One of the biggest impediments to most of the efforts that have been put in to revive khadi is the excessive government control exercised over the industry.
Devieka Bhojwani reveals that after repeated attempts at resusticating the fabric’s appeal, she finally gave up on account of red tape. “I tried consultancy with them as well, but khadi is wired in too much bureaucracy,” she says. Shiv Vishwanathan believes that government intervention in trying to market khadi would be to the detriment of the brand.
“What the government can do to help khadi is do something for the revival of natural dyes, which will help khadi in a big way,” he concedes , adding that what needs to be done is help preserve the weaver and help improve his condition . Rta Kapur Chishti, author of Tradition and Beyond : Handcrafted Indian Textiles, points out that the greates t achievement of state support has been the fact that the production of hands pun / hand woven fabric has survived right up to the present day. “Yet the drawback of this circumstance has been the erosion of its philosophical basis and the expansive growth of a bureaucratic supervising agency,” she adds.
That said, the Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC) — which was instituted in 1957 with the social objective of providing employment and creating self-reliance amongst rural communities — has had some role to play in the evolution of Brand Khadi. For instance, in 2006-07 , KVIC had a production of Rs 17,562.40 crore, working with 3,000 NGOs, three lakh rural entrepreneurs and nine million weavers.
KVIC has 7,050 khadi outlets across the country. J S Mishra, CEO, KVIC says that the commission is planning increased production of higher quality products for both the domestic and international markets in the next year or so. “We are focusing on 200 khadi institutions by improving wages for weavers to stop them from moving away from making khadi,” he says. “Today even a labourer who moves earth gets wages of Rs 60- Rs 100 per hour, whereas for weaving khadi it was Rs 40- Rs 50, which was not attractive. The 10th plan didn’t make provisions for this, but now it has changed.”
The government has allocated Rs 85- Rs 90 crore to improve the working conditions and ambience of the weaving facilities, and these allocations will benefit about roughly 45,000 workers. KVIC claims to be working on innovative production and incentive schemes to improve efficiency and increase productivity; improving market development strategies and investing in bar-coding facilities are other plans on the anvil.
This year, the government has increased the fund allocation to KVIC by 46% to Rs 300 crore, collectively for khadi and village industries . And last week, a MOU was signed between KVIC and the CII for a joint-marketing , branding and export strategy. In the 11th five-year plan, KVIC has an employment generation target of 141 million, and a production target of Rs 30,000 crore, double that of the last five-year plan.
Mishra also informs that 30%-40 % of the khadi bhandars have been marked for “upgradation”, which will happen in a “phased manner”. He adds: “We have plans to convert 30 outlets across the country to have dedicated khadi and village industry product sales.
While KVIC has not worked with the likes of Fabindia and Anokhi, there is a realisation that it would be useful for the commission to learn how these companies use machine-spun khadi to manufacture clothes; KVIC could also benefit from learnings in packaging, production techniques and supply management.
Another plan on the anvil is to have a ‘Khadi mark’ — along the lines of Woolmark — to propagate different forms of khadi. And yes, KVIC has plans to appoint a professional ad agency to work on a massmedia campaign to promote its brands. Developing a website and subsequently grow e-commerce are some of the other tasks it has identified for the agency.
Another scheme called Product Development , Design Intervention and Packaging (PRODIP) has been introduced with the objective of improving quality and design by way of value addition, bringing out new product lines, and improving packaging. A professional agency’s help will be sought to enable this as well.