Community | People

Handmade In Demand: A Look Into Consumer Behavior And The Growth Of The Handmade Industry

Jul 06, 2023 | ARPAL JAIN

The handicrafts of India are a reflection of the country's rich and diverse cultural heritage, with a history that dates back to ancient times and has been shaped by various rulers and cultures throughout the centuries. Today, India is home to over 7.3 million skilled artisans who use their creativity to produce a range of visually appealing handicrafts that are known for their intricate designs, vibrant colours, and exceptional craftsmanship. Despite the popularity of these handicrafts among art collectors and enthusiasts from around the world, the Indian handicraft sector faces several challenges such as inadequate institutional support, limited access to technology, and lack of market intelligence, which impede its growth and development. This blog aims to explore the buying behaviour of consumers towards Indian handicrafts and how stakeholders in the Indian handicraft sector leverage the same to develop a comprehensive marketing platform and tap into the market opportunities available in this field.

Growth of handmade industry worldwide and in India

The global handmade market is expected to grow substantially, with a projected CAGR of over 4%, according to a Technavio report. This growth is mainly attributed to consumer preference for personalised and unique products, the rise of e-commerce platforms, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In India, the handmade industry is a significant contributor to the economy, providing employment to millions of people. The Indian government has launched initiatives such as "Make in India" and "India Handloom" to promote the growth of traditional crafts. The handmade industry promotes sustainable and ethical consumption practices, which bodes well for its growth. Overall, the handmade industry is expected to continue growing as consumers prioritise individuality and sustainability.

What are the trends in the handmade industry?

Following are some of the general trends in the handmade industry:

  • Sustainability: The handmade industry is increasingly focusing on sustainable practices, as more consumers become aware of the environmental impact of mass-produced goods. Handmade products are often made with eco-friendly and sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, bamboo, and hemp, which have a lower environmental footprint than synthetic materials.

  • Personalization: Customization is a key advantage of handmade products, allowing artisans to tailor their creations to individual customers' needs and preferences. From personalised jewellery and accessories to bespoke clothing, handmade products offer unique and personalised options for consumers.

  • Social media marketing: Social media platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest, have played a crucial role in the growth of the handmade industry. These platforms provide a space for artisans to showcase their products to a wider audience and build a following, even without a physical storefront.

  • Local sourcing and production: There's a growing trend in the handmade industry towards supporting local artisans and makers, as consumers seek out products made with locally sourced materials. This trend promotes sustainable practices and helps to support local economies.

  • DIY and handmade learning: The popularity of DIY culture has contributed to the growth of the handmade industry, with more people interested in learning new skills and creating their own handmade products. The availability of online tutorials, workshops, and craft classes has made it easier than ever for people to learn new techniques and get involved in the handmade community.

Overall, the handmade industry is adapting to changing consumer demands and trends, with an increased focus on sustainability, personalization, local production, social media marketing, and handmade learning.

What are the benefits of handmade products?

Handmade products offer several advantages over mass-produced items.

Firstly, they are typically unique and one-of-a-kind, reflecting the artisan's individual creativity and style. Each handmade item possesses its own character and special charm that machines cannot duplicate.

Secondly, handmade products are often crafted with high-quality materials and great attention to detail, resulting in products that are durable and of superior quality. This level of quality is not always present in mass-produced items.

Thirdly, buying handmade products supports local artisans and small businesses, which is crucial for promoting economic growth and sustainability. By purchasing handmade items, consumers can help preserve traditional craftsmanship and support local communities.

Lastly, buying handmade products is a more ethical and environmentally-friendly choice. Handmade products often use sustainable materials and production methods, reducing their environmental impact.

Overall, the benefits of handmade products include uniqueness, superior quality, support for local communities, and sustainable production methods, making them a desirable choice for consumers who value craftsmanship and ethical consumption.

What are the challenges faced by the handmade industry?

The growth and sustainability of the handmade industry are challenged by various factors. One of the most significant challenges is competition from mass-produced items, which are generally less expensive and more widely available than handmade products. This creates difficulties for handmade businesses, particularly when it comes to price-sensitive customers.

Another challenge for the handmade industry is the difficulty in scaling production. Handmade products require a significant amount of time to create, and the production process can be limited by the artisan's skill and capacity. As a result, handmade businesses may struggle to meet increasing demand, especially if they cannot hire more artisans or invest in more advanced equipment.

