The craft or handicraft sector is the largest decentralized and unorganized sector of the Indian economy. Craftspeople are the second largest employment sector in India, second only to agriculture. Handicrafts are rightly described as the craft of the people: there are twenty-three million craftspeople in India today. In India, craft is not merely an industry but a creation symbolizing the inner desire and fulfillment of the community. While handicrafts, be it metal ware, pottery, mats, wood-work or weaving, fulfill a positive need in the daily life of people, they also act as a vehicle of self-expression, and of a conscious aesthetic approach to life.
The artisan is an important factor in the equation of Indian society and culture. By performing valid and fruitful social functions for the community, they earn for themselves a certain status and position in society. S/he is the heir to the people's traditions and weaves them into his/her craft. Most craft people have learned their skills from their fathers or mothers since caste and family affiliations, rather than training or market demand, have primacy in the Indian situation.
The handicrafts sector is a home-based industry which requires minimum expenditure, infrastructure or training to set up. It uses existing skills and locally available materials. Income generation through craft does not (and this is important in a rural society) disturb the cultural and social balance of either the home or the community. Many agricultural and pastoral communities depend on their traditional craft skills as a secondary source of income in times of drought, lean harvests, floods or famine. Their skills in embroidery, weaving, basket-making are a natural means to social and financial independence.
India is one of the important suppliers of handicrafts to the world market. The Indian handicrafts industry is highly labour intensive cottage based industry and decentralized, being spread all over the country in rural and urban areas. Numerous artisans are engaged in crafts work on part-time basis. The industry provides employment to million artisans, which include a large number of women and people belonging to the poor section of the society.