Tribal products get a booster dose from Odisha govt

Nearly 500 articles produced by tribals are on display in Tribal World on Wheels

Tribal products get a booster dose from Odisha govt

Dangaria Kandhs, one of the most primitive tribes in the country residing in Odisha, are known for their determination and will power and they were in full display during their successful struggle against the mining operations in eco-sensitive Niyamgiri hills in backward Kalahandi district that had grabbed the national and international headlines a few years ago.

They are also experts in a skill that is not known to many -- creating wonderfully stitched cotton shawls. Likewise, skills of many other tribes, especially their expertise in arts and crafts, are yet to get the attention and appreciation.

But now the Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation of Odisha Limited (TDCCOL), a state government agency, has come out with a number of out-of-the-box initiatives which may help in bringing the talent of these tribal groups to the limelight. The most prominent among them is Tribal World on Wheels, an unique mobile outlet to promote, popularise and sell tribal products at the doorsteps of the consumers. 

“This is an attempt to popularise and create awareness among the people about the wonderful products the tribals living in different Odisha districts make. This is also an effort to provide the tribal artisans and craftsmen and women the right price for their products which will encourage them to produce and earn more. Additional income would ultimately have a positive impact on their livelihood,” said Subrata Kumar Kar, TDCCOL’s general manager (marketing). The move is also aimed at preventing the tribals’ exploitation by touts and middlemen.

The corporation is already having six “fixed” outlets across the state to sell tribal products. It plans to open at least seven more outlets. However, the idea to have an outlet on wheel came when the agency realised that more should be done to popularise the tribal products and they should be taken to the people’s doorstep. And a moving vehicle is best suited to do the job. “Now we have mobile fast food joints. Even religious items are being sold in mobile outlets. Therefore, we realised if everything can be sold on wheels then why not tribal products,” said Kar.

The modus operandi is simple. A van with the “tribal world on wheels” prominently written on it will be parked in front of an apartment, a bus stand, near the railway station or some other important venue where people can have easy access to see the products and buy them. 

The agency makes a schedule a month to be precise, identifying exactly on which date and where the van will be parked. There is also an attempt by the agency to inform people through SMS about the exact location of the van. “The initiative was launched recently and the response has so far been very encouraging. We are overwhelmed by it,” said the TDCCOL official.

Currently, 500 items are on display in the van. They include tribal jewellery made of not gold but silver and lac as well as small pieces of wood and bamboo, home decors like wall hangings, tribal arts and paintings, pen stand and shawls, etc,.

The agency, which has been working for the uplift and development of tribals for more than 40 years, is now having a turnover ranging between Rs 3 crore and Rs 4 crore a year. With the latest initiative, it is hopeful of increasing its business as well as profit.

The “tribal world on wheels” is now limited to Bhubaneswar. However, there is a plan to extend the service to other places in the state. “To start with, we may extend the service to the temple town of Puri and the nearby city of Cuttack, a major business hub,” the TDCCOL official said.

Apart from introducing the mobile outlet, the agency is also planning to increase its business by taking the tribal items beyond Odisha. The corporation is already running a shop to sell tribal products in Bhubaneswar’s Biju Patnaik airport, which recently got an international tag.

Plans are afoot to open similar outlets in a few more airports in the country. The people of Bengaluru could get an opportunity soon to buy tribal products from Odisha as the airports shortlisted by the agency includes Kempegowda International Airport. “We are already having a shop in Bhubaneswar airport. And we are planning to open similar outlets in Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata airports”, said Kar.
Another interesting initiative which is being planned by the TDCCOL to popularise the tribal culture and lifestyle is a new restaurant in Bhubaneswar which will serve tribal food exclusively. The proposed eatery will be located within the premises of the government-run state tribal museum.

“The purpose behind this initiative is to provide the people, particularly non-tribals living in an urban centre like Bhuba­neswar, a taste of different kinds of tribal foods,” the corporation official said. As many as 36 tribal food items will be served to customers in the proposed restaurant, which will be first of its kind in the state, he added.

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