Sri Lanka is richly endowed with a wealth of traditional arts and crafts. The legacy of centuries of master craftsmanship, ingenuity and inbred skills, these goods are turned out using age old techniques, tools and natural indigenous materials, mainly in the homes of craftsman, or occasionally at rural craft centers- they are essentially cottage industries. Sri Lanka’s ancient social system following its Indo-Aryan roots, assigned certain trades and pursuits to socio-occupational groups or castes; it was mainly within these divisions that traditional skills were preserved with a high degree of purity and characteristics identity.

Most traditional crafts are characterized by vigorous and bold design and vibrant colours. The range of craft is wide and fascinating and includes Brassware, Silverware, Reed, Masks, Batik textiles, Handloom, Lace, Pottery and many more. These traditional crafts or Handicrafts are one of the principle factors that conveys the cultural identity and traditions of a country. Handicraft evolved as a necessary part of daily life, thus it is accepted as a part of the traditional work of the people. As such, it reflects not only the culture of a country but also the way of life of people, their customs and heritage. Among these traditional crafts Batik has dominated the Handicraft industry.

With the history of over two thousand years Batik is one of the oldest forms of art that exist in the world, and has a global appeal due to its diversity and creative designs. Traditional Batik patterns revolve around, intricate little designs and dots, hence, the term Batik derived from an Indonesian word ‘am batik’, meaning a cloth with little dots. However in Sri Lanka, Batik is an art that goes beyond above boundary. Batik in Sri Lanka provides a wide scope of artistic freedom and creativity. It involves a lot of skill and effort and remains the only country where Batik continues to be largely handmade.

Although Batik originates from Indonesia, historical evidence suggests that Batik was also an established form of art in many countries in Central Asia, Middle East and Ancient Africa. Historians believe that the art of batik travelled through trade routes in the ancient world, reaching as far as China through the famed silk route. It is assume that the craft was introduced to Sri Lanka from Indonesia by the Dutch when they occupied the Maritime Provinces as Indonesia was also a Dutch territory at that time. In Sri Lanka the art has been absorbed into the country’s culture and has evolved with the changing seasons of her colourful past.

Although the principles of the craft and the methods employed have been borrowed from the Javanese technique of Batik making the local practice of the art has made it almost indigenous and innovative Batik style had become so elite in the mediaeval period. During the later period of British rule Batik temporarily lost its importance owing to the importation of Western textiles which acquired more prestige. But the Batik art survived along with the indigenous crafts, once again revived by Indian influence brought to bear on textile making by local artists.

In 1980s, after introduction of open economic policy to the Sri Lankan economy the local Batik industry, which was an infant industry at that time, showed a significant improvement due to the snowballing demand aroused within Sri Lankan customers and export deliveries. The spectacular growth has been due to the growing ability of cottage style craft to be practised with the minimum of resources by any amateur with even moderate entrepreneurial and artistic skills.

After a period of waning demand the sub-standard batik products seem to have lost their original appeal. However, the industry of making Batik has been declined and disappeared from society’s memory. A small remnant continued to create Batik as a cottage industry. But poor marketing, lacklustre designs and a flood of Batik products made from cheap dyes has ruined the cottage industry that was once a fledgling export market providing popular products for foreign visitors. The artistic and well made quality batiks, however, carrying brand names of recognised artist and entrepreneurs, are still in great demand because of their established quality and reputation. Today industry leaders are battling not only to keep the industry alive, but to restore it to robust health.

Therefore to carry out an industry analysis under the subject BUS 4328: Integrative Studies in Management we selected Sri Lankan Batik Industry, which is currently neglected and gradually deteriorating. Batik is a craft that can be greatly developed as a home based industry throughout the island as most areas of Sri Lanka offer adequate sunlight and favourable condition to dry the fabric. Boom of tourist industry in post war Sri Lanka once awaken the Batik industry which is currently in the declining stage of its life cycle. So we believe local batik industry still has the potential ability to be a better foreign exchange earner to the country if the government pays more attention to this sector.

This report is presenting a detailed analysis of our findings and finally the suggestion we recommend to improve the Local batik industry.

Analysis of the Batik industry

The transformation of the batik industry in Sri Lanka has been long lasting for centuries from non commercial to prospective commodities and from purposeful clothing to various derivative products. The early stage of the industry proves that the creation of batik was an elitist craft, with nobles of the Kandyan court practicing it as a hobby. It gained sufficient popularity to allow artisans to take up the craft and soon the regional banners, wall tapestries and even the Somana dress of the Kandyan nobility were designed using the Batik process. By virtue of this, Batik art was came to the hands of the common people.

