August 21, 2018
Biswa Bangla: Bengali handicrafts go global
Biswa Bangla, the Bengal Government brand promoting the State’s indigenous arts and crafts, is now venturing into new territories – Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Jaipur and Varanasi. It already has eight stores across Bengal and Delhi.
The brand has achieved major success in showcasing the cultural treasures of State to the world. It is growing at 20 per cent annually, and earned revenue of Rs 20 crore in the last fiscal. The brand that started with 5,000 products in 2013 now has about 10,000 products.
From reviving indigenous fabric to promoting sustainable fashion, Biswa Bangla is on an expansion spree in terms of the number of stores as well as product innovation. According to the secretary of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Department, under which the brand functions, Biswa Bangla is about bringing back dying arts from the brink; it is also about niche products in the premium range.
With the India-wide expansion in mind, Biswa Bangla is coming up new products. It is making clothes out of nettle fibre and bamboo yarns. The ancient metal-casting technique of dokra is being used to make a diversified range of products that include high-end jewellery and home décor items. The brand is making pietra dura jamdani saris and Ramayana saris in limited quantities.
According to the secretary, each product launched by Biswa Bangla is about a whole backend project taken up. The Government just does not leave the artisans with the orders – it helps them with better looms, better facilities for dying yarn, better supplies, and quality training.
With the revitalisation of crafts, design development and new innovations, crafts in Bengal are finding new markets. Crafts-makers, whose only sources of income were the local handicrafts fairs, now benefit from sales through direct market linkages.
Around 12,000 craft-makers saw their average monthly income increase by around Rs 5,200, said the secretary. For the top 30 per cent, the average increase in income is Rs 12,000 per month.
Reviving tourism, preserving culture
The improvement has also benefited in other ways. Villages like Bikna and Dariyapur, where dokra is made, are now tourist destinations. The village of Naya in Paschim Medinipur district, home to 60 families of dokra artisans, is popular with domestic and international tourists all around the year. As a result, working conditions have improved immensely.
Similarly, Charida village in the district of Purulia, where chau mask-makers live, has also become a tourism destination.
The craft collectives in these rural hotspots hold annual village festivals and in the last four years, about 8,000 international and domestic tourists have visited these villages.