Need for Skill Development and Vocational Training for Traditional Handicrafts and Carpet Clusters in India

Being mostly unorganized and predominantly family-bound or promoted by SHGs, the handicrafts sector faces a severe shortage of skills and knowledge that can help the sector grow, sustain and scale. How does the lack of skills affect the artisans and handicraft clusters? Let’s look at few important aspects of why skilling and vocational training should take precedence for any scheme in this sector.

Handicrafts in India symbolize our rich heritage and culture along with many skills handed over through generations. Nevertheless, the value they generate through exports remained to be realized and we are yet to explore their potential for economic development. The sector is low on low capital investment and has significant export potential. One of the ways, we can achieve overall growth in this sector is through empowerment of artisan clusters.

“Cluster can be defined as concentration of micro, small and medium enterprises in a given geographical location producing the same or a similar type of products or services and these enterprises face similar types of opportunities and threats. The cluster is known by the name of the product being produced by principal firms and the place they are located in.” United Nations Industrial Development Organization: UNIDO

Most of the handicraft artisans are based in clusters in different regions of India. It’s a labour-intensive sector mostly dependent on traditional methods of production. The clusters have a geographical identity and it comprises groups of crafts persons and artisans who come together to achieve common goals like better production, sales and networking.

Main clusters include Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Delhi, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. All these clusters have location-specific products often identified with GI tag. Within the cluster, we find close linkages between the artisans and they are interdependent to fulfill their requirements.

State-wise Handicraft clusters: The State of Uttar Pradesh tops with 282 handicraft clusters, followed by Orissa and West Bengal with 271 and 245 clusters respectively and Gujarat with 199 clusters. The region-wise distribution of clusters shows that in the Eastern Region there are 982 clusters, South 485, North 509 and in West there are 706 clusters. 37% of handicraft clusters are located in the 4 States of UP, Orissa, West Bengal and Gujarat.


Product group-wise Handicraft clusters: The 2682 handicraft clusters in India produce 292 types of products. These 292 products have been placed in 24 product groups. The largest of the group is that of textiles having 548 clusters followed by Basketry with 418, woodwork with 298, metalware 251 and earthenware 203 clusters.


5 challenges faced by handicrafts clusters:

  1. Manufacturing, production techniques
  2. Operations and technology
  3. Market access and logistics
  4. Financial and infrastructure
  5. Uncertainty in supply of raw materials, fluctuation of prices

To overcome the above mentioned challenges we need to re-look at the strategy for capacity building through skill development. It is only by imparting the right skills that we help them overcome outdated methods of production, increase productivity, improve quality, packaging and delivery. In other words, they need technical skills to come up with innovative designs, use tools that compliment their manual work and diversify their products through proper branding and marketing. The challenge gets doubled since most artisans’ level of education is low leading to low standard of living and low exposure to the world outside their local region.

Handicraft Clusters need skill development in three critical areas:

  1. Industry based upskilling
  2. Design and development of products
  3. Technology Upgradation
  4. Marketing and distribution

With most artisans, being nano, micro or small entrepreneurs the skilling requirements in this sector demand an orientation towards micro-entrepreneurship along with self-employment.

With the formation of HCSSC, the training and skill development needs of this sector are in the process of getting thoroughly organized as per NSQF levels. Following are the key areas where skilling interventions are needed.

  • Training in technical skills and soft skills
  • Upskilling the artisans who are already a part of the clusters
  • Training on packaging, branding and e-marketing of handicrafts, customer interaction, networking

Common facility Centre (CFC) can be leveraged for skill development

CFC will address the need for training centres in a cluster as per the local or regional requirements with active involvement of artisans from that region. Through CFCs the artisans can be trained in relevant skills pertaining to:

  • Getting access to capital tools and equipment
  • Being aware about the market and correct linkages
  • Availing incubation support for nano, micro or small entrepreneurs
  • Upgrading technology and infrastructure to produce quality, timely delivery

In addition to professional training programmes, industry seminars, workshops, awareness about export potential is much-needed. This will also provide support, motivation, handholding and mentoring for many who are keen on working in this sector.

The Craft Clusters of India portal showcases 35,312 products under 32 different categories with clustered details about where the product was actually made. This is an example of market linkage to these artisans of various clusters for enabling direct sales or sending any enquiries. To expand the reach through digital technology for the benefit of many artisans it is essential that we focus on empowering them with right knowledge and skills. At the same time, it is important to build competitiveness of the cluster through efficient processes, production and marketing. This can be achieved through multi-stakeholder involvement by harnessing the power of public-private participation and outcome-oriented approach.