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Enterprenership Developement Institute of India
Near Village Bhat, Via Ahmedabad Airport & Indira Bridge,
P.O. Bhat - 382 428,
Dist. Gandhinagar
Ph: 079-23969153, 23969158, 23969159, 23969163
Fax: 079-23969164
Email: felix@ediindia.org

About Cluster :

There are about one lac handloom weavers at Varanasi, presently 40,000 are active. In addition, there are hundreds of traders, dyers, designers, card-makers and ancillary support providers. The annual turnover (at Varanasi price) is estimated at around Rs.400 crores. While being concentrated in Varanasi City, the activity has spread to surrounding villages. 70% of weaver force is in the city. 90% of city weaver force is Muslim, while 30% of weaver force in villages is Muslim.

The main product of Banaras Handloom Cluster is saree and its dominance continues. The estimated share of saree in the total value of output varies from 90% to 95%. The other products are
. Dress material
. Furnishing fabric
. Fashion accessories, eg, stole, scarves
The saree segment typically consists of two subsequent.
. Satin-based work (largely Karnataka yarn)
. Organza type work (largely Chinese yarn)
The former is concentrated in North Varansi-Badi Bazar, Alaypura, Pilikothi. The later is visible in Sourth Varnasi e.g. Madanpura Most of the output (90%) gets sold at Banaras. The incidence of contractor weavers, and co-op societies selling directly to traders/others outside Banaras is very limited.

There are two areas in which heavy work sarees apparently are exerting pressure on Banaras saree. First, exclusivity. It is possible to make each heavy work or embroidered saree exclusive because it is easy to make variations. This is not so in case of handweaving and currently, there is emphasis on exclusiveness. A basic heavy saree may cost Rs. 2000 and work on it gets priced at, say, Rs. 8000; leading to a price of Rs. 10,000/-. Unlike weave, work pricing is somewhat discretionary and offers scope to the retail outlets for larger margins. The heavy work trend according to market observers, is undermining the significance of exquisite weave in the traditional aesthetic consciousness. This shift from weave to non-weave ornamentation, they apprehend, may not be temporary and poses a serious, long-term threat to the prospects of higher-end Banarasi saree.
In the lower-end segment, Banarasi saree does not possess long-established or traditional brand equity. It has grown quantitatively in this segment as a result of expansion of weaver force and market conditions. As we shall later see, it is fighting power loom sarees there. It manages to secure some volumes but mainly at the cost of helpless weaver. South India in recent years, has emerged an at attractive destination for Banarasi sarees in lower-end segment.
At another level, the brand equity of high-profile retail outlets (e.g., Kala Niketan) now, in certain context, matches or exceeds that of Banarasi high-end sarees. This has affected the value-chain; such retail outlets securing a larger share of the price-cake; squeezing the share of Banaras-based players.
In both price segments, saree has been facing problems and these problems do not appear temporary; notwithstanding occassional spurts in demand.

These dress material, furnishing fabric, accessories-are selling on the strength of their own aesthetic/economic strength; without drawing strength from Banaras brand equity. The customers, unlike in case of sarees, do not actively seek Banaras weave in respect of these products. In fact, for dress material and furnishing fabric, the sector has not attempted product development; it merely sells fabric.
Tie and dye, Chikan and such other styles sell as ready-to-stitch salwar-kamiz kits; highlighting neck design, sleeve design, and so on. Banaras dress material is not sold this way. It sells as running fabric. Kutch sells cushion covers; Banaras sells only furnishing fabric. The non-saree product line, rather small in relation to total Banaras output, thus, is not showing any sings of noticeable growth.

The estimated of share of export in handloom output at Banaras varies from 2% to 3%. It is meagre. Besides sarees for ethnic population abroad, the products are
. Furnishing fabric
. Accessories, e.g., scarves, stoles
. Buddhist brocade
The exports, in most cases, entail large volume (for a given trader); the industry does not have networking systems. The orders are time-bound. The exporter, many times, converts it into a power loom order. The products in the overseas market are largely positioned in purpose terms - saree, table runner, curtain, stole and its handloom identity remains either undeclared or lowkey.
There are few countries, eg, Australia and New Zealand which offer incentives for handmade products and so importers ask for an appropriate certification from the Export Council; hopefully bringing the fact of handmade product into focus. However, most of the world does not require such evidence at all.

The export products move largely on the strength of intrinsic aesthetics and workmanship; bereft of Banaras brand-equity. The foreign buyers remain fairly removed from Banaras in terms of reaching down directly to local traders and societies, leave alone weavers or asking explicitly for Banaras weave and design. Under the quota system, handloom was not within the purview of quota. Now that quotas are phased out, the advantage is wiped out. The industry has not been able to explore the neighbouring country saree/lahenga