Weaving has been the mainstay of every Kullu-iteâ€™s livelihood for generations now. A month long study by Anoop H, Shilpa Kendre, Jyothsna Sekar, Shilpi Baral from SP Jain Institute of Management of Research (Mumbai) in association with My Himachal reveals startling facts on the health of the traditional Kullu weaving industry. The advent of technology and the opening up of numerous employment avenues has left this industry reeling.
The number of weavers has reduced by around 50% over the last decade. More and more weavers are leaving the profession to jump over to occupations that promise them greener pastures. Those still sticking to weaving are migrating to Ludhiana, where they have the opportunity to work in a more organised environment. The power looms in Ludhiana, are swamping the industry with their mass production and low cost capabilities. A short survey amongst locals, tourists, weavers revealed the following startling facts.
â€” 38 % are unaware that Kullu Shawls are handcrafted
â€” 70 % could not differentiate between a handmade and a machine made shawl
â€” 72 % were ignorant of the Handloom Mark
â€” 0% of the respondents had seen any communication/ads on Kullu Shawls.
â€” 75% wanted product diversification in line with emerging fashion trends
â€” Most tourists are misguided into buying machine made shawls due to lack of authentic information
Thereby an awareness campaign aimed at spreading awareness on the situation in the industry, the GI, the handloom mark, etc is the need of the hour. The â€œSave the Weaverâ€ campaign was initiated with this objective in mind. As a first step, the campaign targeted the print media covering all the local newspapers. It also targeted the online channel using the NGOâ€™s website, blogs, mailers, etc. The HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) has a lot of reach when it comes to communication and advertising within Himachal Pradesh and the students felt that the corporation should take an active step to spread awareness on the issue.
Presenting their findings before Mr. Prem Kumar Dhumal, the Honorable Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, the students were of the opinion that a collaborative effort between the Government, NGOs and private entrepreneurs was required to save this industry. No single player could do it alone.
â€œAwareness is a major problem. We should take steps to improve awareness on this issueâ€, opined the Chief Minister.
The students impressed upon him, the need to bring together the industry in a more organized and unified setup. They also emphasized on the goldmine, namely the huge untapped demand and market potential that the industry was sitting on. Lack of awareness & market accessibility were the main problems.
â€œThe government will provide you with whatever support you require. I am looking forward to seeing your report. We will take necessary steps after seeing your recommendationsâ€, the CM asserted.
The CM also concurred with the students that the Tourism Industry needs to play an active role in spreading awareness on the Kullu Shawls. The majority of the customers for Kullu shawls are tourists after all.
The students were then directed towards the Principle Secretary, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh, Mr. Subhash Negi and the Secretary for Tourism, Mrs. Manisha Nanda. The IAS officers quickly understood the gravity of the problem and promised complete support from the Government. The secretary of Tourism noted the recommendations of the students and promised to incorporate the messages through HPTDC offices, hotels, brochures, hoardings, etc as part of the new Tourism campaign for Himachal Tourism.
â€œYour work should not stop here. You should come back next year to see if these recommendations are implementedâ€, opined Mr.Negi