Inherently the people of Manipur have had a thirst for gold jewellery and it had great importance in the princely state of Manipur since times immemorial. Jewellery had been a symbol of social status among the kings, queens, royal attendants and even the masses of Manipur.
The Greater Imphal area comprises of the twin districts Imphal West and Imphal East. These two districts happen to be two amongst the four valley districts of Manipur. The Greater Imphal area is physically surrounded by Senapati district on the North, Thoubal district on the east, Thoubal and Bishnupur districts on the south and Senapati and Bishnupur districts on the west. The Imphal West and Imphal East Districts comprise the capital city of Imphal, known for its commercial and administrative importance to the state of Manipur.
The Greater Imphal Jewellery Cluster comprises mainly of two pockets from both the districts-Malom and Kangabam Leikai with a total of 171 households representing 505 artisans. History of the cluster reveals that there were originally around 20 gold jewellery units catering to the local demand, but since the late 1970’s and early 1980s, jewellery making became the main activity for many households in the pockets of Kangabam Leikai and Malom of greater Imphal district. Today, there are units in the cluster which makes gold and non gold jewellery products, both of which are intricately and traditionally designed for various purposes including religious occasions. There are about 505 persons actually engaged in jewellery making in the cluster, out of which 345 (68 per cent) are male and 160 are female (32 per cent).
Out of the two pockets in the cluster, Kanglabam Leikai Pocket of Greater Imphal Jewellery Cluster is mainly engaged in manufacturing of traditional Manipuri jewellery which includes bridal Jewellery for Manipuri weddings. Besides that they also make “tabiz”, chain hooks, chains of different sizes and shapes etc. The busy season for bridal jewellery is from the month of October to April/May. Depending on the order, both gold and gold plated jewellery are made.
The Malom Pocket of Greater Imphal Jewellery Cluster is mainly involved in making artificial / imitation plastic gold plated jewellery for the need of the local market. The designs are often inspired randomly with inspirations from local fruit seeds, insects etc, and sometimes the designs are provided by the traders itself. The normal practice followed is that the traders give orders to the artisans, buy from them in an unfinished raw form and get the gold plating done in Mumbai. The gold plating done in the local market is not of a good quality. The traders fetch a high price after gold plating and sell the products both in local and regional market.
In the cluster Gold jewellery comprises of 58 per cent of the units and the rest 42 per cent are non gold based units. Apart from gold, the other raw materials used in the cluster include copper, brass, silver, sulphuric acid, nishadol (used for identifying metallic colour), lupa hidak (used for joining while making gold), glue, nitric acid (for refining) and kekru (indigenous fruit used as detergent).The raw materials are easily and adequately available in the local markets. In fact, supply of gold comes from Silchar, Assam & Shillong, Meghalaya while gemstones are procured from Moreh in Manipur & Jaipur in Rajasthan.
Gemstones, which come from Moreh in Manipur are sent outside the state of Manipur to places like Jaipur in Rajasthan for cutting and polishing as there is no facility whatsoever in Manipur for cutting and polishing of the same. Post cutting and polishing, these gemstones are later available in the market in Manipur as finished products to be studded in different types of jewellery.
The following are some major issues and concerns identified at the time of identifying the cluster.
- The use of traditional as well as outdated manufacturing methods, not only slows down the making process to a great extent, but the artisans have to repeat the same process again and again if they have to make a same piece of jewellery for the second time.
- The product range comprised of mainly traditional Manipuri jewellery, which primarily catered to the local market.
- Lack of systematic design intervention Imitation/artificial jewellery were usually copied from the catalogue available in the market or provided to the artisans by the traders.
- The artisans faced the problem of inadequate working capital and usually borrowed money from the family members or from the friends. There was lack of awareness on availing finance through institutional support.
- There were no standardization / certification of product and hence no quality standards. The quality of the product was only known to the concerned artisans.
- Unstable value of raw material, especially gold, in the market was also a major concern. Artisans faced high level of competition from products outside the state.
- Unstable law and order situation often hampered the smooth production.
The intervention started through awareness creation on group approach and the positive impact of working in a group. Communication was no doubt a main problem since majority of the artisans could neither understand Hindi or English. However keeping in mind the issues and challenges, the interventions in the cluster focused on the following broad areas:
Formation of SHGs and organizing bankers meet: Since the units were all household units, the working capital requirement was not very high. To facilitate credit access through the SHG mode, after initial awareness creation, the artisans were formed into SHG’s and necessary capacity building of SHG was carried out. After formation of SHG’s bankers and representatives of MFI’s like RGVN sensitized the artisans on facilities available need for opening bank accounts and the practice of contribution and saving. A total of 22 SHG’s were formed in the cluster and all the SHG’s opened their bank accounts. Simultaneously artisans were motivated and awareness on the importance of group or joint activities for uplifting their socio-economic condition was created by sharing experience of successful SHG’s from various parts of India.
In spite of all sincere attempts to facilitate credit linkage, both commercial banks and micro credit organisations hesitated from financing. This is to a large extent became a different to the progress of the cluster and affected initial enthusiasm, interest, trust of the artisans. To improve the confidence of the artisans, as implementing agency the next focus was on networking with various related government agencies and exploring the scope of convergence.
