Although there has been a steep decline in the number of people involved in the handloom activity owing to various factors, the corporation still holds a very important role in guiding and developing the weaving community.
In an exclusive interview with SupportBiz, Manjunath C. Tambakad, IFS, Managing Director of KHDC, explains us how the industry is shaping up and adapting to the new challenges.
What went behind the creation of KHDC?
KHDC was started on October 2, 1975 and later the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought this under the 20-point program for the development of the weaving community. The idea was to bring this community under an organized sector and boost the handloom development activities. It’s a public limited company and comes under the Government of Karnataka, directly under the Development Commissioner of Handlooms and the Textile Ministry, Government of India.
Nearly four decades since the formation, where does KHDC stand now?
All the handloom weavers where brought under the fold of this corporation and were registered after KHDC was formed. The registration was the criteria for the members to receive raw materials, conversion charges and welfare measures. The sad fact is that when the corporation was started, it had a membership of a few lakhs weavers from across Karnataka; however, now the strength has come down to 12,000 families. Out of this12,000 families, around 10000 are cotton weavers spread across northern Karnataka and over 2000 families are into silk weaving mainly in the southern part of the state.
Why did the numbers reduced so sharply?
The main reasons are the physical labour the industry demands and the meager return. For example, to make one meter of cloth, one whole family’s labour is required. In a day, the family be able to make 6-8 meters of cloth (by at least six members of the family) for which they get paid around Rs. 150 a day, which is a very meager amount. So, thousands of families engaged in handloom business have left the job and took other higher paying jobs.
What are your business models and annual revenue?
Apart from the service, we also do buying and selling. KHDC has 60 showrooms across the country under the brand name of Priyadarshini Handloom House. Tradition silk sarees, printed silk sarees, various made ups of silk, silk running materials of various colors, dupioni, silk home furnishing material, in addition to cotton materials like bedspread, towel, dhoti sarees, shirts etc are being sold through our showrooms. We have a processing factoring in Peenya, Priyadharshini Textile Processing House where the final processing of garments is done. We also provide uniforms to various government departments like forest, police, KSRTC, Bescom etc. We have formulated a franchising policy now so that interested people can start their franchises now.
The overall turnover of the corporation was Rs. 170 Crores last year and we made an operational profit of three cores. The profit was comparatively low because there were accumulated loses. KHDC has nearly 800 employees for whom the corporation pays around 2.5 cores in salary and another 2.5 cores of conversion charges to the weavers.
How do you promote new players in the handloom industry?
We give free training for the young ones, we provide them looms and accessories free of cost, we provide them required raw materials as well so that they can start at once. The trainees are also paid a small amount of stipend during the six months of training. Weavers who do not possess a place for themselves can make use of our common weaving facilities.
What are the major handloom centers in Karntaka?
Gadag, Ranebennur, Bagalkot, Hubli, Bijapur, Belgaum, Gulbarga, Dharwad, Tumkur, Kolar, Bangalore, Mandya, Chamrajnagar, Mysore these are the key areas for handloom production in the state.
How does the government support the corporation?
We get grants for taking up a slew of welfare measures. Apart from that, the government supports us for the reimbursement of the rebate we give to the public.
How do you promote your products?
The discounts and rebates are our major selling point. We conduct a lot of camps and do aggressive advertisement through print as well as electronic media. We also conduct fashion shows, exhibitions and put up hoardings as part of our promotional activity. Although we have an impressive demand from international market, their demand for customized cloths is an issue for us which we will sort out shortly.
What are the major issues the industry facing now and how do you propose to address them?
Handloom cloths are expensive when compared to mill-made garments. Considering the buying capacity of the majority in the country, very less people prefer to buy handloom cloths. However, the quality is definitely higher than the mill cloths as it’s more durable. We also demand the government buy handloom products for all departments from KHDC to enhance the business capacity of the corporation. The delay in getting funds from government agencies is another major issue which we have already raised with the government. We have asked for a 50 per cent advance payment and a 5 year agreement.