In Jharkhand’s Tribal Villages, an Online Marketplace for Local Produce

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Hailing from a community of bamboo artisans in Simla village of Palojori block of Deoghar district, Mukesh Mohli specialises in making baskets and soops (bamboo pans).

The e-mart is the brainchild of Deoghar DC Manjunath Bhajantri. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

It’s a skill passed down generations, yet, for Mohli and the 34 other artisan families of the village, all belonging to different tribal communities, their craft hardly fetched them anything worthwhile. Until 2021, when they joined Deoghar Mart. An initiative of the district administration, the Deoghar Mart is an online marketplace for local artisans, shops, micro-enterprises and businessmen who are part of the multi- vendor platform.

The e-mart is the brainchild of Deoghar DC Manjunath Bhajantri, who is among the 19 winners of The Indian Express Excellence in Governance Awards for 2020 and 2021. The biennial awards celebrate the finest work done by District Magistrates, women and men considered the foot-soldiers of governance as they script change that touches the lives of countless people across the country. “The concept of Deoghar Mart widens the reach of local items at different levels and provides local self-help groups (SHG) and artisan groups a platform to explore the digital marketplace.

The online options currently available have their constraints since they involve a lot of compliance modules, which is not easy for rural and low-income setups. As a multi-brand store, Deoghar Mart not only intensifies their reach but also provides them hassle-free registration with minimum supporting documents,” says Bhajantri, adding that the administration extended “end to end” support to various businesses, including finances, training and equipment, among others.

Mohli says the initiative helped him and the other families, who have diversified from making baskets and soops to coloured baskets, vases, table lamps and shades, multipurpose holders and table tops, among others.

“The officials visited our village and supplied us with varnishing machines and bamboo cutters – these are expensive machines, we would have never been able to afford all this. They helped us display some of our products on a website called Deoghar Mart, and now we have started getting some orders. Sometimes people see our products on the website and call us directly,” Mohli said, adding that he occasionally gets called to train people from other districts in bamboo art.

More than 60 km away, in Sarwan block of Deoghar in Bhojpur village of Vishwakarma tola, Ashok Sharma, a traditional Aerosmith, is also among those whose products feature on Deoghar Mart.

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