India’s handicraft workers have begun to move beyond traditional markets and government-backed shops to sell their wares, hoping that the increasing take-up of e-commerce can help boost sales. A number of artisans have started selling via the website nethaat.com, which was launched earlier this year with the aim of providing a new outlet for makers of items such as textiles, metal and wooden goods and jewellery.
Rakesh Sonava, who co-founded the portal, whose name translates as ‘net marketplace’, said he was inspired by his family’s experience and their struggle to sell goods. “My uncle used to go from place to place selling hand-printed cushion covers and bed linen. He could sell what he carried with him but nothing more,” he says. “I wanted to set up a permanent platform for people like him to sell his goods,” he adds.
While many shops have gone online to sell traditional goods in recent years, Nethaat is the first to allow craftsmen and women to sell directly to consumers via the Internet.
Some, like 35-year-old paper-maker Fajuddin Saifi, from the northern city of Agra, bought their first computer after hearing about the venture. The artisans can stock items on the website and there’s also a bargaining option on some products, where the buyer can bargain on the price, much like the haggling that is common in India’s street markets.
Brij Ballabh Udaiwal, 46, has been in the hand-made textile business for 30 years and is the fifth generation in his family to enter this line of work. “This way, we can hope to get a fair price and credit for our skill,” says Udaiwal, from Jaipur.