Launched on the occasion of the first National Handloom Day on August 7, 2015, ‘India Handloom’ brand (IHB) is an initiative of the Union Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. It is the branding of high quality handloom products with zero defects and zero effect on the environment. IHB seeks to differentiate high quality handloom products and help in earning trust of customers by endorsing their quality in terms of raw materials, processing, embellishments, weaving design and other quality parameters and by ensuring social and environmental compliances in their production.
The IHB registration is granted to certain specified eligible entities in respect of identified product categories which meet prescribed quality parameters. While the IHB products are available in various state-run boutiques and outlets such as CCIC, HHEC, etc, the brand has also joined hands with known private retailers to expand its customer reach.
In an interview with Namita Bhagat, Development Commissioner (Handlooms), Alok Kumar talks about the brand’s success, future plans and more.
It is almost a year-and-a-half since IHB came into being. How has been the progress so far?
India Handloom Brand was launched on August 07, 2015 by Honourable Prime Minister of India. The brand has come a long way in a short span of time. 598 registrations have been issued in 78 product categories so far. We have received partnership request for opening of 94 retail stores in 42 cities covering 23 states.
Currently, 22 stores in 14 cities are in operation. IHB co-branded products have been launched in collaboration with known brands like BIBA and Peter England. Many more big brands are in process to have an association with IHB. Moreover, 22 e-commerce portals are selling the IHB products today.
Shed light on the brand’s product portfolio.
We have all varieties of handloom products, viz. sarees, dress material, scarves, stoles, dupattas, bed sheets, furnishings and others, in 78 product categories, made from cotton, silk, linen tussar, wool and other natural fibres.
Handloom textiles and other products are regarded expensive. What’s your market positioning?
IHB assures quality to the consumer, and hence, priced moderately higher than generally available products. Retail stores are covering the niche market and the brand’s association with big brands like BIBA and Peter England shows our strength i.e. quality only.
IHB mostly sells through Government-run boutiques and outlets. How are you increasing its placement in the private retailer stores, and what is being done to make it stand out in there?
Yes, we have Government organisations like CCIC, HHEC, Handloom House, etc, selling IHB products. However, with the initiative of Ministry of Textiles, IHB has registered 50 retail stores of the private sector – we have Vasansi, PSR Silk, Pachiappa Silk, etc, selling IHB products. Retail stores are selling directly to the customers sourcing the materials directly from the weavers. In addition, IHB-registered weavers are getting priority as regards stall allotments in all the exhibitions organised under the aegis of Development Commissioner of Handlooms. Furthermore, IHB agencies were given the opportunity to exhibit and sell their products through international fairs.
The brand is betting big on e-commerce. Brief us on its online presence and how has it helped to enhance its awareness and sales.
In order to e-market the handloom products in a transparent, competitive and effective manner, a policy framework was developed by the Ministry of Textiles with the condition that e-commerce entities will not charge more than eight per cent of the sale price for all the services and priority display of handloom mark and IHB products.
Today, we have 22 e-commerce partners supporting the online sales of handloom products with Handloom Mark and India Handloom Brand. Office of the Development Commissioner of Handlooms is coordinating with the e-commerce platforms and the weavers and providing necessary support for the e-marketing of handloom products.
The total sales reported by our e-commerce partners were Rs 466.37 lakh. E-commerce platforms such as Weaves Smart, High City Retail, Go Coop Solutions, Senorita Creations, Amazon, Craftsvilla Handicrafts and Aarmart e-commerce are active in uploading and sale of handloom products. The following are the top three performers in terms of sales reported as on November 30, 2016: GoCoop Solutions – Rs 239.48 lakh; Weave Smart – Rs 213.08 lakh; and Amazon – 502 Units sold.
What is your pricing strategy across the offline and online sales channels? Online marketplaces often offer heavy discounts and attractive offers – what’s your take on it?
We do not control the price of the products. The discounts, etc, are offered by different portals/ agencies separately and individually. The agreement with e-commerce partner ensures that 92 per cent of the price quoted by producer should be transferred to weaver account.
Elaborate on your efforts to introduce well-designed, innovative products to appeal today’s customers. How do you ensure the quality?
The Ministry of Textiles provides support of reputed designers to handloom clusters for product development. IHB label is given to the weavers whose products meet IHB norms after testing their products in the highly sophisticated laboratory of Textiles Committee. The introduction of exclusive products across the country is included in the product range of India Handloom Brand as per the request received from various handloom producing centres.
What more is the Ministry of Textile doing to support the initiative: any special incentives, packages? Could you give us an idea of sales registered by IHB?
The total sales reported by IHB producers were of Rs 54.92 crore as on October 31, 2016 since its launch. The Ministry is supporting the handloom weavers through various schemes like yarn supply scheme, cluster development scheme, etc. Our field staff is making all efforts to help the weavers in getting a loan under MUDRA Scheme. The Ministry is also implementing various welfare schemes like Bunkar Bima Yojna, Children Education Scheme, etc.
What about the marketing and promotion strategy. How are you engaging with the prospective buyers, especially the young?
We are building the brand via all means of traditional as well as modern mass communication. We have also conducted a nationwide design contest to promote the IHB. We have successfully organised brand activations by participating in various college youth festivals.
Please share your roadmap for the future? How are you planning to grow IHB’s presence, partnerships and revenues?
We will continue to build the brand through various promotional activities and mass communication media. Special thrust is being given on social media. We are trying to educate the weavers through workshops and training programmes to encourage them to focus on quality and earn IHB registration. We are also trying to connect the bulk buyers to the weavers to improve the sales of their finished products. An initiative has been made with CMAI members like BIBA, Aditya Birla Fashion Retail, Colour Plus who are linking with IHB-registered weavers producing an exclusive range using IHB fabrics.