Let’s go Vocal for Local!

JULY 30, 2020
Source: sMITHSONIAN.COM, Amitava Chandra

It took a pandemic for us to realize the importance of promoting local talent and services — and by that, I am specifically talking about those found in the design sector, be it local furniture, local products, or just skills found around us. Had there not been a global halt with constraints on imports. would we have realized that the local artists, designers, vendors can manufacture world class products, world class designs, if given proper direction? As a society, there is a common perception that material/products imported from outside are of high quality, they are better than the locally found objects. But do you know that Taj Mahal — the world renowned architectural marvel was built using locally sourced materials. The marbles found in this structure weren’t sourced from Italy or any other country, rather it was sourced from Rajasthan — the Makrana Marble. We can find many more examples of such buildings and architectural wonders which were constructed using locally sourced materials. Though the global connection has made it easier to source products and materials from around the world, we don’t realize that while doing so it negatively impacts the vendors in our own country.

When we think of going local or buying local products, there is a common misconception that we are talking about handicraft such as traditionally carved trunks or products which have local art such as warli art all over it. Not many realize that going local doesn’t mean you are buying handicraft but it means using local talent to manufacture any kind of design. It is important to realize what going local actually is, it is opting to get products and services in your own country rather than outsourcing it. With the pandemic, the worst hit were the small business and local vendors. They faced the most setbacks. We don’t realize how one little purchase affects the market at a greater level. With each purchase, it’s not only a morale boost, but also a way to promote, a push for innovation and just creating more job opportunities.

The other day, I was on call with a friend in the US who was telling me about how there’s a market there for Made in India carpets, people absolutely love them there. I found that amusing because recently I got into a conversation where someone was bragging about how the carpets they’d imported from china are so good, better than what they find in India. Quite ironic you must say. Our handlooms, weaves are one of the most famous in the world, with even people from other countries appreciating it and actually willing to spend the high prices after having it imported from India, yet in our own country people fail to appreciate the talent, or the craft and are only behind the imported goods. We’re not saying imported goods are bad, but why not take a chance with a local craftsman or a local firm which will be easier to coordinate, they will be using local products and you will be saving on shipment costs too.

Tiles drying in Kathmandu Durbar Sqaure

Speaking from a more design and production point of view, most of the time the local vendors don’t have the agency to advertise, and finding about them gets difficult; no one wants to go that extra mile to find a local designer/manufacturer when you can order a product of your choice with a click of fingers. This is where we as designer’s step in. We can bridge this gap between a consumer and a manufacturer. Let’s say I am designing a café, for which the client wants to order the chairs from china as they believe that such products can’t be sourced within the country. Now, I as a designer can find local manufacturers who make such kind of furniture and I can use my role as a designer to convince my client to buy from that local vendor. As designers, we need to be the catalyst in helping people realize the importance of going local and change the mindset that going local is not just investing in handicrafts and traditional goods. We need to give them the assurance through our designs and curations, that our local businesses have products that offer competing prices with great quality.

The past 6 months have brought changes in our lifestyle; we have become conscious of our choices be it our daily habits or our consumer patterns, we took it all for granted. It made us realize we need to look within our own country and support our own people, before we gallivant around the world sourcing products for our perfect space. That’s what ‘Being Vocal for Local’ is, it’s not a temporary change that we need to adapt to, it is a change here to stay. When designing spaces, there is a different kind of beauty in using materials and products sourced in our own country. There is a sense of ownership. Thus, the next time you decide to redesign your space, make a conscious choice of the products you are using and the materials you are sourcing, your one little choice today is going to help a craftsman run their business tomorrow. Let’s all do our little part in this; let’s be Vocal for our Local Businesses!

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