It’s certain that social media has a crucial role to play in craft’s continued evolution through the digital age
Kashmir is commonly known as paradise on earth not only for its scenic beauty but also for its designed handicrafts. Kashmiri handicrafts are worldly renowned for their unique quality and permanence since time immemorial. Handicraft products are the representation of various sub-cultures of any society.
However, the prospects and development of handicrafts sector has been hampered by the rulers from time to time for their own material gains.
And the work-men who were associated with these occupations were excluded both of their craftsmanship and from the amount they earned by paying more and more taxes imposed by the rulers.
In the modern era, the imposition of GST has further reduced the productivity of this sector as many handicrafts emporiums were closed due to the implementation of the GST.
Also the depletion of handicrafts has happened due to the deforestation and monetary greed among the artisans.
The treasures of Kashmiri handicrafts that once occupied a pride of place in the lives of royalty today lie lost in the chronicles of time.
This sector is in constant battle of its survival and the artisans are trying hard to maintain and preserve the craft from the contemporary challenges imposed by the market forces. Both government and private sector have left no stone unturned for the revival of handicrafts.
Handicraft sector is an unorganised sector and since the artisans are working really hard to save the art but while preserving them they face the following challenges:
Some of them are as beset: low productivity; younger generation shows no attachment towards craft; high maintenance charges; time consuming process; labour intensive; out-dated methods; lack of consumer awareness; no direct linkage between an artisan and the government; presence of intermediaries’; lack of raw material; partial usage of technology and lack of awareness about progressive and subsidy schemes.
Some of the challenges have been reduced by the younger generation through various social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter; Instagram etc.
Through these social networking sites a number of pages are run by the local enterprises due to which craft products are receiving global attention and in fact, are opening new dimensions for E-commerce that has a huge scope for the diffusion of domestic market. In future, it of course increases the chances of export.
Most popular handicrafts from Kashmir includes carpets, wooden ware, willow made products, Shawls , leather goods, traditional paintings of different cultures, embroidery fabrics and goods.
Craft is becoming increasingly visible in the social media sphere: makers, retailers, galleries and craft organisations are embracing Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as key tools for business and creative development.
In this article, I tried to explore some of the key social media strategies and techniques being employed in the craft sector today.
In particular, I look at how these strategies are helping to address challenges facing the sector: latent domestic and export market potential, the isolation faced by sole traders and an under-developed retail infrastructure amongst others.
In some senses, first generation e-commerce passed craft by consumers found it difficult to appreciate craft’s tactile, aesthetic properties on screen, and real-world retail and galleries still remain the most important route to market for the majority of makers.
However, the synchronisation of social media with e-commerce may at last be galvanising online craft retail. Whilst the proportion of craft business revenues from online sales remains small in comparison to more traditional outlets, its significance is growing.
E-commerce is one of the most promising channels today that serve to the handicraft market. They use social media platforms and other for marketing these products which is eventually raising the awareness of Kashmiri handicrafts worldwide. It seems easy to buy products online rather by spending hours here and there.
Now-a-days, Kashmir handicrafts are recognised worldwide with the help of e-commerce sector. But our e-commerce sector is not as strong as it is in other states of India. Indian products enters international market through e-commerce players like Crafted India, (Indian Roots, or Craftsvilla).
Essentially, connecting social media with e-commerce allows conversations about the work on offer. As a consumer, if you are interested in a maker’s work - or in a particular shop or gallery - you can allow new product listings to be automatically tweeted to you and set to appear in your Facebook feeds. You can easily tweet or ‘like’ products or makers seen on Etsy for example, without leaving the site. By clicking between social media and e-commerce platforms you can often learn how a piece was made or what inspired the maker.
Finally, you can assess the risk you are taking in purchasing from an unknown maker by looking at the ratings and comments left by other buyers and by getting a sense of the quality of their work by looking at who they are followed and endorsed by.
This ‘social selling’ trend has the potential to address several significant challenges facing the craft sector. First, many makers remain reliant on a small number of retail outlets, risking a substantial loss of business if one shop or gallery closes. By creating a new route to market, social selling reduces the risk to their revenue.
Second, while the limitations of first generation e-commerce perhaps inhibited export opportunities for craft, social media opens up a key identified area of future growth potential for high-end makers in particular.
Finally, lack of confidence is a key barrier to purchasing, for first-time buyers. By offering reassurances about quality and reliability, social media encourages new consumers into the marketplace.
In particular, researches suggests that endorsement from other customers – here, in the form of ‘likes’ and positive comments – is extremely helpful in encouraging new buyers to make a first craft purchase.
Engrave and many others have assured the new hopes (of empowering artisans across the country, giving them freedom to choose buyers who can offer them higher prices. These e-com portals play a vital role that represents the art of India and Indian artisans on Global platform.
In a nutshell, e-commerce needed to be promoted at high level so that Kashmir artisans can enjoy fruits of the skill and hard work.
Social media has a place in the business and creative development tool kit for almost all makers and craft organisations.
When connected with online selling mechanisms, social media can equip craft businesses for a changing marketplace by diversifying the retail base, expanding international markets and using content and customer comments to encourage new buyers.
The storytelling that social media encourages can enhance the experience of seeing, buying and taking part in craft, by demonstrating its hidden qualities and connecting people around it.
At the same time, it can creatively blur the boundaries between producer, consumer and commentator, between teacher and learner and between the real-life and virtual experience.
As such, social media offers both makers and craft organisations some enticing new possibilities for the exhibition and presentation of craft work, that draw out its full value.
Social media also allows makers to control the way their work is perceived and positioned – creatively, within a peer group and in the marketplace.
A position as a designer, environmental artist or fashion industry supplier can be created, and new opportunities produced in a specific field of work. This is a distinct advantage in a sector where boundaries (between art, craft and design, for example) are porous, and makers’ careers often shift and evolve over time.
Finally, social media allows makers to build a community of peers and audiences, who support their work and help to overcome some of the difficulties of solo working by sharing knowledge and information.
There are many challenges for makers and craft organisations engaging with social media, not least how to maintain a similar level of service for people who prefer other forms of communication.
Nonetheless, it’s certain that social media has a crucial role to play in craft’s continued evolution through the digital age.
Author is Research Scholar at Aligarh Muslim University