INDIA IS TRADITIONALLY a country of artistic crafts and handicrafts.
For a long period of time these craft works in India were found to be
concentrated in specific geographical locations based upon a system of
occupational specialisation which in small segments of community created a
special art folk. Mat weavers, specialised in weaving of varieties of mats
constitute a section of such Indian art folk.
The history of mat weaving in India dates back to the Indus Valley
Civilisation. Its socio-cultural relevance can be had in ancient literature.
Records of the Medieval Period provide the first information of mat weaving
in West Bengal. Further, authorities like : Hunter (1876), O’Melley (1911),
Porter (1933), Mitra (1951) and others have highlighted the socio economic
aspects of mat industry during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Mats in India are of different kinds and are produced in different parts
of the country. However, the finer variety of mats, especially manufactured
from madur grass (Cyperus tegetum) is concentrated in south-eastern part of
the district of Midnapore. Weaving of mats has developed itself as an important
cottage industry in the district, offering employment to rural masses, particularly
the women and children in villages. The industry thus helps them to earn
subsistence income. The production of mats, if taken together, accounts for
Rs 6 to 7 crores in the aggregate annual income of the district.
In spite of such positive aspects, no systematic and scientific study has
yet been attempted on the industry. Endeavour has, therefore, been made for
a systematic study into the different aspects of mat industry in the district
of Midnapore. An independent primary survey has been conducted with a
view to studying the general features of the industry, its organisational and
capital structure, aspects of employment and output, marketing network and
also the cost-price structure. Attempts have also been made to provide some
recommendations in the form of suggestions which can help the industry to
overcome its present problems and finally to attain the standard level of
However, just one comprehensive study cannot be sufficient to fill the
gaps in knowledge about the industry which is of very ancient in origin and
is relevant even today for rural economic development. The present study is
restricted to the economic analysis of a sample of 303 mat weaving units
drawn scientifically on the basis of ‘Stratified Multi-Stage Sampling’. Since
the present study is first of its kind, further research on other dimensions of
the industry deserves proper attention. The present study may provide basis
for further research. It appeared in the process of the present study that an
indepth interdisciplinary study of the industry may be highly rewarding.
Methodology and Sample Design
Essentially, the study is explorative in nature and based on primary data
collected through field investigation. The technique of ‘Multi-Stage Random
Sampling’ has been adopted for the purpose of sample selection. Initially
from the 220 mat producing villages of police station Sabang, 35 have been
selected as sample villages after two stage stratifications. Thereafter, from
each selected single and double mat producing sample village, 10 per cent
of the mat weaving households subject to a minimum of 5, have been selected
as sample units on random basis. However, for masland producing units,
complete enumeration has been made. Thus, altogether a total number of 303
sample mat weaving units have been selected for intensive study. Data have
been collected through personal contact from sample units. Analysis of data
has been made with the help of manually operated calculators. The time
period covered by the study extends for a period of two years from 1988-89
Salient Features of Mat Industry
Information collected from field survey reveals that mat industry in the
district of Midnapore typically represents the nature of a household industry.
Production by the units is run in a household environment with the active
participation of household members. As such, the units in general are tiny in
size. In terms of number of looms possessed, it is seen that nearly 86 per cent
of the sample units are having one loom, while 14 per cent of the units
operate with double looms. In terms of the number of artisans employed and
annual value of output also, the mat weaving units by and large are smaller
Weaving operations of the units are carried on within the dwelling premises
of the weavers. For all the sample units studied, work place is found to be
attached to the dwelling place of the artisans. In fact, poor resource capacity
and engagement of family workers, particularly the women and children in
productive activities do not require a separate work place.
In terms of duration of work, sample units have been classified into
seasonal and perennial units. Data shows that 63.7 per cent of sample units
are perennial in nature and the rest 36.3 per cent are seasonal. This indicates
that majority of the mat weaving units carry on their operations almost
throughout the year.
Study as to ownership pattern reveals that the industry runs absolutely
under individual ownership. Existence of ‘co-operative units’ or ‘joint owned
units’ is not evident. Inheritance is the general mode of acquisition of units.