As the common people embrace this art, Batik was emerged as an industry in Sri Lanka. Since it provides wide scope of artistic freedom and creativity, productions of Batik art is directed to the handicraft industry. Handicrafts are one of the principle factors that conveys the cultural identity and traditions of a country.

The industry was formed as home based cottage industry in Sri Lanka. Originally in this type of cottage industry, one artist creates the entire art from start to finish. Home based cottage business model is about producing Batik traditionally for the local market and the tourist are the target customer segment. Within this cluster, the Batik business knowledge is based on the traditional activities that survived over the years through the inheritance phenomenon across generations spurned by a mentoring process of knowledge transfer traditions.

By the time Batik art was famous and it was embedded to everyday life. In 1980 it achieved the peek and people were shifted to craft making from agricultural sector. Factories were started all over the country and people were waiting in the queues to get an employment opportunity in a Batik factory. Labour division and Specialization were introduced to these factories at that era. With this, Batik industry was developed up to medium scale enterprises.

Medium scale manufacturers are known for the expertise in Batik making technique and design creativity. In fact they make the breakthroughs in terms of designs, styles and colours. They engage in mass production to cater the local market as well as export markets.

In 1983, the tourism industry was started to decline as the civil war of Sri Lanka began. Certain other events related to civil unrest such as July riots, JVP uprising in south also prevent the tourism industry from recovering. The fall in tourist arrivals directly affected to the decline of Batik industry. On the other hand the importations of western textiles have made a significant effect on Batik production. Finally all these reasons caused to turn back the industry to cottage based industry leaving only few medium scales manufactures.

Our findings reveals that the most popular form of batik industry in Sri Lanka is core family business with home based workshops at their residence. The owners of the home industries were assisted by their family members or relatives. In addition to the cottage based manufactures; there are few key players in the Sri Lankan batik market who engaged in mass production. Among them, most of the key players entered to this industry to continue their family businesses. Therefore it’s evident that often Batik knowledge is passed through generations which led the members of the family to carry out business.

On the other hand some of the artisans had got into this path on their own preferences. This was mainly due to some of the characteristics related to the Batik art. The uniqueness of this art attracts most of artisans toward batik art. According to them this art can extend to various extents ranging from clothes to souvenirs and crafts. One of that artisans explained that for a skilled artist Batik art is like a universe, which the unrevealed portion is larger than the revealed portion. Also according to them there is no limit for this art which lead the artisans addicted to this art.

All above described artisans are scattered throughout the island. Figure 1 summarizes the registered Batik craftsman under National Craft Council (NCC) according to their district. At the end of year 2012, there were only 152 batik manufacturers registered under National Craft Council. Even though there were only few registered manufacturers, we observed that there is large number of cottage scale enterprises with small units scattered throughout the island. Thousands of batik workshops and show rooms could be seen in areas like Kadawatha, Yakkala, Imbulgoda, Kandy, Nittambuwa, Kurana, Ja-Ela, Katunayaka, Seeduwa, Negambo, Kaluthata, Ambalangoda, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Beruwala, and Mathara. Several other villages such as Koswadiya and Maravila are famous as batik villages and they are called as ‘Batik-land’.

Figure 1: List of Registered Batik Craftsman under NCC-District Wise
DistrictNo of Registered BatikDistrictNo of Registered
CraftsmanBatik Craftsman


Source: List of Registered Craftsman available at

All these manufacturers play a vital role in the market. Thus the market is a major component of an industry. Since this industry has been cater the market for long time the customer base has expanded locally and internationally. As we identified for a batik manufacturer the target market would be consist of artists who understand Batik, the young generation who are interested in 70’s way of fashion (Batik),the foreigners who like the traditional Batik, other Handicraft outlets, the sellers who are interested in Batik, Resort Hotels (interior decorations/ Employee uniforms.)Our findings shows that the major part of the current market is consist of foreign buyers.

The discussion we had with medium entrepreneurs revealed that often the market segmentation is done through age range. As their experience, 30 to 45 age range is the golden age for entrepreneurs to grow the batik market. In addition brand names such as Buddhi Batik Swanee Batik attract various customers from different bases. However as we identified there are several important needs in the market that are being either underserved or not met at all. Such needs are focus and attention to customer’s preferences should be given high priority, encourage market and customer upon realizing that batik is the cultural heritage that should be preserved and not being wear only for special occasions.

