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Aruna Ranganathan

Research Findings

How artisans set prices for products that are labors of love

February 8, 2019

“You get that satisfaction when you see your product transform from the raw wood to the final shape, like them taking the first footsteps, then getting shapes, then making their initial forays into the market, and finally, you have to sell them. It’s like holding their hands through this whole process and then giving them away.” – Artisan in Channapatna

In a recent study, I investigated how wood and lacquerware artisans set their prices in an isolated handicraft town in southern India called Channapatna. I conducted eight months of ethnographic fieldwork and an audit study where trained buyers were sent to purchase a standardized product.

I found that artisans offered certain buyers significant discounts (up to 50%) for their products. These discounts were puzzlingly offered to precisely those buyers who were willing to pay more for the products, such as foreigners.

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