster’s incense cone enterprise

At Uttar Pradesh, TCSRD is supporting six members of the Sevarthi Seva Samiti who are involved in the production of incense cones. The introduction of two new varieties of dhoop and incense has helped in improving sales. The incense products are sold through a Sevarthi store and through marketing assistants of Sevarthi Seva Samiti.

Production and sale of cotton bags

TCSRD also supports members of the Sevarthi Seva Samiti to produce cotton bags. There are 13 members involved in the production and the products are supplied mainly to Tata Chemicals’ manufacturing unit at Uttar Pradesh. Two members produce paper bags and supply them to Tata Chemicals Hospital, TCSRD Community Health Centre and stationery shops at Uttar Pradesh.

Mobile charger cluster

TCSRD has trained two members for assembling mobile chargers. The chargers are sold in the local market.

Siddhi Vinayak coconut fibre cluster

There is huge demand for coconut fibre-based handicraft products. In 2013, TCSRD collaborated with Gujarat Matikam Kalakari & Rural Technology Institute, Gandhinagar, and conducted training for selected women on making coconut fibre handicraft. The cluster, which consists of 14 members, produces idols of Lord Ganesha and Krishna, kalash and toran (religious items), animals, birds, etc.

Siddhi Vinayak coconut fibre cluster
 Karjobi cluster

Karjobi cluster

In Uttar Pradesh, TCSRD is promoting karjobi handicraft, which is one of the oldest Mughal embroidery art of Gunnaur (Uttar Pradesh). TCSRD is working with 40 women artisans who are engaged with this art and wish to continue to earn their livelihood through it. TCSRD is trying to promote the sale of karjobi products through the online portal of Okhai and also through different sales outlets. The market linkage will not only help the artisans attached with the project but will also motivate others to sell their products directly in the market and increase their income margins by bypassing middlemen . TCSRD has also helped in developing new designs to boost sales. The different products being produced are kurta, kurtis, dupatta and blouses.

Fashion Girl bead cluster

The cluster was started in 2011-12 to promote the traditional bead work of the Okhamandal area of Gujarat. The cluster is engaged in the production of jewellery, key chains, ornamental showpieces, pouches and covers, accessories for Bandhej, applique work and other products.

Fashion Girl bead cluster