Online handloom sales spin a weaving revival in AriyalurARIYALUR January 29, 2022 16:02 IST
District’s distinctive cotton and silk saris form part of ‘Asathal Ariyalur’ brand
A government initiative to improve the earnings of at least 7,000 handloom weavers in Ariyalur district through e-commerce has begun to bear fruit within months, with close to ₹1 lakh being earned in online sales.
Launched in August 2021 by S.S. Sivasankar, Minister for Backward Classes, the programme has brought women weavers operating through self-help groups (SHGs) into the fold of entrepreneurship development, and also raised the profile of Ariyalur’s traditional handloom cotton and silk saris.
It operates by allowing SHGs to list their saris online at a payment gateway linked to the Ariyalur district administration’s official website (ariyalur.nic.in). The link, run by Snapbizz.com, a Bengaluru-based digital service provider that facilitates small businesses, takes customers to a photo gallery of Ariyalur handloom saris that can be bought online.
“Ariyalur has a strong weaving community, and women are active in SHGs, but they were not really capitalising their skill by marketing their own products. Most of the weavers are serving as contractual labourers supplying orders for bigger sari showrooms in cities like Kumbakonam, Thirubhuvanam and Chennai. We wanted to change this image of Ariyalur being a weaving outsourcing hub, and showcase its own tradition,” P. Ramana Saraswathi, District Collector, Ariyalur, told The Hindu .
Currently, the listing has handlooms from Jayankondam, Thirumanur and Animadam blocks of the district. The technical component of the web initiative is supported by corporate social responsibility (CSR) funding from a private bank. Sales took off ahead of Deepavali and the year-end festive season last year, with at least 11 saris sold for a total of ₹93,000 by early January.
“With everything shifting online during the pandemic, we felt this venture too would be suitable for e-commerce,” said Ms. Saraswathi. “The saris are priced at manufacturing cost; so what is listed as ₹4,000 may actually be sold at ₹10,000 in a city showroom. The affordability is a major attraction for customers,” she added.
Ms. Saraswathi has grouped the traditional weaves under the brand ‘Asathal Ariyalur’ (Amazing Ariyalur) and wants to expand operations this year by approaching bigger e-commerce platforms like Amazon.
The GST application for this is in process, while physical sari stores in Ariyalur and Chennai are also being planned.
“We hope to include other indigenous products such as the Irular and Kuravar communities’ beadwork accessories and groundnut and sesame oil to the ‘Asathal Ariyalur’ brand umbrella and market them online,” she said.
For weaver M. Subasini, who typically weaves up to 300 saris per month on contract from her home-based loom in Ulkottai village, the online initiative has meant a better income.
“Companies can pay us a daily wage of ₹500 per sari, but only when there is work. Going for online sales has brought me and the other members of my SHG a bigger share of profits. It has helped me save enough to pay my children’s fees,” she said.