The basic premise of any business is simple.
All businesses also need to be embedded in the ecosystems they operate in that include suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, service providers, customers and others.
A cultural entrepreneur has the added responsibility of working to create a sustainable ecosystem for the products, services and experiences being designed, curated and delivered.
Why? There are two reasons.
As a cultural entrepreneur working to deliver high quality, well designed, contemporary products and services to discerning and value-conscious customers, it is important that market trends, customer requirements, packaging, branding, distribution, supply consistency, customer service, new product portfolios and the like are constantly being made available. This requires that the entire value chain of the business operate predictably, consistently and efficiently.
This is easier said than done.
Traditional arts and artisans in many areas are on the verge of extinction or have varying quality, production and delivery capabilities, costs, predictability and standards. It is impossible to build a business in such conditions.
In the business of handicrafts, many a times we see that the raw materials supply is unpredictable, or that the cost fluctuates randomly.
For example, the sandalwood/rosewood needed by Gudikars (traditional wood artists), or the softwood required for Channapatna toys, or the silver required for Bidriware, or brass for Brassware, or finding an appropriate number of highly skilled weavers of a particular style may be difficult.
On the other hand, studying the complete cycle of business – from raw materials, designs (if applicable), skilled artisans, process, seasonality of the product/service, redundancy, capacity building, as well as the demand, market and customer sides, will enable one to better design, develop and implement a value chain that helps create and sustain an ecosystem.
This is analogous to say, an automobile manufacturer who works with various ancillary units by providing them support on design, cost, material and customer inputs to ensure that they deliver their products on time, with the right design elements, quality and at the right price.
It is not necessary for you to invest your own funds in developing this ecosystem.
1. There are many government schemes to support the artisans, training by master artisans, support through Handloom and Handicraft Development Corporations etc. You only need to be aware of such schemes and ensure that your vendors benefit from them.
Some sample schemes: The Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) schemes. Budget 2021: Changes to customs duties to boost local manufacturing (credits: YourStory). Brochure Support by Ministry of Tourism. Gujarat’s heritage tourism policy.
2. There are many Trusts and NGOs that are into the conservation of traditional art and handicrafts. If you associate with them, they can help you in the training of your vendors by master artisans, identification and documentation of traditional designs and patterns, sources of traditional materials etc.
Here are a few: The activities of the Crafts Council of Karnataka. The support to artisans by the Crafts Council of India . A platform for craft-design partnerships by Sangam. Skill development by the Handicrafts and Carpet Sector Skill Council. The Central Govt. skilling program, Samarth Yojana. A list of NGOs and non-profits that are empowering artisans and reviving handicrafts (credits: YourStory).
To summarise, as a cultural entrepreneur, an important priority must be to identify the complete process cycle of your offerings and plan and coordinate the development of a sustainable and scalable ecosystem accordingly. By doing this, you are not only helping the conservation and promotion of culture and tradition but are also ensuring that you will avoid supply chain problems in your business.
Go beyond business to grow your business!
Have tips and methods for cultural businesses? Send them to email@example.com
Feature Image: © Jorge Royan Wikimedia