Why is the World Bank Doing This?


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This question was asked ---- out of surprise, confusion, and even a little bit of suspicion --- at the launch of JIYO! --- an artisan owned brand ---- at the New Delhi Office during April 1-3. The crowds of artists, art patrons, buyers, hotel chain owners, parliamentarians, diplomats, Bank staff, and other shoppers milled about the kiosks of artists from rural areas, and many contemplated this. The answer is quite simple: from a rural poverty reduction perspective. India is home to the largest population of rural poor in the world, larger even than all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Cultural industries are the second largest employer in rural India. Cultural industries are also a US$100 billion global market. It's clear what the Bank could and should do in this area. Linking rural artists to this massive global market creates opportunities for both growth and poverty reduction, and it comes with the bonus of preserving the India's rich cultural heritage.

When people think of rural development, they mostly think of agriculture, but there is so much more to "rural" than people assume. Many of the traditional, heritage art forms --- also known as cultural industries --- have been kept alive in rural areas. Too often relegated as "quaint", these artists have been relegated to the informal sector, a poverty trap that leads many to abandon their art. JIYO! --- a JSDF-funded project in India that is linked to several rural livelihoods investment projects --- has been turning the typical view of rural arts upside down.

For 2 years JIYO! has worked to link rural artists with urban artists, designers, and marketers and bring heritage art to the contemporary stage. The result is JIYO! Creative & Cultural Industrial Pvt. Ltd., an artisan owned brand and company marketing clothing, home furnishings, media, food, and more. All products are created by rural artists and inspired by traditional arts. JIYO! is reawakening and reinvigorating the creative powers and market powers of rural and urban artists alike.

Take, for example, the case of shadow puppetry, which has a long tradition in India. The puppets are painstakingly created out of vellum (goat hide) that is dried and stretched until it is translucent. The artists bring the puppets to life by hand painting the figures of gods, heros, animals, etc. onto the vellum. When you hold them up to the light the hand-painted colors glow like stained glass, and make a show all the more special for audiences.

New media—radio, movies, television, etc.—have displaced these traditional entertainments, and put once busy artists out of business. The village of Nimalakunta in Andhra Pradesh suffered from this trend. But when a JIYO! artist found them, their lives began to change forever. K. Anjanappa, now a village artist and coordinator for JIYO!, describes it as Nimalakunta “was a diamond in the rough and JIYO! being the chisel that brought out their beauty and luster.”

What JIYO! brought was a new way of thinking. It is not about dogmatically defending tradition or replacing a traditional art form. It is about honoring traditional arts and building diverse products from the foundation they provide. Simply reviving the art of puppetry is not likely to be successful in this media rich environment, and shadow puppetry will die if the puppeteers and designers move out of the business. JIYO! is trying to help these artists find steady incomes while still using their artistic ability.

In Nimalakunta, artists still make puppets, but they also design lighting, which is the perfect medium for their art. Producing under JIYO! Home, the artists make contemporary lamps and shades that can compete with any top designer, and in some, you can still see the ancient epics of India depicted in a whole new way.

Diversification is paying dividends. Where a small puppet sells for Rs. 250 (US$ 6) in a market, a small lamp sells for Rs. 2600 (US$ 59). The prices can go as high at Rs 12,000 (US$ 270) for a floor lamp reminiscent of a space ship, which would fit into any modern setting.

So, the question should be, why aren’t we doing more?


JiYO! Improving the Lives of Rural Artisans Slideshow



Melissa Williams

Senior Rural Development Specialist

Join the Conversation

April 06, 2010

Indeed Melissa, why aren't we doing more? One inherent problem with small-artisan production is the cost of aggregation, another is how to efficiently and fairly spread overheads. The problem is only worse when those artisans are scattered in rural areas, whether occasionally clustered in villages or not.

People like the World of Good Development Organization have been working for a while on another issue, helping artisans correctly cost the value of their own efforts (http://www.worldofgood.org/our-work/projects/living-wage-project/).

At the point of aggregating and effectively marketing such products, an intermediary - or middleman - can add tremendous value. Effective marketing means developing the market, conveying market signals and trends back to the producers, helping producers build capacity, keeping margins reasonable and passing on value chain profits to the producers. Unfortunately the term "middleman" has gained negative connotations precisely because market intermediaries have been letting down the rest of the value chain too badly, for too long.

We set up Rural Returns (www.ruralreturns.org) to 1) help rural communities identify high-end products unique to them and thus able to help them gain greater income due to their inherent comparative advantage, and 2) help raise producer prices by providing price competition so that market discipline forces all intermediaries to pay out more sustainable share of value chain profits to original producers.