All these Batik art carry out unique artistic values. That uniqueness of the art is inherited with the techniques available to make Batik. Simply Batik is the art of decorating fabric with molten wax and the dipping it in dye, which does not penetrate the wax and so leaves behind intricate patterns, often in many colours. According to our findings there are three main batik techniques used by the artisans. They are hand-drawn batik, the Stamped batik and the Printed batik. As we identified, hand drawn batik making is the most popular method in Sri Lanka because it produces a unique design each time, even if the same design is being repeated. As we observed the process of hand drawn Batik is as follows.

The first and foremost step is to draw the motif on a fabric. Then patterns that have been illustrated should overwrite with the canting (the tool used to waxing) that has been filled with wax and even sometimes the pattern is overwritten back and forth of the fabric. This step is known as ‘Waxing’. Once the waxing is done the next step is filling the background with dot pattern. This step is not only to enrich the motive but also presents three-dimensional impression of the pattern. After the whole pattern is overwritten, then blocked the motives which is going colored different with its background. The third step is coloring, began with the soft color then gradually to the strong color. This step isn’t same with coloring with paintbrush, it is layering color, when we don’t want to mix the color, and the motive must be blocked by wax to avoid colors that absorb into the fabric This is also known as ‘Dye Bath’. The next step is fixing the color by boiling the fabric which is mix with soda in order to dissolve the wax. And then washing and drying. (Refer Appendix A for more details).

The material created by the Batik makers is used to produce distinctive products. The earliest producers used traditional motifs in Sarees, Sheets, Sarong and Beach wear which is well suited for tropical climes to attract the tourists and even local customers. The use of Batik in clothing were somewhat restricted to Kandyan style Sarees for women and loose Shirts and Sarong for men until recently. Studying market trends and customer preferences, the more enterprising businessmen later changed to western style Maxis, midis, mini dresses, designed for foreign buyers, as well as Kurutas, Kaftans, Ponchos, foreign dress styles in Batik, to offer a variety of fashionable garments and diversify the product range. But in recent years, younger generation of designers have been introducing Batik into contemporary clothing including Batik Swim wear, Beach wraps, Bridal gowns and even Denims, creating a revival in the appreciation of Batik among young Sri Lankans. Using contemporary

combination of colour, modern design and the best of cotton, silk or voile fabric, these designer creations are a part of a move by the county’s creative community to reinterpret traditional culture and make it accessible to a more contemporary Sri Lankan public.

Apart from clothes, Batik has indeed become a material for all seasons and all purposes. Batik is also now incorporated in Curtains, Wall pictures, Table cloths, Bed covers, Cushion covers and other similar kind of furnishing material. Wall hanging and large cloth hangings, tastefully designed in Batik, based on the concept of artists of repute, were considered as integral part of the interior décor of Hotels and International Halls. Two such creations which have acquired the stature of works of art are the beautiful 140- square meter ceiling at Bentota Beach Hotel and impressive pennant hangings in the atrium lobby of Colombo’s Hotel Lanka Oberoi (Thilakasiri, J., 1994).

Batik incorporates many motifs and colours, some traditional, other highly contemporary and individual. Many display vigorousness of design related to their origin. The designs in Sri Lankan Batiks are representatives of this island nation, it close link to nature and mythology. The natural beauty found on land and in the ocean are popular design inspirations, while scenes of daily life such as fisherman, rural village scene are all captured in intricate detail. More traditional designs, from religious ceremonies such as the annual ‘Esala Perahara’ in Kandy or motifs from temples and palaces are also popular. These designs are captured in everything from wall hangings and banners to cushion covers and bed spreads, using two or three colours or up to dozens of colours.

Only few raw materials are being using in the Batik making process. The fabric used for Batik must be of a high thread count or densely woven. Natural or vegetable fibre fabric such as cotton, silk and linen are more suitable for Batik products. Viscose rayon can also be used but manufactures always try to avoid synthetic fibres. Silk is one of the best fabrics for batiks because finer waxed lines can be drawn on silk than on any other fabric. Canvas, Calico or flannelette can be used only for large clear designs because it is harder to obtain a fine swift line, as the wax sinks rapidly into the cloth as it is applied.

Mainly there are two type of waxes used in Batik. They are Bees wax and Paraffin wax. Using either of two waxes purely can lead to the danger of peeling off in the dye bath. Therefore a mixture of Bees wax and Paraffin wax assures adherence. Bees wax adheres well to fabric, whereas Paraffin wax is brittle, cracking easily. Since mixture of two determines

Department of Business Administration

Batik Industry

how much crackling the design will get, the idle mixture for Batik work is 30% Bees wax to 70% Paraffin wax.

Batik dye must be a cold dye such as Napthol or a vat dye since hot water would cause the harden wax to melt in the dye bath. In addition to dyes few chemicals are also used as raw materials during dyeing process to have an exceptionally colour fast result.

