Production is slow and costly in old method
The handloom industry in Bengaluru is witnessing a decline in sales as customers’ preference has shifted toward powerloom fabrics, which are cost-efficient.
Sarvottam, manager of Prasiddhi Silks in Shantinagar, Bengaluru, said: “The handloom sector has been affected due to the arrival of powerlooms. In handlooms earlier, two to three people used to work on one sari, but when powerlooms arrived, only one person started working on one sari as machines reduced the workload. This, in turn, increased unemployment amongst the weaver class.”
He explained that earlier they used to import silk from China, but now due to the ban on Chinese products, they procure from local markets. Earlier, they manufactured silk saris; but in the past 50 years they have shifted towards retailing.
Explaining the process of making silk threads he said: “At first the cocoons of silkworms are boiled, then the fine threads are taken out, and last they are converted into warps.”
About the decline of handloom fabrics, he said people nowadays have little patience; they don’t like to spend a lot of time on one sari. Manufacturing a sari in a handloom takes three months, while it takes only three days in a powerloom
The cost of labour is high in handlooms, so the price of handloom clothing is high. But in powerlooms the cost is less as less manpower is required, so more people opt for powerloom fabrics.
Suresh (name changed), a weaver at Taneira Stores in Indiranagar, said he has been weaving for the past 25 years, carrying forward his family tradition. He is a native of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, where the art of handloom weaving continues to flourish.
He explained that handloom fabrics last longer than powerloom fabrics. His 72-year- old father still practises the profession.
The manager of a store who wanted to remain unnamed said: “People who like handloom fabrics will always prefer handlooms. The young generation who does not even understand the difference between handloom and powerloom.”
In powerlooms, fabrics are mixed. Cotton and silk are combined with synthetic and polyester. In handlooms, the fabric is pure.
Dr S.F. Harlapur, Selection Grade Lecturer, Department of Textile Technology, Guledgud, said most weavers are now shifting to other jobs and discontinuing their family tradition of handloom weaving. They are not able to sustain their livelihood and so they are shifting to other professions. Some are taking up jobs in powerlooms. This has happened because handloom production is time-consuming. It is more work but little output.
Modern machines in powerlooms weave fine fabrics. Importantly, prices are less than handloom fabrics, so more people buy it.
Indra Sena Tadimari, owner of Lata Powerlooms in Andhra Pradesh, said most people these days prefer wearing powerloom-manufactured clothes. The demand for handloom saris is are mostly for weddings and other traditional festivities.
The starting price of a powerloom sari is Rs 2,500, whereas for handloom it is Rs 10,000. This is the reason that middle-class people opt for powerloom saris. To increase his sales, he has started promoting his business on social media.
The main reason for the decline of hand looms is the cost and the time it takes to manufacture clothing items. Power looms are fulfilling the needs of the customers at less cost, drawing more buyers.