Kullu Handloom Industry of Himachal – The need for privatization.

weaverOver the years, the Kullu – Manali twin towns have become a favourite spot amongst honeymooners. Apart from the scenic beauty that the valleys offer, Kullu is also famous for its hand woven shawls. Tourists having come here realize the true worth of this incumbent industry and then decide to purchase a few of these products mostly as souvenirs for their friends and relatives back home. However, over the years this industry is going through a severe decline for many reasons, most important of them being the entry of machine made products from Ludhiana.

A number of steps have been taken to combat the entry of these power loom players, thereby ensuring that Kullu continues to remain famous for its authentic handmade woollen products. These include the creation and approval of the Geographical Indicator (GI) and the presence of the handloom mark and Woolmark. This however, has not deterred the power loom players from continuing to grab the market, an outcome largely due to the existing nexus between the power loom retailers and other key stakeholders in the area.

A campaign to create awareness of this problem was launched last year, titled ‘Save the Weaver.’ The campaign had tremendous reach and impact thereby educating the local consumer about the industry and its problems. It also helped to bring to light; existing threats that plague the industry and the desperate need for co-operation and innovation to revive and keep alive the long standing culture of this region.

As a follow up measure to the campaign, the most important step now is to cash in on the awareness generated and implement certain concrete plans to ensure the long term survival of this industry. Primary among them is the need for privatization. Privatization of this industry would benefit both the weavers and the private players in a number of ways:

Benefits to the weavers:

Opening up of new untapped markets and multiple marketing channels, especially the internet

Exposure to foreign markets thereby creating sustained demand

A platform for the long term revival of this industry

Ability to combat the threat of power looms

Continuous access to latest consumer trends

Creation of a strong quality check process that enhances the value of these products

Establishment of a certain work ethic that regulates the industry and creates stable job opportunities

Benefits to private players:

A strong competitive edge by capturing the first mover advantage

Leveraging on their existing distribution channels to showcase newer products, basically – increased revenues at minimal costs

Revival of the Kullu handloom industry thereby ensuring a continuous stream of revenues and profits

Creation of a brand that showcases Indian handloom products to the world

Creation of Kullu as an export hub

However, just like any other plan, this one is ridden with a number of obstacles as well. Some of the immediate obstacles are as follows:

Cannibalization by power loom products

The lack of awareness amongst the weavers about the sheer market potential of their products

Lack of government policies and the ineffectiveness of the Apex Body and other numerous associations

Lack of proper implementation of the GI and Handloom Mark

Lack of a progressive attitude amongst the co-operatives and the weavers themselves

More number of weavers opting out of this profession with every passing day

The lack of proper training facilities

One of the immediate ways of tackling the above obstacles is by showcasing to private players, the plethora of opportunities present in this industry. This calls for a proper sales pitch to these players, a pitch that outlines the current status of the industry, the opportunities present and the benefits of entering the industry at such a time. Effective presentation of the above points should then lead to the setting up of buyer-seller meets. These buyer-seller meets would bring both parties abreast of the current situation in the industry, thereby helping them carve out a future plan that would benefit both parties involved.

Players such as Fab India, Bombay Store and the likes are known for promoting Indian products laden with culture and heritage and Kullu handloom definitely does fall into this category. There has also been an increasing trend in social entrepreneurship where private players scout for a dying art and does all that is possible to preserve the same. The time has now come to cash in on this trend and open the doors to the private players. This step, if implemented well, will go a long way in revival of this dying tradition and ensuring that Kullu Shawl carve out a brand for themselves in the years to come.

The above article has been written by Ajay Simha and Pooja Adiga. Both of them are students of S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai. They are currently on a 6 week internship with My Himachal as part of their DOCC (Development of Corporate Citizenship) program. They are working with My Himachal to put into place a strong revival mechanism for the traditional Kullu Shawl weaving industry and one of their immediate plans includes the privatization of this industry.


  • No Doubt!! Call for Privatization is one way to promote this dying art or industry. But to thwart the challenges and compete against better industrial products, I feel, formost problem is to bring up the interest of weavers in this industry. That can be done with help from HP Government and colleges, and university promotions. College students can help set the trend. Moreover, I feel to achieve bigger goal :
    1. Weavers have to refine designs, add new colors and adopt some new weaving patterns. I’ve seen shawls from a weaver and from machine, the gap in quality of these two can only be bridged with some quality control protocols in place. Privatization can not be successful without quality control.
    2. Foriegn(US, EU) markets are alluring but question is, can consumers in these markets accept and adopt these products in their daily routine. May be! One way to attract is promoting through culutural programs and exhibitions. Even Indian get-togethers are good starting grounds.

    Challenges are big but not unique. Many industries have adapted to change to be progressive. I think, weaver industry has to adopt operating trends without loosing its simplicity. Its uniqueness is in its simplicity.
    I would like to be part of promotion.


  • well well, government policies can help up to a certain level only… and do not make a mistake to even expect anything from them! I don’t.

    one honest industry – does anyone has any emotional attachment with handloom industry ? here are the options to consider as answers..

    1. those who work in this industry

    2. those who really appreciate the produce

    to be direct – privatization will kill this industry. men can not compete machines. who is going to compete a machine that requires half as much money to produce something and does all this in about 1% of total time.

    they need differentiators.. differentiators that put apart a particular product from a specific place at a higher perceived values in public … now these differences have to be there in reality..

    what i would like to do if i ever get a chance ..
    1. start doing things which machines can not do.
    2. produce ultra cheap or high quality stuff
    3. mobilize people from villages … they don’t have much work before and after crop harvest
    4. market it in the villages itself..

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