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A Corporation That Failed Goan Artisans

THE Goa Handicrafts Rural and Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (GHRSSIDC) has been a poor performer in promoting and selling handicraft items made by Goan artisans. The latest example of its failure is this: It converted one of its vehicles into a mobile emporium – called Handimobile – and gave its driver the responsibility to sell handicrafts made of clay, shell, brass, coconut craft and tile art. Handimobile was a pure disaster, but the driver continued to get a salary of Rs 40,000 per month. The failure is attributed to the driver of the vehicle, who was found to be lacking in basic skills of marketing. The primary guilt lay at the doors of the GHRSSIDC management: why did it assign the job of sales to the driver who was not trained for the job?

Handimobile was to provide a sales window for local crafts at the national and international events held in Goa, such as the International Film Festival of India, music and art festivals, sporting events, New Year and Christmas parties which attract a large number of visitors. The project was broadly based on the success of mobile fish vending vehicles. Though Handimobile did attract buyers initially, soon complacency took over, leading to its failure. The GHRSSIDC had not been successful in promoting, marketing and selling the Goan crafts through their emporia and other means in a very big way.  Goan artisans had generally nothing but criticism to offer about the corporation’s functioning. They have been left to the mercy of market forces.

The corporation has been running in losses for quite some time and subsisting only on government help to run its routine affairs and pay salary to the staff. The GHRSSIDC as the consignment agent for the Steel Authority of India in the state was making good profit through it sales but fall in demand over the years has led to fall in its revenue generation. The other activities of the corporation, like running various government-sponsored schemes for artisans for participating in interstate crafts workshops, exhibitions, e-portals to sell the wares are money guzzlers and hardly bring in income. Though the corporation has nine emporia in the state to sell the products of local artisans, many of which remain unsold – the reason, according to the authorities, is higher prices set by artisans for their products. Artisans dispute the claim and argue that the addition of 50 per cent commission by the corporation was the reason behind increase in the prices of their products and the items remaining unsold. The state authorities have to bring down the commission and urge the artisans to go in for mass production of the goods through mechanization and give their products a better finish. Production of larger quantities would help them earn higher incomes and also help them to be a part of the newer economic concept of earning more through larger sales at nominal profits. This newer concept and mass production have been adopted by many artisans in other states.

With the corporation running in losses and its new ideas such as Handimobile  failing, the management has to come up with newer ideas to not only revive it but also ensure that the artisans who are mainly dependent on it for sale of their produce do not suffer. The new projects should be based on sound economic footings and a proper feasibility study. There are over 2000 registered artisans with the corporation, but only a total of 600 artisans are active in handicraft trade. The state authorities have to look into the allegations by the artisans that those at the helm of affairs of the corporation were behind its downslide and a thorough probe has to be conducted and the guilty punished. The government should ensure that competent officers are appointed at the top level of the corporation to take the performance level  higher with professionalism and meet the objectives to achieve with the corporation was formed.

Under no circumstances should the corporation become a ‘shunting corner’ for unwanted officials who fall from the grace of their political masters as that would defeat the purpose. The job at the corporation involves a proactive relationship with artisans spread over Goa. The politicians who have held the posts of chairpersons of the corporation lacked the knowledge, sincerity and dedication to the objectives set for it. No wonder, artisans have come to depend on private intermediaries for selling their crafts. Under the present circumstances there seems to be no hope for artisans to return to the corporation in a big way, unless its chairperson and managing director commit themselves to bring artisans back to the corporation with competitive pricing, marketing and selling alternatives.

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