For the past two months, District Collector of Srikakulam, Mr. Srikesh Lathakar,IAS along with most of his officers, ensured that they wear Srikakulam Khadi every first Monday of the month. It seems a “small step” but he feels that it will go a long way in creating awareness and demand for Srikakulam handloom and textile products.
“Awareness needs to start from our own people. We also conducted an exhibition recently where only Srikakulam products were exhibited. It was a big success. We plan to continue such initiatives in future as well,” said Mr Lathakar speaking to Vizag Industrial Scan.
The fine quality Khadi produced in Ponduru village of Srikakulam district is popular throughout India, and in fact Mahatma Gandhi always preferred it. However, it has not been able to get weavers sufficient remuneration due to various reasons.
“There is a need for marketing the niche brand of Ponduru Khadi and Srikakulam handicrafts which is lacking at the moment. Khadi has its own brand image so we have to create a brand for Srikakulam Khadi.
Mr. Srikesh Lathakar, IAS Srikakulam Dist. Collector
Mr Lathakar says they have proposed mini Khadi clusters to empower weavers.
“Mega clusters require certain pre-conditions like minimum number of weavers, among others. Since the number of weavers are very less here, we have finalised the proposal for three mini Khadi clusters in the district, including two in Ponduru, which will require infrastructure, training and marketing expertise. We will try to increase the number depending on the progress,” he said.
It is not the investment but manpower that is a major challenge, he said.
“Investment can be arranged from the Central or the state government. Even NABARD is coming forward to fund something up to Rs 1 crore. We are asking weavers to come forward with a plan/their demands but they only present very minimal needs. Most weavers are old now and the younger generation is not taking it up as they don’t see a huge scope. Hence there is a shortage of manpower,” he says.
Branding Srikakulam Khadi
- To set up 3 Mini Khadi Clusters
- APCO to help in Technical and Marketing
- NABARD, State/Central Govt to provide Funding
- Training to weavers
“Also, these products are very labour-intensive and hence, expensive and are in competition with powerloom products which are cheaper and of better quality.”
Mr Lathakar says they have roped in the Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society Ltd (APCO) to benefit from their technical and marketing expertise.
“To create a niche brand for Ponduru Khadi and Srikakulam handicrafts, there is a need for marketing which is lacking at the moment. Khadi has its own brand image so similarly we have to create a brand for Srikakulam Khadi even if it is costly, there will be sufficient demand and the benefits will flow down to the weavers,” he contends.
Besides marketing training, a few machines are required to improve quality and productivity so that the overall cost goes down and the quality improves, he says.
Andhra Pradesh’s Handloom Industry*
- 2,00,310 handloom weavers in cooperative fold
- 1,58,902 outside cooperative fold
- 81,000 Powerlooms both in cooperative and outside cooperative fold
*As per the The Department of Handlooms and Textiles
APCO DMO Mr. Someswara Rao says that they are seeing a rise in the sale of Srikakulam products through their e-commerce platform, which helps the weavers reach “a bigger customer base”.
“We supply raw materials to the weavers, give them a production programme with certain specifications and then, purchase the woven stock from them. This is sold at our outlets throughout India. We also conduct meetings with the weavers in Srikakulam and train them to develop new designs as per the demand of the customers and to compete in the larger market,” he says.
Mr Lathakar says that a meeting was held with Ponduru weavers recently. “We asked them to come forward with their requirements. We want youth from the weavers’ community to come forward and share ideas to reinvent the Ponduru Khadi magic. We will fund it and provide all possible support to create our very own ‘Brand Srikakulam,” he adds.