Indian Women Weaving Textile (durry) .“E-commerce in India is leapfrogging to mobile first and mobile-only platforms and digital technology will remove layers of middlemen to bring artisans closer to their end customers and help increase their incomes,“ says Tridip Saha, vice president and head of Europe for Sonata Software.

The leap to mobile first platforms is evidenced by the mobile phone penetration in India; smartphone prices have dropped to about £40. A little-known company in Uttar Pradesh has introduced what they claim is the world’s cheapest smart phone for 251 rupees, or £3!  Indicative of the rapidly falling costs for mobile connectivity.

India is a country with approximately 40 million people working in its creative manufacturing sector, both part-time and full-time. It has the widest variety of hand skills and intellectual property, along with 60% of the global workforce in the informal sector of creative manufacturing, which spans materials such as textiles, wood, metal, ceramics and natural fibres. Not only is this a great resource for low-carbon-footprint production, but a great employment generator.

The end-end e-commerce platform by Industree Foundation and Sonata Software (beta site), will offer e-shopping features as well back-end facilitation features such as order fulfilment, inventory management, and third-party integration for invoicing and delivery fulfilment. Artisan enterprises will access critical back-end data related to inventory levels, shipping, accounting, and receivables.

Over the next three years the e-store will become a platform where artisans can track orders, and customers can see exactly where and to whom their money is going. The other functionalities to be rolled out include crowd funding, to assist artisans to raise working capital. An application that helps connect artisans to raw material sources and vendors is also planned.

“In the near future, customers and buyers will be able to collaborate on a much more personal level. The transparent system enables the customer to see the significant efforts put in by the artisans, from procurement to designing, which in turn can assure the artisans of getting the best possible prices for their products,” adds Tridip.

West Bengal, india - April 22, 2016:A worker ,working in hand-woven loom. producing superb fabrics in its own unique weaving style. Bengal handloom saree weaving centre in Bengal. Shantipur and Fulia sarees are household names across India.

The Industree Crafts Foundation was set up with aim of helping to sustain livelihoods for craftspeople within a creative manufacturing ecosystem of small producer-owned businesses. Sonata Software works alongside the Industree Foundation as part of its corporate social responsibility programme. The foundation helps communities assess their traditional skill base, organise them into production units, develop products that appeal to modern markets, and create consistent demand to create sustainable businesses at the lowest possible costs.

The approach has tripled the incomes of artisans in non-farm occupations by leveraging their artisanal skills and integrating them into the creative industries sector. If the poor have access to sustained and consistent demand for the products and services and are provided with an enabling ecosystem, they can integrate into the formal economy and lift themselves out of poverty.

The End Game: Mission Creative Million

The Mission Creative Million focuses on celebrating the skills and cultural legacy of creative producers.  Using the power of technology and the smart phone revolution, it aims to help small inclusive enterprises, impacting one million artisans who will be tied together on a single platform, in the next 10 years.  It strives to create economic and social impact for artisans by creating an ecosystem that will help them access skills, capital, design and market aggregation.

Photos: Indian craftspeople [credit: iStock].