Support the Indian artisan during lockdown using Antaran's 'advance' booking idea

Artisans from Odisha, Assam, Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh and other states have registered with Antaran and sell their handloom on their website. And in this time of distress, they are still able to sell
Chittranjan Patra | (Pic: Antaran)
Chittranjan Patra | (Pic: Antaran)

Every business is going through a lockdown-induced lull and having a tough time, but the plight of artisans is just indescribable. Stuck in small towns with no way to procure raw material or sell what they have already made, they are deserted. In moments like this, Antaran, an initiative by Tata Trusts, did not just think of reaching out to them, but also provide them with the dignity of labour while offering a helping hand. About a week ago, they launched a website which offers to make a deal with all those who want to buy traditional handlooms and yet, are held back by the lockdown — check the website out, pick your favourite handloom piece, get in touch with the artisan yourself, book the piece and pay for it. 

The only difference is that you will receive your piece only after the lockdown is lifted. So in a way, you are just booking in advance which would be good for you anyway because every piece on the website is gorgeous and is going to sell like hotcakes, so you better be the first one to reach the finish line anyway. Meanwhile, your advance payment will help the artisan get through this rough patch which is being particularly tougher on them. This is what Antaran Artisan Connect is all about.

They started because...
"The objective remains that the artisan needs to be self-reliant and should realise that the products they have made are gold, not something that is bought and sold out of sympathy," says Sharda Gautam, Head of Crafts at Tata Trusts. And Antaran seems to have already equipped them with the skills to deal with the travesty we are going through. 

Sharda Gautam | (Pic: Antaran)

Every artisan that decides to join hands with them is trained at many levels. This training is not a template-driven programme, rather it is a basic course work that runs for up to four to six months. They are trained in all aspects of business management, design development, communication skills, like photography, verbal and written communication and more. All this holds them in good stead when they have to directly deal with a customer. "Even simple things like how to operate WhatsApp, sending an attachment over an email and many other skills," he says. All this so that they can take pictures of their work, upload it on Antaran's website, or even their own Instagram page, talk with the customer, make invoices and sell their own work. Of course, there is a central team that jumps at any opportunity to help the artisans so there is nothing to worry about. In a way, artisans are reaping the fruit of all their training now because it is now that they are uploading the pictures of their work and transacting their own orders. "This period has been a litmus test for them, and in a way for us as well. And I am happy to report that the majority of artisans are coming out with flying colours," says Sharda Gautam and in this, is the victory of Antaran as well.

Artisans speak
Chittranjan Patra from Maniabandha in Odisha describes himself as an artisan, weaver and entrepreneur. He has 15 weavers working under him and the lockdown would have knocked them all down if it wasn't for Antaran. "The dream I had, it felt like it has all come down to nothing. Nothing was happening," says Chittranjan. But since they have put up pictures of his work on Antaran's website, they have received payment for 12 orders that include saris, fabric, dupatta and stoles. "We have savings, but rather not dip into them, so the advance payments we have received for orders will go a long way in helping us," says Chittranjan, who has been with Antaran for over a year now.

Nabanita Kalita | (Pic: Antaran)

Though Nabanita Kalita from Sapathuri, Assam feels that lockdown is for the better because, "It is such a deadly virus. Our villagers are so scared that they aren't even stepping out," she does concede that business is suffering. "Our work had stopped but the website has put us back in business now," says Nabanita who has over six weavers working under her. So, what are her post-lockdown plans, we inquire. "As soon as it lifts, I am going to rush and purchase the raw material and complete my orders," she says with a smile.

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