Of the total sample as many as 76 per cent of units are inherited and 24 per
cent have been started afresh. Among the newly started, 18 per cent have
emerged as separate units for family fragmentation and the rest 6 per cent,
in reality, are completely new endeavour. Before undertaking this endeavour
most of them were daily labourers. Possibility of financial support from
Governments and other institutions have encouraged them to undertake this
The traditional mat weavers are Baities by caste. But it is found from
the study that of sample size of 303 units, only one unit belonged to Baiti
caste. The traditional cultivators, i.e., Mahishyas, at present are the dominating
caste in natural mat industry. Thus, traditional caste nexus in mat weaving
is already disturbed and the industry at present conforms to the class structure
rather than caste structure of society.
Production process of mat manufacturing is traditional and involves a
number of labour intensive activities. The whole process of production consists
of three distinct phases : (i) pre-loom weaving, (ii) loom weaving, and (iii)
post-loom weaving. Pre-loom weaving phase consists of preparation of basic
raw-material i.e., cultivation of mat sticks, the processes of sizing and dyeing
them according to requirement. The manufacturing of finished mats through
setting the sticks by threads on loom forms the part of loom-weaving. Throughout
the whole process of mat manufacturing it is the most important and time
consuming part. On the other hand, cutting of stick edges or in cases, covering
the stick ends by coloured clothes and polishing, form the final phase of
Technology as well as tools and equipments used in mat weaving are age
old and highly labour intensive. Besides, the tools are fabricated locally and
are usually purchased from local markets. Many of the units inherit these
from their ancestors.
Organisational and Capital Structure of the Industry
From the stand point of nature of involvement, mat weaving units
are classified into three important categories of organisation like : (i) simple,
(ii) semi-composite, and (iii) composite. Lack of adequate resources to cultivate
basic raw material of their own or procuring those in bulk at early stage,
restrict the operations of simple units to loom weaving and finishing. Units
of semi-composite organisation on the other hand, collect unfinished raw
material, duly season and size them in required form before use. But the
entire processes of production right from stick cultivation to post weaving
finishing are completed by the composite units. The scope for cultivation of
raw material facilitates these units to weave mats according to their own
choice and preference. Results of field investigation reveals that, 73.6 per
cent of sample units are of composite nature, followed by simple units (17.8%)
and semi-composite units (8.6%). This distribution indicates the dominance
of composite organisation in mat weaving pursuit.
Fixed capital investment in the mat weaving units is small. Units of
simple and semi-composite organisations possess looms and some other
accessories as their fixed assets. For the composite units, fixed assets include
the value of land used in cultivation of basic materials over and above the
items of looms and accessories. The investment in fixed assets of the sample
units varies in between Rs. 385 and Rs. 18,580. Variation in the quantum of
fixed capital investment, is for the reason of variation in the constituent
items, particularly the land, the number of looms in possession and for using
a few more tools and accessories.
Stock of raw materials consisting of stock of mat sticks, stock of threads,
stock of colour and dye and stock of gum, is the lone component of working
capitals. Other likely components of stock of finished goods, semi-finished
stock, credit due to units and cash in hand or bank do not exist in the
industry. Difference in stock holding period for different items of raw materials
gives birth to differences in working capital investment in between Rs 56
and Rs 2565 among the operative units. Among the components, stock of
mat sticks is the most important and it accounts for 95.9 per cent of the total.
Distribution of sample units in working capital investment ranges, shows that
81 per cent of the units operate within an investment range of Rs. 1000.
Average investment in productive capital by the mat weaving units varies
widely from Rs. 485 for a unit in simple organisation to Rs. 6237 in composite
organisation. However, product-wise classification of such investment does
not show any significant variation. In the total capital structure fixed capital
occupies a relatively more important place compared to working capital. For
all the units fixed capital constitutes 92.5 per cent in the total productive
capital. While for units in simple and composite sectors, fixed capital is
more important, in semi-composite units working capital is dominant. Analysis
of capital structure in terms of products, indicates that in all product categories
fixed capital is predominant.
The industry suffers from paucity of funds in general. Observation from
field survey shows that 43.4 per cent of the units run their operations solely
on own resources; while 56.6 per cent have to depend on external agencies.
Dependence over external agencies ranges in between 44.5 and 59.7 per cent
among units in different organisations and 53.3 to 60.3 per cent when units
are shown in terms of product categories.
