New Delhi, 30th July, 2021: The COVID imposed lockdown of 2020 had cast a gloomy scenario globally. People grappled with job loss and stared at an uncertain future. But some artisans like Himjyoti Morang of Assam used this as an opportunity to grow. Trained under the Tribal Entrepreneurship Development Program of MoTA, these artists cum farmers are now tech-savvy businessmen and earn a handsome income to support their families.
Morang (31), is from the Dolaghat district of Assam. She is a weaver and makes traditional tribal outfits like Mekhela, Gamosa (gamcha), Daluk (jacket), mufflers, etc. “The men in our community do farming while women make clothes in our tribe,” says Morang. Till the lockdown of last year, Morang earned around Rs 5000 per month from the sale of her clothes.
“Though there is demand for these garments, I would get orders through word-of-mouth only,” she says. Financially, things were difficult for her family whose only means of survival were their farm produce. However, her selection in the Tribal Development Entrepreneurship Program (TEDP) of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) in May 2021, changed things forever. TEDP is a joint initiative of MoTA and the national industry body ASSOCHAM. It trains tribal artisans across the country to upgrade their skills and imparts digital marketing knowledge.
“I learned to make my Facebook Business page and posted two pictures of the mufflers I made. Within two days I got a bulk order for 30 mufflers,” she says excitedly. From Rs 5000 a month, Morang has seen her income double up to Rs 10,000. “I can now manage my business from home easily and educate my two daughters as well,” she says.
Similarly, Rudan Devi (50), a Sohrai artist from Jharkhand got more work after she was trained under the TEDP this February. To date,Rudan had only made Sohrai murals and had never held a paintbrush in her life. “Under the workshop, we learned to paint on paper and cloth. It was a novel experience,” she says.
Sohrai paintings of Jharkhand are associated with the harvest season and are made by tribal women on mud walls of their huts. They use natural earth colors – white (kaolin), black (manganese), yellow and red ochre. It has also received geotag from the Indian government in 2020.
After the workshop,Rudan got some orders to make paintings on paper. “Earlier we would paint murals. Now we have more products to offer the customers as we can paint on paper as well,” she says. Her monthly income which was earlier dependent on occasional murals is now around Rs 20,000/- per month. “Apart from murals, there is always some painting work to do and earn more money,” she adds.
The skills learned by these artisans under TEDP have made them hopeful of brighter prospects. For instance, Malini MG, 39, a bamboo artist from Wayanad, Kerala now has more variety to offer her customers. “Previously I made eco-friendly bamboo spoons and spatulas and sell them at government-held exhibitions,” she says.This limited range of products restricted her market reach. She would earn anywhere Rs 5000 per month depending upon the exhibitions.
But TEDP came to her rescue this summer where she got to learn additional skills. “I learned to make bamboo pen-stands, egg-holders, dream catchers, etc., in the workshop. Now I have more range of daily use products and I am hopeful to get more customers,” she points out.
Similarly, the digital marketing workshop held under TEDP has fired up the ambition of Chhattisgarh artisans as well. The global reach of online marketing has made them dream of a better tomorrow. “We learned how to tap an online platform to promote our work and benefit from it,” says Suresh Kumbhakar, 30, a sculptor from Chhattisgarh.
Though everything was closed during the lockdown, TEDP held online workshops to teach these artisans digital marketing skills. The artists learned to create their Facebook business page and upload their artwork. “Since lockdown restricted our movement, we learned to use the online platform to reach the customers,” he reveals.
The workshop has turned these artists hopeful of catering to a bigger market for which they are now in the process of forming a group. “We did not upload our artwork wondering what if we get bulk orders. Hence, we are forming a group so that we can deal with the flood of online orders once our work is promoted online,” says Divya Chandra, 23 a painter and sculptor from Korba district of Chhattisgarh.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs and ASSOCHAM aims to train more than 1000 artisans over a span of three years under the TEDP program as a part of the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative of the government of India.