Prior to the intervention there was no or very limited access by the people to Government welfare schemes. A single agency cannot perform all the tasks.
Through the office of DC (Handicraft), a total of 150 artisans received artisan card which gave them an identity and helped them in participating in trade fairs and exhibitions. To enable the artisans improve the quality of the products, two machines- a dice machine and a polishing machine were given to the artisans through NEC gap funding support. This initiative helped the artisans not only improving the product quality but also facilitated the process of group work.
Design Intervention and Skill Development:
With a view to create new designs and make process intervention and value addition of the products, a design awareness programme and need assessment study was conducted in the cluster under the design clinic scheme of the Ministry of MSME. The new designs that were introduced through the design workshops required skill upgradation of the artisans. Small hand tools that were introduced in the cluster by the designer. To encourage artisans to adopt new design, a number of entrepreneurship cum skill development programmes were conducted in the cluster. Few selected skilled artisans were brought for an advanced training to the Gems and Jewellery Incubation Centre at Guwahati where they not only got inputs on designing and developing fusion jewellery but also acquired knowledge of gemstone cutting and polishing. Since a lot of informal trade of uncut precious and semiprecious stones happens through Moreh in Manipur and sent to Rajasthan for cutting and polishing, the artisans realized the scope of starting gemstone cutting and polishing centre in Manipur. Few of them also got the opportunity visiting Jaipur to enhance their knowledge of jewellery and gemstones.
With the adoption of new designs and technology the artisans found a very good market not only in Manipur but also in Assam. This led to increase in income both because of design diversification and better finish.
Two artisans from the cluster – Smt Bino Devi and Smt Amta Devi were given an opportunity to undergo training organized at “Shilpi Haat” Delhi, by the World Craft Council (WCC). The exposure that these two artisans got not only in termas of design input but also by interacting with artisans from various parts of the country became an eye opener for them. They got trained by both national and international jewellery experts. The artisans of the workshop were taught to make “Abhushan Ring”, an alternative jewellery designs using copper and bronze. Both the artisans after going back home introduced a completely new range of contemporary jewellery that was taught to them which got a good response from the younger generation. In order to sensitize more artisans, both Bino Devi and Anita Devi mere used as master trainers in the ESD Programme.
As the artisans started understanding the need to diversify, increase adaptability and need to work as a cohesive group, few artisans representing various segments from cluster were taken for an exposure visit to an Imitation Jewellery Industry Cluster, in Pothepalli, Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Through this visit, they understood how a large number of imitation jewellery artisans work in tandem with utilisation of heavy machines to make imitation jewellery items such as crowns, necklaces, ear rings etc. They were also particularly impressed with the utilisation of heavy machineries like wiring machine, gold plating machine and coiling and de-coiling machines in the production of imitation jewellery items. The rate of production of imitation jewellery items at the CFC for Imitation Jewellery Industry Cluster at Pothepalli, Machilipatnam was found to be very interesting and the artisans realized how slow their production process was. A fraction of the production rate could be produced by individual units back in Manipur.
After their exposure trip to Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, cluster artisans expressed their desire to work on a group basis in a Common Facility Centre (CFC) equipped with modern tools and machineries.
Marketing was a cause of concern for the cluster artisans. They were completely ignorant about the latest market trends, proper market linkage. So intervention plan was framed to address these issues. Through the design development training programme, the artisans were trained up in diversified product line and they were also facilitated in participating in various fairs. Participation in these fairs and melas helped them understand the market. Specifically the interactions and feedback received in this fairs helped the artisans to improve upon their products and also helped in breaking the fears and apprehensions that they had about the outside world. Few artisans are now getting direct orders from the retailers and one of them have been able to break from the clutches of the middlemen.
Formation of Common Facility Centre (CFC) for sustainability of the cluster
A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) was formed in the cluster with the artisans as major stakeholders who have given a commitment to mobilise support to contribute to establishment of a CFC in the cluster. Imitation or artificial jewellery products needs constant innovation and designs must be in tune with latest market trends. Hence, there is a need for constant innovation and creativity and a modern design training centre is necessary at the CFC itself. It has been proposed that the CFC may function as modern design centre for up gradation of the existing design in the cluster and for introduction of new and diversified designs.
The proposed CFC will have the following facilities.
- Design Centre
- Training Centre
- Tool Room (Common Production Centre)
- Wire Drawing Unit
- Electroplating Unit
- Testing Unit
- Raw Material Bank
- gemstone cutting and polishing centre
- electroplating machineries
CASE STUDIES OF ARTISANS
Smt.AnitA Devi being facilitated with Certificate at World Craft Council (WCC), New Delhi.
- SMT. KOIJAM ANITA DEVI OF MALOM TULIHAL, IMPHAL.
