Harnessing Technology to Reintroduce Value to Artisanal Handloom Craftsmanship in Varanasii, India, Maila Arzadon Suelto

Technology continues to play a key role in making supply chains more efficient and adding value. However, technology is also disrupting how labor is allocated. Artisan producers, one of the main segments affected by this manufacturing efficiency are challenged by increased competition from globalization and evolving consumer tastes and preferences. Despite this, the artisan market, generating $34 billion a year, has immense potential for growth, partly buoyed by a growing interest in handmade goods, and a return to an appreciation for traditional and heritage craft products. The market segment, comprised of marginalized communities and informal economies, continues to face many challenges that traditional companies, banking systems, state and national governments, have yet to fully addressed. Intertwined with these issues is the role of craft skills and communities in preserving heritage arts and culture within their respective regions. The conflict between cultural conservation and economic progress comes to a head when one is prioritized over the other. The research aims to show that technology can be harnessed to reintroduce value to artisan skills and products in the Handloom Weaving communities of Varanasi, India. It draws on current literature on the realities and challenges of artisanal productions in the last twenty years. In addition, nine in-depth expert interviews (IDIs) were conducted with artisan industry stakeholders representing the fields of artisanship, technology and manufacturing from different parts of the world. . Findings indicate that technology, when used in conjunction with economic opportunities, can positively impact artisans. However, factors including robust infrastructures; accessibility of technologies introduced; novel business models and solutions; as well as the continued support and collaboration of NGOs, design companies, retail businesses, and local and state government, are all key elements in the preservation and continuation of traditional craftsmanship and communities for future generations.

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