Inclusion and Innovation Challenges in Handloom Clusters of Assam
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We study the dynamics of growth, innovation and inclusion in a silk handloom cluster and a silk yarn manufacturing cluster in Assam. The study is based on qualitative and quantitative data collected from 120 units in the two clusters. We observe a redistribution of production of silk handloom fabrics within and between the clusters whereby the artisans in the core areas of the cluster are increasingly specialising in premium products while subcontracting the low value handloom products to the weavers in the peripheral areas. While the reorganising of the value chain is without doubt providing weavers in the peripheral areas a foothold into the handloom market, it is happening under conditions which restrict their economic mobility due to their unequal access to policy incentives. We also note potentially stabilising role of innovation in the clusters which, though nascent and concentrated in the core areas, targets productivity improvement and reduction of drudgery in weaving activities. Our findings highlight the need for more equal distribution of policy driven incentives across space in the cluster to support not only growth and innovation but also improve the inclusion outcomes.
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