Born in 1974 in Malom Tulihal Bamon Leirak, Imphal, Ms. Kiojam Anita Devi is the first child of Late. Sanabam Achoubi and Late. Angoubi Devi. Her family depended upon making and selling of candle, and incense sticks. Her mother was also a weaver. Of the five (5) siblings in the family, Anita was the eldest and right from her childhood she helped her parents and took up a lot of responsibilities in the family. After her marriage she started to learn jewellery making as her husband is a jewellery artisan. As she helped her husband in his jewellery works in the early stages of their marriage life, she learnt different aspects of jewellery production including working with various hand tools. Although she started by assisting her husband but within a short span of time, she became a jewellery artisan and started working full time. Her product range comprises of necklaces, rings, ear-rings, bracelets, head Gear, Bangles etc.
With the implementation of cluster development programme in Greater Imphal area, she was selected to participate the Buyer Seller Meet organized at NEDFi Haat, Guwahati. Based on the sales and product range she was awarded 2nd position along with another artisan Smt. Bino Devi with her non gold jewellery items made of Kollu ( an alloy of copper and bronze). Her range of products included traditional Manipuri Necklaces, earrings, bracelets etc gained a lot of positive response in Assam. Anita’s range of gold and non gold jewellery got wide publicity through print and electronic media. Under the cluster development programme (CDP), she was trained in conceptualisation of jewellery designs at the prestigious World Craft Council (WCC) training held at New Delhi. It was an historic event for her as she was the selected few lucky trainees to be trained under the famous German designer, Taso Mattar. Participation in this training helped Anita Devi upgrade her skills and enhanced her creativity in various aspects of jewellery making and design. With the designing skills she had learned there, she is now producing new designs that are quite popular. Further she helped in grooming other jewellery artisans in Malom area of Imphal Jewellery Clusters by sharing her knowledge.
She is an active member of a local SHG containing 15 members and her group availed a loan of Rs. 1,20,000/- from UNACCO (A private financial institution) In the 2013. With the help of that loan amount she purchased jewellery raw materials and has been running her unit successfully.
The journey for a girl from a village to a successful entrepreneur has not been an easy one for Ms. Anita. It is her sheer determination and hardwork that has got her along all this way.
- SMT. BINO DEVI OF KANGABAM LEIKAI, IMPHAL.
Smt. Bino Devi is a resident of Keishampat Kangabam Leikai, Imphal and has been working as a jewellery artisan since the early stages of her life. She was born in the year 1959 in Hojai , Nagaon district of Assam and she is the fifth child of Late Karam Babuchan and Late Karam Madhabi Devi. The journey of Smt. Bino Devi as a jewellery making artisan started after her marriage with Mr. Senjam Kambirei in the year 1976, when she got inspired from her neighbours who were already into the same work.
Her product portfolio includes non gold and imitation jewellery items like traditional necklaces, rings, ear-rings, bracelets, head gear, bangles etc.
With the implementation of the soft interventions under cluster development programme (CDP) for Greater Imphal Jewellery Cluster, she has been one of the many fortunate artisans to have got the opportunity to be trained through Entrepreneurship Skill Development Programme (ESDP) on Jewellery Design and Design Clinic seminars organised at Kangabam Leikai, Imphal.
|Smt.Bino Devi being facilitated with Certificate at World Craft Council, New Delhi|
Smt. Bino Devi is also one of the two artisans from Manipur to have participated in the jewellery design training organised by the prestigious World Craft Council (WCC) in New Delhi. The WCC training was an eye opener for her as she has learnt the methodology for conceptualisation of innovative jewellery making and designing which included popular designs of Australia and Germany under the guidance of the German national Taso Mattar. She has also learned various aspects of handling jewellery making machines which are still unheard of in Manipur. Participation at the WCC training greatly helped Bino Devi as she immensely increased her conceptualisation methodology and jewellery design in various fields. With the designing skills she had learned there, she is now producing new designs which are popular in local and outside markets. She has also helped the other artisans in Kangabam leikai area by sharing from her experience. Today, she has expressed that her innovative jewellery products are even demanded by theatre artisans of Manipur.
Further, she had learnt about mechanisation of jewellery production and the importance of working in groups while on an exposure visit to the Jewellery CFC in Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. At the Buyer Seller Meet organized at NEDFi Haat, by IIE she was awarded 2nd position along with Smt. Anita Devi for her unique range of non gold jewellery products made of Kollu (an alloy of copper and bronze). She had also participated in the training programme organised at the Gems and Jewellery Incubation Centre at IIE Guwahati campus. There they were exposed and made to learn the working of various machines like Polishing Machine, Rolling Machine which used to shape the jewellery design. In 2010, she participated as an exhibitor in India International Trade Fair held at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. There her products such as Kotthabi were highly demanded. Participation of exhibitions and fairs increased her monthly income significantly.
Further as a part of the targeted interventions implemented under the cluster development programme, she got her ICICI health insurance card, and artisan card. The artisan card has given the opportunity to keep participating in exhibitions and trade fairs. Bino Devi is today a confident lady with a lot of hope and positivity and her monthly income is around Rs12,000/-
She is an active member of a local SHG containing 10 members and for the first time her group avail a loan of Rs. 50,000/- from UNACCO (A private financial institution) in the year 2010 and again in the year 2011 her group availed an amount of Rs. 1,00,000/-. With the help of that loan amounts she has been able to further expand her business.