As part of age-old tradition, 'diyas' or oil lamps made of clay, light up millions of homes in India on Diwali. The demand for these ceramic wonders has also taken the COVID-19 hit this year. Many local potters and ceramicists have taken to online platforms to sell their ware, to expand their markets to newer buyers and keep afloat in unprecedented times.
Vikram, who sells at the market near Santacruz station in Mumbai notes that while Diwali is coming, unlike other years, this year has been low for business as markets are deserted. "Earlier the demand used to be much higher during festivals, marriages, and in temples, but due to Coronavirus, business is not the same as it used to be." He, and over 200 potters like him across India, are selling on online grocery platform Grofers, under its 'Ek Diye Se Do Ghar Roshan' initiative, that has created a special store for potter products on its platform and is absorbing the cost of delivery so all contributions can go to the local potters.
A Delhi-based potter Abdul, who also sells with the grocery retailer, told IANSlife: "The demand for diyas has not been the same this year due to COVID-19. We don't foresee much presence in the market during Diwali as people are not stepping out. Selling on online companies such as Grofers has been a great support to us this Diwali."
Sellers on yet another platform, Etsy, which is an online marketplace for traditional, handmade and unique products, say that going online with their offerings has helped broaden the customer base and helped their business in these trying times.
Ginni Suri, who sells under the shop name 'ToucanByGinni' on Etsy shares her story: "So for a long time, I had been struggling with the idea to go online with my products. But the pandemic this year made it almost imperative for me to the leap and go online. The two things that I did was firstly have a website and secondly an Etsy shop. For years I have only been catering to clients from my city but by entering the online market, the idea of interacting and eventually supplying to other domestic and international cities sunk in. With this also came the challenge of packaging and shipping. Now that's one road most potters dread to walk on. But with challenges are also new learnings. Last few months have been spent learning and honing the art of packaging and shipping and now I can maybe do a whole online episode on it. This is what the online market teaches you. I interact with clients from the Netherlands, Canada, Texas etc without the slightest anxiety of shipping and delivery. I would also like to mention that platforms like Etsy have made it possible for a potter working out of a small home studio in Delhi to showcase her work to clients from across the globe. Every artist has her or his signature style and to get a platform where you can showcase your work to not just the domestic but also international art-loving community empowers you in a lot of ways."
Himachal Pradesh-based sellers Elodie Alexandre and Reyaz Badaruddin, who sell under the shop name 'atelierlalmitti' on Etsy, agree that e-commerce platforms help traditional products gain visibility and popularity over the offline market.
"They present the products in a very attractive manner (provided the sellers make the effort to take clean photographs) - which gives products a new context to be envisaged and the possibility of rediscovery. One more advantage is that it also cuts away the bargaining so it's very clear what a product costs and no one feels cheated. It's more respectful of the artisan's work, and the buyer doesn't feel cheated. Digital platforms helped us because everything shifted to online. Before the pandemic for instance we only sold through retail shops. Now we mostly sell online through Etsy and it helps to connect to our customers, get feedback, and be in control of our stock. It has changed the way we work. Now it's less about producing stock, it's about making exactly what we want and what our customers are looking for. There is more discussion and feedback directly to customers. Selling online on Etsy helps us shape our identity. It forces us to think about what we really want to do," they share.