MANJUSHA: NURTURING CRAFTSMANSHIP WHILE PRESERVING EAST’S HERITAGE
Manjusha, with its pledge to uplift the traditional heritage of the exceptional artisan community of the state, is doing exceptionally well to support and promote the social upliftment of one of the poorest sections of the society...
West Bengal Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited, a Government of West Bengal enterprise is principally into the promoting and marketing of the handicrafts and handloom products of the artisans and weavers of West Bengal through Manjusha showrooms all over India. Manjusha has 12 showrooms across West Bengal and one in Delhi.
Manjusha, with its pledge to uplift the traditional heritage of the exceptional artisan community of the state, is doing exceptionally well to support and promote the social upliftment of one of the poorest sections of the society. The brand is also nurturing basic craftsmanship without deviating from heritage, as also helping the product reach a national and international level.
In an exclusive chat with IMAGES Retail Bureau, Amit Datta, Managing Director, Manjusha, talks about how the handloom and handicraft industry is evolving, and also about the contribution that it can make to the retail industry in East India.
Tell us about Manjusha.
Manjusha is an organisation under West Bengal Handicraft Development Corporation, and its duty is to promote and market the handicraft and handloom product produced by the artisans and weavers of the state. We have around 5 lakh members in this community, mainly artisans and weavers, who produce traditional goods and we help them to market and sell them. Most of the workers are not educated so we also do capacity building, technical inputs and mainly bank related things for them. Our main mission is to improve the economic benefits of the artisans in Bengal. As far as retail industry is concerned, the handicraft sector in
East India is untapped and unexplored.
How do you promote products made by the weavers/artisans?
We have few listed steps of promoting the thing. Our main focus is to ultimately sell the products that are made by them at good price to the standard customer who understands the value of the product. We have showrooms pan India, so availability is not a concern.
First of all, we get the artisans of the West Bengal under one umbrella trade wise and we give them capacity building training and input support. We give them design training, fashion training, give them exposures by conducting fares. This is done so that they can understand the actual need and demand of the market and produce things accordingly. We also support them in obtaining the required inputs in making the handicrafts items. Thereafter, we buy these handicraft items from them. We make sure that the price of the craft includes the total cost of production plus profit. The goods are further taken to our retail counter in showrooms where they are sold in bulk.
We also promote their work by promoting and selling them online. We have our own e-commerce platform www.manjusha.in where we are doing really good. For us, e-commerce is another forum where we sell handicraft items.
Bengal is famous for the festivals, and people celebrate Durga Puja and Kali Puja on a very large scale where huge
pandals are set up. Today, festivals are theme-based. To set up these themes, they require a huge supply of handicraft items. We act as a medium linking these artisans to the event managers. The event company places an order with us and we pass it to artisans. Usually the order is in bulk, so it’s good business for both of us. Ultimately our profit is transferred to them as well.
What are the factors propelling the growth of the handicraft and handloom sector in east?
In East India, basically the retail market, handicraft and handloom sector, the scope is immense. The majority of the market remains unexplored. The craft art of this region in comparison to that in northern and western part of the country doesn’t depend on the retail solely. Handloom and handicraft is a very small industry which has been there since a long time but hasn’t got the limelight. The industry needs a good exposure. Therefore, we focus more into activities and we hope to Bengal as the new hub of handicraft and handloom industry.
What are the reasons that this sector is lagging behind?
The major problem of retail in East India is that the producers are not from this part of the region. The main producers and big players of the industry are based in the western and northern region. We are currently in process of exploring their products need. Soon, we can expect them to move away from their local production point and subsequently come to the eastern half as we have cheap labour and resources here.
What are the areas in which east has the edge in as far as retail is concerned?
I speak of east by also including the North
East. This region has a huge variety in terms of population, culture, passion, languages, dresses, style of living. It is far ahead in comparison to the typical
South or North Indian style of living. It is an agglomeration of Hindu, Muslim and Christian cultures. This type of prominence naturally leads to a huge demand of products, and retail flourishes in these areas.
How can the government help?
The State as well as Central Governments are doing a lot in West Bengal as far as development and infrastructure is concerned. We have recently put up ‘Easto Bangla Haat’, for retailers and artisans to put up their retail showcase for the customers. In Siliguri, we conducted an event ‘Gateway of Northeast where activities were conducted by the state government to promote retail. These are the starting steps, but the market is big, and opportunity huge. We can hope that in the next two or three years, East India will grow and become a bigger market.
What is the role of technology in the retail handicraft industry?
Technology is the key factor in our development. Earlier handicraft artisans used to do all work manually, using hands. We have now replaced this completely by providing them proper machines, tools and designoriented technology. We are giving them knowledge of computers so that they can do the designing.
From the marketing point of the view, e-commerce is the most important thing. Store management, inventory management and accounts management everywhere technology has been impactful.
Where do you see the industry in the next ten years?
It will be the best market in the country. It is my personal view that retail market in the developed regions is getting saturated, so for the entire retail industry East India is an opportunity.