In addition, access to high-quality raw materials can also be a challenge for the handmade industry. Some artisans may face difficulties in finding quality materials or sourcing them locally, which can increase production costs and limit the range of products they can create.

Finally, the handmade industry faces challenges related to intellectual property and copyright protection. Artisans may find it difficult to safeguard their unique designs and intellectual property from being copied or stolen by larger companies or other artisans. This can lead to a loss of revenue and can make it challenging for artisans to sustain their businesses in the long term. Therefore, it is essential to protect and promote the handmade industry to ensure its continued growth and sustainability.

The handmade industry has the potential to capitalise on several opportunities that can drive its growth and sustainability. 

  • Growing demand for personalised and unique products: As consumers seek out products that reflect their individual style and values, handmade businesses can leverage their ability to offer customised and one-of-a-kind products to meet this demand.

  • Increasing focus on sustainability and ethical consumption practices: As consumers become more conscious of the environmental and social impact of their purchases, they are increasingly turning towards handmade products made with sustainable materials and production methods. 

  • Rise of e-commerce: Online platforms have made it easier for small businesses and individual artisans to market and sell their products to customers worldwide, without the need for significant investments in marketing or distribution.

  • Opportunity to preserve traditional crafts and cultural heritage: By supporting local artisans and traditional crafts, the handmade industry can help preserve the unique cultural identity of a region, while also providing employment opportunities for local communities.

  • Increasing emphasis on supporting small businesses and local economies presents an opportunity for the handmade industry to thrive. As consumers prioritise shopping locally and supporting small businesses, handmade businesses can establish themselves as important contributors to the local economy and community.

    The handmade industry's popularity has surged recently, owing to various consumer behaviour forces. Here are the driving practices:

    • Increased demand for unique and personalised products: Consumers seek items that match their style and values, leading to a rise in demand for handmade goods. Handmade products offer customization and personalization, unavailable in mass-produced items.

    • Growing interest in sustainable and ethical consumption practices: Consumers are aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchases, leading them to prefer handmade products made with sustainable materials and production methods. Handmade products are eco-friendly, and consumers pay a premium for goods that align with their values.

    • Valuing quality and craftsmanship: Consumers prioritise quality over quantity and pay more for well-made, durable products. Handmade products are made with greater attention to detail and craftsmanship, and consumers appreciate the skill and care involved.

    • Supporting small businesses and local communities: Consumers prefer shopping locally and supporting small businesses, and the handmade industry provides an opportunity to do so. By supporting local artisans and traditional crafts, consumers contribute to the local economy and help preserve cultural heritage.

    • Emotional connection to handmade products: Handmade products often have a personal touch and unique story that mass-produced items lack. Consumers form an emotional bond with handmade goods, recognizing the time, effort, and skill required to make them.

    • Exclusivity and scarcity: Handmade products are often produced in limited quantities, creating a sense of exclusivity and scarcity. Consumers are willing to pay more for rare and hard-to-find handmade products, appreciating the value of owning something unique.

    • Authenticity and individuality: Handmade products allow consumers to express their individuality and authenticity, often being made in small batches or one-of-a-kind. Consumers appreciate owning products that reflect their unique preferences and tastes, unavailable in mass-produced items.

    To summarise, the handmade industry thrives on consumer behaviour practices such as the desire for unique and personalised goods, interest in sustainable and ethical consumption practices, and support for small businesses and local communities. Consumers value the quality and craftsmanship of handmade products and form an emotional bond with them, appreciating their exclusivity, authenticity, and individuality.

    Why are consumers willing to pay more for handmade products?

  • Consumers are readily paying more for handmade products for the following reasons:

    • Superior quality and craftsmanship: Handmade items are crafted with greater attention to detail and skill, resulting in products that are of higher quality and durability. Consumers appreciate the care and expertise that go into creating handmade items and are willing to pay a premium for them.

    • Customization and personalization: Handmade items offer consumers the opportunity to customise and personalise their purchases, creating a product that reflects their individual style and values. This unique and personal touch is not available with mass-produced items and resonates with consumers.

    • Emotional connection: Handmade items often have a personal story and unique touch that sets them apart from mass-produced items. Consumers can form an emotional connection with these items, as they appreciate the time, effort, and skill that goes into creating them. This emotional connection adds value to the product in the eyes of the consumer.

