An amalgam of culture and business – India's handicraft industry goes beyond the beauty of its outward expression by becoming a manifestation of its history, geographical diversity, hyper-local cultures, and its community traditions. Handicraft Industries are a reflection of the artistic precision, aesthetic sensibilities and traditional identity of the artisans who render their skills in curating a major segment of India’s economy and its international image. India, being the second largest producer of bamboo, evidently enrolled itself in the market of Bamboo Handicrafts Industry where it is slowly and gradually progressing towards a self-sustaining business model with the use of raw material that would be pivotal in making handicraft industries more environment-friendly.
As a potential renewable resource and possibly an inexhaustible raw material, bamboo is being explored by mankind with the contemporary edge of information, environmental sensitivity, and technological evolution. Not only ecologically responsible, bamboo industry can also provide the answer to many problems of basic shelter and amenities along with generating more employment opportunities in rural and semi-urban areas. With urbanized part of India being far ahead in terms of development as compared to the rural areas, emergence of an agro-industrial infrastructure could very well bridge that gap and create a balance that would not tip the scale in favor of one. The domain of bamboo’s use extends from building houses, furniture, cutleries and other daily use materials to manufacturing of paper pulp, making charcoal and generating electricity along with other uses like bamboo strips for making boxes, bamboo yarn for clothing, and bamboo culms for making flooring. Bamboo is a smart substitute for plastic, steel, and even cement for housing, furnishing constructions and agricultural tools. Its tensile strength is actually greater than that of many steels; it is the strongest woody plant in the world while being remarkably lightweight and flexible. By such efficient management of a natural resource, bamboo industry is purporting the principles of sustainable development, as well as establishing an intelligent business model.
The global bamboo market was valued at USD 72.10 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach over USD 98.75 billion by 2026, according to The Global Industry Report. India which has 30% of the world’s bamboo resources taps only one-tenth of the global market and contributes only 4% even after having the world’s largest growing area of more than 15.69 million hectares. The north-eastern regions of India constitute more than 60% of the country’s growing stock of bamboo. Assam is one of the major states with the largest percentage of naturally and home-grown bamboo in the country. Many of the north eastern states like Tripura, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, etc. are spearheading the movement of bringing Bamboo Handicraft Industry of India in the forefront. Some of the well-known bamboo crafts in North-East are baskets, Chalani, dolls, toys, leaf-headgear for farmers, and umbrella handles.
However, even after having immense potential as a sustainable resource with a massive scope for innovation and design, Bamboo Handicraft Industry is still far from making any significant change, unless it is reasonably used and its potency of transforming India's local and national economy is realized. The bleak condition of India's once rich and prosperous handicraft industries – owing to high tax rates, lack of proper marketing facilities and a platform, low income, little government support, and heavy bank loans are catastrophic for our cottage industries and the artisans who are involved in these crafts.
The government of India has begun taking efforts to promote the bamboo industry with schemes like SFURTI (Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries) which is being implemented by the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) for replenishing the traditional industries and bamboo artisans. The Arunachal Government recently became vocal about adopting only locally-made bamboo products in their panchayat halls and promoted Central Government’s new “self-reliant India” policy. Furthermore, after bamboo cookies and bamboo bottles, Tripura has now launched ‘bamboo rice’, an exotic variety of rice derived from flower blossoms in bamboo trees. The special rice is claimed to have high protein, anti-joint pain and anti-diabetic benefits. The bamboo flower-rice will be a “economically profitable product and people can become self-reliant with it”. The rice is made by milling bamboo flowers. It is very helpful against diabetes cholesterol and fat.
India entails the capability to cultivate this 'green gold' and its industrial aspects by promoting its sustainable production and consumption, while contributing towards the building of its ecological and cultural wealth.