How E-commerce Helps Empower Women Artisans

E-commerce platforms have revolutionised the way we consumers shop. Food, books, groceries, vegetables, clothes, electronics, furniture, medicines, handlooms, spectacles, the list of things that can be shopped online, is endless. With the whole world in the grip of a pandemic for the past two years, E-commerce sales have shot through the roof. Mobility restrictions mean that more people are shopping online. People who were earlier staunch traditional shoppers are also lured into the e-commerce world. Brick-and-mortar stores, sensing the shift in the air, are also upgrading to the e-commerce world, to make their products accessible to consumers. Accessibility of products, variety of options, attractive pricing, etc. are a few of the benefits that lure the customers towards E-commerce. Businesses too, find E-commerce attractive as they can reach all corners of the country. Another positive effect of E-commerce is the boost it has given to our traditional crafts and handloom industry.

As a child, I was always fascinated with the colours and vibrancy of Indian handicrafts, be it the intricacies of Madhubani paintings, Kutch embroidery or Worli wall art. I felt proud to belong to a country with such rich traditional art forms. However, over the years, I understood how exploited our artisans were. The traditional handicrafts industry in India is predominantly a cottage industry. These craftsmen and artists usually belong to the hinterlands of India. Their access to markets is limited by poor or no infrastructure. The workforce in the handicraft industry is also made up mainly of homemakers who do this work part-time as a means to supplement their meagre family incomes. Since these women are illiterate or semi-literate, they are more prone to exploitation. The artisans were fleeced by the middlemen, who would pay low prices for their products, which were then, re-sold at exorbitant rates.

With the advent of E-commerce, there is now a shift in the traditional economy. By using E-commerce, the middleman can be bypassed, plus there is no need to invest in a brick and mortar store. Products can be sold directly to customers online. This reduces the cost for the customer, making it more attractive for purchase. Since the commission for the middle man is eliminated, the profit also increases, making the businesses more lucrative. The artisans who were quitting their traditional art forms for better-paying jobs now have the financial backing to continue plying their crafts. This helps in both, conserving our heritage and culture, and it also gives a boost, to the rural economy, due to the higher spending power of the artisan.

For women artisans too, the prospects are brighter. By using E-commerce to sell there their wares these women are now able to earn a living with dignity. Financial independence is the first step for female empowerment. By harnessing the power of E-commerce, women, especially those from rural areas, can take a step towards becoming financially independent. When women are financially independent, they can help in the household income and thus, have a greater say in the decision making. This gives women more agency and empowers them.

With this post, I would like to highlight three E-commerce portals that have helped artisans, especially women artisans. Pabi ben from Kutch, Gujrat, is a former daily wage earner. Skilled in embroidery, she, along with her community sisters, developed an art form called “Hari Jari”. Pabi ben, along with the women of her community, started the women artisans enterprise, More than 300 women are now part of this enterprise, earning financial independence for themselves.

Pic from I came across iTokri a few years back when I was searching for unique Indian handlooms, to buy as gifts for friends in UAE. iTokri ties up with NGOs and craftsmen to provide quality handlooms, jewellery and handicrafts to the customers. iTokri handles the marketing and distribution for the artisans, letting them focus on their craft. With international shipping, iTokri has taken Indian handicrafts to global shores, while at the same time giving the craftsmen stability and steady income. About 500 artisans are involved with iTokri.

iTokri logo on Pinterest

Amazon Saheli An initiative of the e-commerce giant, Amazon Saheli, started in 2017. The focus of Amazon Saheli is to promote locally made products by women entrepreneurs. There is a dedicated storefront for Amazon Saheli for the sellers associated with Amazon Saheli to showcase their products. With Amazon Saheli, women entrepreneurs have access to Amazon’s giant platform and its brand power with them. Amazon Saheli not only welcomes individual entrepreneurs but also NGOs, that work for the upliftment of women. The products on the Amazon Saheli store range from handicrafts, clothing, jewellery and even grocery. Amazon Saheli provides help and training to women on how to sell products online on the Amazon platform. Amazon has recently tied up with four state entities to accelerate the growth of women entrepreneurs. These entities are Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission (UPSRLM), Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services (ARIAS), Chhattisgarh State Forest Department (CG Forest), Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS). This will impact and empower lakhs of entrepreneurs from these four states.

P.C. Google

Have you as a consumer shopped from any of the above E-commerce platforms? How was your experience? Do let me know in the comments below.

This post has been written as part of Blogchatter’s campaign #ECommerceBuildsEconomy 

Psst . My first book “Xanadu: Three Souls Searching For Their Paradise” is available on Amazon, do check it out!

2 thoughts on “How E-commerce Helps Empower Women Artisans

  1. The topic selected by the author is extremely useful in the present situation.
    Author has used good example in text and given a positive motivation to the reader.
    Dr. S.K. Nanda

    Liked by 1 person

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