Gujarat in the western part of India is famous for its handicrafts. The history of the textile sector of Gujarat can be traced back to 19thcentury when city of Ahmedabad was known as the Manchester of India. Gujarat has an exceptionally unique community based hand-embroidery culture and tradition. There are sixteen different types of fine and intricate embroidery work done on fabric by different communities in the state. These are community based skills acquired through generations (Shrujan, 2013).These skills are predominantly used by women for their own costume and customs. Over the last few decades these women artisans have become bread earners for the family and a few have turned into women entrepreneurs (SEWA, 2002).
Most of these women artisans reside in the rural, tribal and remote areas of Gujarat and their production bases are scattered and distant. They lack the access to the market and have inconsistent incomes (Sood, 2002). The Craft Ecosystem of Gujarat comprises of - The Government, Non-Government Enterprises, Social Enterprises, Cooperatives, Self Help Groups and Private enterprises, who are making efforts to bring them into the main stream markets. Gujarat has registered 13055 female and 2035 male artisans of hand-embroidery across the state, the majority being in the districts of Kutch, Banaskantha and Patan (Indext-c, 2013).
The Craft Economic Impact Study (2011) of Craft Council of India (2011) supports the handicraft sector by recognizing that economics is not a mathematical science but a creation of society and culture. Developmental experts at the World Bank, IMF, the UN agencies and Action Aid, as well as reputed sociologist and philosophers have turned a central focus to culture and specifically crafts as a basis to rescue human society from the current economic morass and moral impasse. Michael Walton, Centre for Policy Research, Harvard University, sees cultural industries as a 21st century industrial strategy and not as conservation activities-“No society achieves transition successfully without innovation and deep creative skills.”
The social enterprises in the state have been instrumental in bringing about the confluence of cultural, heritage and the growth of the women artisans in this sector. They have carved out viable, successful and sustainable strategies for the growth of entrepreneurship and restoration of the traditional heritage and skills of the communities in the state. The paper is an attempt to study the business strategies made by these select social enterprises to restore and develop the cultural sector with the focus on the women artisans to enhance the reach and access to market their produce and bring them into the main stream. Case Study method has been used for this study. Case Studies can involve either single or multiple cases, and numerous levels of analysis (Yin, 1984). We have gone for multiple case studies. This will help us to elucidate dynamic processes involving multiple causal changes. Multiple cases within each category allowed findings to be replicated within categories. The different social enterprises selected for the Case Studies are taken from the same Handicraft Sector and within the state of Gujarat with the identical mission and different organisational structures. The integrated business strategies of these Social Enterprises, for women artisans possessing traditional skills, through various holistic approaches, leads to increasing employability, restoring the community based skills and fostering growth of the Cultural Sector. The women artisans associated with this enterprise or a member of an enterprise can enhance their markets, thereby can initiate or strengthen a series of interlinked and mutually reinforcing ‘virtuous spirals’ of growth. Thus the social enterprises fostering the cultural entrepreneurships in the sector.
Handicraft sector, Social Entrepreneurship, Cultural Entrepreneurship, women-artisans, markets