Naeem Akram
April 07, 2010

I thnk a similar program can play a very handy role in Pakistan. Not only for poverty reduction and creating employment opertumnities but it can also helpful in eleminating the terrorism. In cntrary with Afghanistan, people in rural Pakistan do not want to involve in terisrist activities. But the handsome payments for these activities coupled with unemployment and poverty has forced the youth of rural area (espacily in tribal areas) to involve in the terorist activities. So if better employment opertunities are provide then the terorsit will not be able to get recruitments.
So I think World bank may also start a similar program in Pakistan. And the areas of handicraft, traditional music, dances can be a key focuss for this.

April 07, 2010

Congratulations Melissa on bringing this topic to the forefront. The Bank actually has invested in cultural heritage and tourism projects, including supporting artisans and the handicraft industries mostly as components to larger infrastructure projects. In fact, we've done over $4 billion worth of investment since the 1970s. It can take alot of work upstream to get these projects off the ground as taking social, environmental and cultural issues together can be complex however in the end local economic development and job creation are very real results.

There is a long standing thematic group dedicted to this topic, Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Tourism which may be of interest to you. http://go.worldbank.org/0M7A96QFQ0

April 14, 2010

What a great idea. Congratulation! Wish we do that to a far greater extent, and in many other places in developing world.

May 11, 2010

I would recommned contacting Vinayak Ghatate ([email protected]) or Parmesh Shah ([email protected]). They are the primary contacts on the project. So glad to see interest in marketing these products.

Dr. Sandeep Kawlra
May 06, 2010

We are keen to retail such products in our Handicraft outlets and also to co-ordinate projects at the primary developmental level in rural areas. Is there a contact person at the World Bank Delhi Office who can put us on the right track?

May 15, 2010

Hi Melissa,

I must start off saying this is such a highly commendable work!! I'm very appreciative and thankful of World Bank's involvement in recognizing the rural arts of India..

I hail from Andhra Pradesh though I've been living abroad for the last 9years. I am very much interested in getting involved (not sure how to do it on an individual basis) with Jiyo movement in whatever way possible..

Is there someone locally in Hyderabad, AP who coordinates the efforts or is it done only from Delhi? I'd like to contribute to my home state's arts. I'd highly appreciate if you can guide me through.


June 28, 2010

i am working on the cultural industrial sector fro three years and got lot of resource for your jiyo project in andhra pradesh. i got the 270 villages list, where the cultural products and heritage is resisting to blow off.if you can achieve the smiles on their faces by marketing their products or implement jiyo concept, it would be great help.

June 28, 2010

i appreciate and can help you with 270 villages in andhra pradesh where the cultural industry is resisting and you can help them with your concept jiyo.i am working from three years on this.

December 14, 2010

I just received a gift of Jiyo's Andhra groundnut spice mix. The spices smell delicious and the packaging is really beautiful. I'd love to have these sold in the States.

Nachiket Mor
April 06, 2011

The challenge I have discovered in this work is that it has rarely, if ever, been able to go beyond impacting a few thousand artisans and several efforts require massive amounts of continued subsidisation. FabIndia is our most successful and long standing effort in this area and they report having touched 30,000 artisans. IFMR Trust (www.ifmr.co.in) has been working in this area for a while now with their Network Enterprise Approach and have been able make slow progress in developing a good rural tourism / bed and breakfast approach (www.rtne.co.in) with a potential for large scale impact.

In other product markets one of their projects has been to explore the potential of www.indiamart.com to "solve" the classic problem of fragmented production combined with fragmented demand. However, thus far, the success of an http://www.etsy.com/ has not yet happened.

April 05, 2011

Indeed this is commendable work though one always knew the sheer potential of the incredibly exciting work of our artists and craftsmen and hoped that on day the work will get more attention.

Some questions though remain:

1. How is the money being spent?
2. Who are the artists who are getting represented? how were they chosen among the millions? Is the process fair and non nepotic?
3. How are the art forms being chosen from among the thousands of art forms that are present in the country?
4. what kind of trining is being given to the artists?
5. how are they being enabled to run this enterprise?
6. who is looking after this enterprise now?
7. there is a danger of this unravelling unless there is a sustainability plan. what is that plan?

I have searched the net a lot, but have not found any information on the above...it might be a good idea to share the information.

Raj Jani
March 21, 2011

It's indeed heartening to see the fruits of the efforts that JIYO! teams at AHF and WB have put-in to create this unique brand and the concept of Artisans' own company. I feel proud to be associated with this project in my past and would love to see replication or rather extension of JIYO! theme across the continents/regions, where Creative and Cultural Industries are providing large-scale employment albeit on a subsistence basis. For example in Africa the craft heritage is rich and diverse but in the absence of creative initiatives like JIYO! the artisans' are generally poor and devoid of any commercial gains; often relegated to producing me-too products. I hope the bank is listening!

scale will tablet counting feature
September 02, 2013

Really great blog - although I do not know English well is a subject interests me.
In Poland we do not have such a well-developed blogs - Sorry for
the mistakes, but I have a bad English