Last month, Nokia and DEF announced the launch of KanchiLoom, a cluster development programme to digitally empower the weaver community and connect them to technology and the marketplace in three villages within Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. The project primarily involves the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and other digital tools in critical aspects of cluster development, thereby helping to ensure sustainable livelihood creation in the clusters. The project aims to touch the lives of over 5,000 community members, including 500 handloom weavers who are known for traditional hand-woven Kanchipuram silk sarees but are exploited due to poor wages and poor market access.
The ‘KanchiLoom’ initiative was launched at an event in Chennai on November 27, 2017, amid representatives from DEF, Nokia and the Government of Tamil Nad. The project aims to develop the traditional skill-based weaver community in these three villages — Kalakatoor, KSP Nagar, Kuruvimalai — into an integrated digitally enabled cluster for socio-economic prosperity. It will enable weavers to embrace new technologies, designs, and scale-up traditional weaving methods by employing ICT tools and digital connectivity for marketing and sales.
At the heart of the programme is the Cluster Resource Centre (CRC) — an integrated digital resource center – which will allow weavers to access advanced design software, combining the traditional designs with modern sensibilities to cater to new markets. An e-Commerce portal would be set up to open access to direct market, for these weavers reducing dependence upon middle-men, improving self-reliance and, eventually impacting livelihood positively. CRC will also offer basic digital literacy, training in using advanced design software, wireless networking workshops and digital information services to the local population. It will serve as a cluster wireless network that will provide wireless broadband connectivity to schools, health centers and Anganwadi Kendra for overall development of the community.
Amit Marwah, head of Customer Marketing and Communications for Nokia India, said: “We strongly believe that digital inclusion is an important pillar for socio-economic growth. Our collaboration and support for social development programs focus on the use of technology to enable equal access to opportunities in education and training for all sections of society. The KanchiLoom project is one such endeavor to assist the weavers and entrepreneurs in the cluster to hone their skills and to use digital knowledge and connectivity to realize their full potential.”
Osama Manzar, Founder-Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation, said: “We are delighted to partner with Nokia for the overall growth of the weaver community in Kanchipuram. We believe that KanchiLoom program will truly transform the lives of the weavers by providing them with training and access to the internet and wireless connectivity. The entrepreneurs in the region will further benefit from the e-commerce portal and specific entrepreneurship training provided as part of the initiative. The program will help the community to learn about new opportunities and growth areas.”