Among the sources available for borrowings, commercial banks play the
most crucial role. Loans from commercial banks constitute 59.7 per cent of
total borrowings, and those from Government agencies and co-operative societies
are 26.9 and 4.9 per cent respectively. These are not sufficient to meet the
credit needs of the units. For the reason of lower rate of interest, units in
general, try to mobilise funds from these organised sources.
In practice the private money lenders charge higher rate of interest. Yet
the weavers prefer to borrow from them because they do not insist for
sufficient security. The process of negotiation is also very simple and direct
as against complex process and requirement of securities of organised sources.
This source constitutes 4.4 per cent of the total borrowed fund. Even to meet
their short term requirement, incidence of borrowings by the units is to the
extent of 4.1 per cent from friends and relatives.
Employment and Output
Employment structure of the industry shows that production of mats are
basically run by household workers. Only in few cases, engagement of outside
labourers is evident, particularly, to complete the processes of pre-loom
weaving phase. Of the total sample of 303 units, only 6 units constituting 2.0
per cent of the total, employ hired labourers in loom weaving over and above
the services of family workers. From the study of the occupational background,
it is evident that two-thirds of the units are controlled and managed by
middle aged persons of whom a significant portion (32.4%) are illiterate.
Hence, there exists very little scope for the occupation to come out of
Among the units studied, 57.9 per cent units are seen to be primarily
dependent on mat weaving, and for the rest of the households representing
42.1 per cent of the total sample, mat weaving is the secondary source of
Classification of workers shows that women artisans are the most
predominant among the mat weavers. Even the children of families are seen
to take part in mat weaving in significant number. Results of field survey
show that employment of woman workers forms 58.1 per cent followed by
men and children to the extent of 29.3 and 12.6 per cent respectively. The
size structure of employment by the number of workers shows that the maximum
concentration of sample units is in the employment size of 1 to 4 workers.
The occupation of mat weaving being an artistic pursuit demands precision
and high level skill, particularly in weaving of exquisite maslands. The total
work force employed in sample units into skilled and unskilled workers
shows that seggregated 60.6 per cent of the workers are skilled and 39.4 per
cent are unskilled. Dominance of skilled workers is highest (85.1%) in masland
weaving units followed by double mat weaving units (63.2%), while dominance
of unskilled workers (53.3%) is evident in the single mat weaving sector.
Organisation-wise distribution of skill factor discloses that in all the
organisations, there is the dominance of skilled workers.
Both the finer quality of masland and the coarse varieties of mats, viz.,
single and double mats are produced as the principal items of production.
Product mix of the industry shows maximum concentration in single mat
weaving (55.0%), followed by double mat (30.0%) and masland (15.0%).
The output size per unit both in terms of value and volume, is very low. The
smaller size of operations as well as the use of traditional technology are
found to be the responsible factors for the low volume of output.
Variation in output size is noticed among units in different product
varieties. The monthly output size of double mat weaving sector is the
highest and this is on an average Rs. 625 per unit. Variation in monthly
output for a unit varies between Rs. 583 and Rs. 469 in response to variation
in organisations. However, concentration of units is found to be in the monthly
output value range of Rs. 200 - Rs. 600.
Capital output ratio, i.e., the amount of capital required to produce a unit
of output in the industry is Rs. 0.89. This varies with the variation of
organisations. Variation extends from 1.20 unit in composite organisation to
0.11 unit in simple organisation. The value of the ratio seems to be higher
(1.07 unit) in single mat weaving sector than that of (0.89) in masland
weaving or (0.69) double mat weaving. The reason behind such high proportion
of capital output ratios is for the lower amount of output produced by the
productive units of the industry.
The labour output ratio or productivity of labour on an average is Rs.
1788 per worker in mat industry. The ratio varies in between Rs. 2797 and
Rs. 1523. When the ratio is worked out against product varieties, the variation
ranges from Rs. 1860 to Rs. 1708. Among others, the level of skill and
competence of workers are identified as factors responsible for the variations
in labour output ratios.
Marketing Aspect of Mat Industry
Structure of marketing shows that mat products are sold to its users
through some specific channels. A multiple number of middlemen play their
respective roles in these distributive channels. Among the five distinct
middlemen in the market, mahajan paikars are the most influential ones.
Sales of finished mats are effected through some specialised village
markets, conventionally known as hats. There are as many as 11 such markets
in Sabang. Among them 8 markets are weekly and the 3 others are biweekly.