    • Exclusivity and rarity: Handmade items are typically produced in small batches or as one-of-a-kind pieces, creating a sense of exclusivity and rarity. Consumers may be willing to pay more for handmade items that are rare and hard to find, as they appreciate the value of owning something unique.

    • Sustainability and ethical considerations: Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchases. Handmade items are often made using sustainable materials and production methods, and consumers are willing to pay more for products that align with their values and ethical considerations.

    In summary, handmade items are valued by consumers for their superior quality and craftsmanship, customization and personalization, emotional connection, exclusivity and rarity, and sustainability and ethical considerations. These factors contribute to the perceived higher value of handmade items, and consumers are willing to pay more for them.

    What is the cultural significance of handmade products and how does this impact consumer behaviour?

    Handmade products are culturally significant and can influence consumer behaviour in various ways:

    • Preservation of traditional crafts: Handmade products often represent traditional crafts that have been passed down through generations. Consumers can help preserve these crafts and support the artisans who keep them alive by purchasing handmade products.

    • Cultural identity: Handmade products can be a way for consumers to connect with their cultural heritage and identity. They may be attracted to handmade products that reflect their values and beliefs or represent their cultural roots.

    • Authenticity and uniqueness: Handmade products can offer a sense of authenticity and individuality that mass-produced products lack. Consumers may appreciate the distinctiveness and character of handmade products.

    • Artistic expression: Handmade products are often the result of skilled artisans who consider their work a form of artistic expression. Consumers may admire the creativity and artistry involved in making handmade products.

    Overall, the cultural significance of handmade products can impact consumer behaviour by fostering an appreciation for traditional crafts and artistic expression, creating a sense of connection to cultural heritage, and evoking strong emotional responses. These factors can prompt consumers to prioritise handmade products over traditional mass-produced items, even if they are more expensive.

    How do sellers and other stakeholders leverage this consumer behaviour to build and promote their handmade products?

  • Sellers and other stakeholders have several ways to take advantage of the consumer behaviour towards the handmade industry, including:

    • Developing a strong brand identity: By highlighting the cultural and unique aspects of handmade products, sellers can create a powerful brand identity that appeals to consumers who value individuality, authenticity, and sustainability. This strategy can differentiate the seller's products from mass-produced alternatives and attract customers who are willing to pay more for handmade items.

    • Collaborating with artisans and local communities: Sellers can work with artisans and local communities to produce handmade items that reflect the region's cultural heritage and traditions. By doing so, they can create a sense of exclusivity and authenticity that appeals to consumers who seek products with a unique story and personal touch.

    • Providing transparent and ethical sourcing information: Consumers are becoming more interested in the environmental and social impact of their purchases. Sellers can capitalise on this trend by offering transparent and ethical sourcing information, highlighting the sustainable materials and production methods used in their handmade products, and ensuring fair compensation for the artisans who create them. This strategy can build trust with consumers and attract those who prioritise sustainability and ethical considerations in their purchasing decisions.

    • Engaging with customers through storytelling: Handmade products often have a unique story and personal touch that mass-produced items lack. Sellers can leverage this by engaging with customers through storytelling, sharing the history and cultural significance of the products they sell, and highlighting the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who create them. This can create an emotional connection with customers, enhance the perceived value of the product, and encourage repeat purchases.

    In summary, sellers and other stakeholders can leverage consumer behaviour towards the handmade industry by emphasising the cultural significance and unique qualities of handmade products, collaborating with artisans and local communities, providing transparent and ethical sourcing information, and engaging with customers through storytelling. These strategies can help them to establish a strong brand identity, differentiate themselves from mass-produced alternatives, and attract customers who are willing to pay a premium for authentic and sustainable products.

    One example of an Indian brand that has leveraged consumer behaviour towards the handmade industry is Fabindia. Fabindia is an Indian brand that specialises in handmade clothing, accessories, and home decor made by artisans from India. The brand has built its business model around promoting and preserving traditional crafts and textiles. Fabindia has leveraged consumer behaviour by offering a wide range of handmade products that cater to various needs, providing a unique shopping experience, highlighting the cultural significance of handmade products, and engaging with local communities. Overall, Fabindia has successfully capitalised on consumer behaviour towards handmade products by offering a unique shopping experience, promoting traditional crafts, and offering high-quality handmade products.

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