India's arts and crafts find the right platform online is a portal that negates the middleman, and lists craftsmen across the country so they can be approached directly for their products

India boasts of 12 million artisans and 500 plus craft clusters which makes for an enviable inheritance. Yet, it’s a shame that many of our indigenous crafts are dying, and artisans are opting out of the trade; middlemen also play an exploitative role. A website that is trying to make a difference is (IAO), which believes that technology can improve artisans’ lives and livelihoods.

A Pichwai artisan from Nathdwara, Udaipur
A Pichwai artisan from Nathdwara, Udaipur

IAO offers an artisan directory that lists craftsmen from whom buyers (individuals and institutions) can contact directly. They also have an online store that showcases the talent of artisans through a signature collection of handcrafted products and art pieces.

How it began?
The site, which emerged after five years of hard work, covers 69 crafts and 600 artisan communities in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, among other states. The crafts that are showcased on the site include folk art, textiles, papier-mache, block printing, weaving, tribal embroideries and wood carving.

Manak Ramji, a traditional weaver from Bhojasar village in Phalodi, Jodhpur
Manak Ramji, a traditional weaver from Bhojasar village in Phalodi, Jodhpur

Speaking about the initiative, Reshma Anand, Founder, IAO, states that the major challenges faced by the crafts sector is the lack of visibility of artisans and their dependence on intermediaries. “While some offline retailers operate supply chains that involve direct engagement with artisans, they are able to impact only a fraction of the community of artisans. We aim to do so through a collaborative design studio, an online directory and cause-based campaigns.”

Art candles
Art candles

How it helps?
Their online directory lists craftspersons and weavers who represent traditional crafts. Each craftsperson has a profile page with product photographs and complete contact details. They offer affordable products as well as limited edition pieces as commissioned by clients. “We develop products in collaboration with artisans and our design studio. In some cases, we also source directly from artisans who we’ve met and profiled during our extensive field visits,” adds Anand. The next venture is to cover the South India extensively.

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