ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Digital Empowerment and Indian Handlooms

Case-based Policy Recommendations

Mere access to the internet does not guarantee progress; end users must be equipped to draw tangible benefits. This study explores the digital access and education initiatives in the handloom clusters of India and attempts to arrive at policy interventions for the sustainable digital empowerment of workers in indigenous trades such as handlooms. In-depth case research was conducted in three project sites, at various stages of maturity, of the Digital Cluster Development Programme by the Digital Empowerment Foundation in India. The physical infrastructure of digital connectivity needs to be accompanied by vocation-specific digital interventions for connectivity to be used productively and for digital empowerment to take place. A three-pronged social policy intervention model based on access, education, and engagement involving public–private partnerships, which may substantially enhance digitalisation of indigenous business models and digital empowerment of communities engaged in such professions, is recommended.


In South Asia, the manufacture and trade of indigenous handmade textiles, or handlooms, constitute one of the largest generators of the gross domestic product (GDP) (Sikdar and Pereira 2019) and rural employment (Koulagi 2015). Handlooms form part of the cottage industry, articulate the land’s culture and history, and provide livelihoods to the marginalised. Given the wealth and complexity of its “knowledge, skills, and social relations,” the handloom sector is recognised as a potent area for sustainable socio-technological innovations such as digitalisation (Mamidipudi et al 2012: 41).

Digitalisation aids businesses by eliminating the physical barriers between suppliers, sellers, and buyers, thereby creating new services and products, expanding market reach, and making the value chain efficient (Loebbecke and Picot 2015; Rachinger et al 2019)—all crucial for the handloom business. Recent years have seen multiple interventions to digitalise the handloom business, improve profitability, and upgrade the living standards of the handloom workers (Mamidipudi 2019; Suri and Payyazhi 2019).

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Updated On : 20th Feb, 2021
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