These markets are situated within a distance of 3 - 5 kilometers from
the mat producing units. Variation in the value of transactions is noticeable
from Rs. 1,50,000 to Rs. 5,000 in a particular market day depending on
specific advantages in one market over the other.
The process of marketing of finished mats is the traditional one. All
sales and purchases are performed in cash, be it with the direct users or with
the middlemen. However, prices of mats, on a particular market day, of
different varieties, sizes and qualities are determined by paikars. Such price
determination is influenced by users demand and seasonal fluctuations.
Customer-wise distribution of sales shows that, direct sales to users
constitute 14.3 per cent while sales to middlemen are to the extent of 85.7
per cent. Product-wise distribution of sales reveals that 35.5 per cent of
maslands are sold directly to users mostly under ‘work on order’ basis and
the major part of the other products is sold to intermediaries. Sales to
intermediaries account for 91.8 per cent for single mat and 92.4 per cent for
double mat. Among the intermediaries mahajan paikars alone purchase 48.8
per cent of total mat produced.
Unlike other industries, mat weavers do not require to incur any marketing
cost to sell their finished products.
Among the problems of marketing lack of adequate weaver-user linkage,
near absence of organised marketing support, absence of initiatives for product
diversification, inadequate programmes for demand generation are identified
as the most important ones.
Cost - Price Structure
Analysis of cost structure of the industry under the accounting concept
of cost, reveals that under fixed cost category, major cost components are
depreciation and interest on capital. Interest on capital borrowed and the
imputed value of interest on own capital taken together, form the total interest
cost. Other possible items of fixed cost are rent and insurance which have
not been considered for this purpose.
Under variable cost heads, raw materials, wages, fuel and light, repairs
and maintenance have been considered. Except the wages, all these costs
have been calculated on actual basis. However, for wages of family workers,
imputed value has been considered along with wages paid to hired labourers.
Distribution of different cost elements shows that variable cost accounts
for 90.1 per cent and the proportion of fixed cost in total cost is only 9.9 per
cent. Component-wise cost analysis shows the dominance of wage cost (60.2%)
followed by raw material cost (28.6%). Cost of fuel and light (0.4%) and
repairs and maintenance (0.9%) are too insignificant in the cost structure.
Except the imputed value of interest cost (7.4%), other fixed cost items like
depreciation (0.7%) and interest on borrowed capital (1.8%) are not of much
Variation in cost elements as per organisations shows that in composite
organisation, proportion of fixed cost is more (12.8%) than that in semicomposite
(2.4%) and simple (l.8%) organisations. Product-wise distribution
of cost elements indicates that in masland weaving units, wage cost (66.3%)
is significantly high and raw materials cost (24.6%) is considerably low. The
phenomenon conforms to the exquisite nature of masland variety.
For mat industry, ex-unit cost has been considered. Prices of mats widely
vary depending on the size, variety, quality and demand situation. Demand
pattern is again influenced by seasonal fluctuations. Since peak season price
of mats significantly varies from slack season price, average prices have
been taken for profitability calculation.
Profitability of mat weaving units has been estimated on the basis of
difference between cost and price for products, following the standard accounting
norms. Under this calculation it shows that all the sample units on an average
sustain a loss to the extent of 19.7 per cent. Variation in loss between 29.4
and 4.5 percent is noticed when units are shown as per organizations. However,
product-wise distribution of units shows that the extent of loss varies in
between 2.9 and 45.8 per cent.
As per the perception of the weavers, cost means the cost which is
usually known as ‘out of pocket’ cost. Imputed cost is never considered by
the weavers as part of cost-of their production. Accordingly, if from the cost
worked out as per accounting concept, the elements of imputed cost are
eliminated, mat weaving occupation becomes a profitable one. It is more so
because the producers can use free family labourers. Such calculation of
profit shows that the operating units in the industry can earn profits to the
extent of 62.2 per cent. Organisation-wise analysis reveals the earnings by
units in semi-composite division as much as 70.1 per cent followed by the
units, composite (63.3%) and simple (53.5%). Such profit earnings as per
product division shows that double mat producing units earn comparatively
more (67.9%) than their counter parts engaged in masland (60.2%) and
single mat weaving (58.7%). Thus, when the opportunity cost of labourers,
particularly, the women and children in the villages is zero, the industry
earns reasonable profits or surplus as is generally believed to be by the mat