The production cost is increasing, because wax which is the main raw material, a by-product of petroleum, whose prices are increasing. Other raw materials especially quality Batik dyes, used have to come from China, India or Pakistan. The heavy tax on imported dyes is another reason that gives rise to high cost of production. However according to the budget proposal 2013 a tax exemption has been granted for the import of dyes and paraffin wax by the National Craft Council with the approval of Minister of Rural Industries and Self Employment Promotion with effect from 01st January 2009. Since the tax is applicable for all the other importers, the price of batik dye and paraffin wax has been increased gradually during past few years. Our study reveals that since there are few suppliers of raw materials in the market they have a considerable bargaining power. Many manufacturers claimed that when government increases the tax of wax and dyes by few rupees, the selling prices are increased unexpectedly by traders and this situation has become unbearable for many small scale manufacturers of quality Batiks and resulted in higher prices ultimately.

All rich multicoloured Batik products always carried a heavy price tag because of the numerous times material went through the intricate time consuming dyeing procedure. For an instant, a high quality six yard three coloured cotton Batik Saree is retailed for local buyers for an amount between LKR 5,000- 7,000 and a silk Saree for an amount between LKR 10,000-30,000 depending on the design on it. Therefore High prices of quality Batiks has distant the price conscious local buyers from the industry.

As an alternative to produce a less expensive Batik to attract the customers and to survive in the industry many small scale manufactures tend to produce low quality batik products using cheap dyes and fabrics. ‘Pettah’ is a typical market area where you can find low quality Batik garments made out of poor quality fabrics and dyes at lower prices. Batik lovers does not regard these garments as Batik, for them they are just a work done by people who do not know what Batik is, because many of those garment lacks proper designs and colour combinations. However Batik garments sold at very lower prices by the wholesale

dealers in the Pettah market is a big blow to the industry which has ruined the industry that was once a fledging export market providing popular products for both local and foreign buyers. Therefore it is evident that Batik is an art which cannot be done by everyone since it requires creativity and unique artistic ability.

Batik Industry is labour intensive as well as very expensive and it requires high level of skilled labours. National Craft council’s statics reveal that around 3,000 people are directly engage in the batik field at present even though this number was around 10,000 in the 1980’s. According to our analysis it is women (72% of the total employees interviewed) who are more involved in the Sri Lankan Batik industry because women have the time and patience for art. 60% Male workers are administrative workers who do not engage in the Batik production. Even though Batik production requires a high skilled labour force most of them are unskilled labours lacking technical knowledge and competencies to engage in the process. Therefore employers have to provide on the job training to build up their competencies to the required level. Among the interviewees only 14% have gain the training through a Training Institution and 86% gained their knowledge through on the job training. This is mainly due to the unavailability of appropriate training institutions and programs. (Refer Appendix B for detailed analysis of this study results).

Training enables Batik workers to gain the skills needed to access employment and help them to become more independent in the workplace. Unavailability of proper training institutions and programs in the Sri Lankan context has become a major problem to expand the skill level of the Industry. Master craftsman Training program conducted by National Craft council (NCC) is the only Long term Batik training program available in Sri Lanka. The objective of the training programme is to introduce traditional handicrafts to younger generation to preserve it and directing the unemployed youth and maidens to self employment to ameliorate their socio economic condition (Annual Report, NCC, 2012). Batik training class under this program is conducted from 6-12 months as a full time course. Accordingly, during the year 2012, two Batik training classes have been conducted and provided systematic training for 18 apprentice craftsman in the field of Batik. Following figure shows the summary of Batik Training programs conducted under Master Craftsman program by NCC.

Figure 2: Summary of Batik Training programs conducted by NCC

No of Beneficiaries

2010 2011 2012

Source: NCC Annual Report, 2012, p. 20

In addition to the NCC, Sri Lanka Institute of Textile and Apparel (SLITA) also provide a fast track (3 days) training programme on Batik dyeing for export. SLITA is established by merging two textile institutes in 2009, with a view of providing education on textile and apparel industry to the students who are willing to engage with this industry. Since the demand for the Batik course is declining, this programme will be commenced only with the presence of five members. They said that average of 40 people was registered during 2012 for batik training course.

These two institutions are the only institutes that provide a systematic training for Batik craftsman. Since these institutions are located in Colombo, Batik manufactures especially who located in outside the Colombo, have to provide on the job training for their employees and with the experience and knowledge gained through their jobs majority of the employees leave the factory to open up their own workshops. Since it has been a practise among the Batik workers, manufactures find it difficult to retain their employees for a long time and they have to incur additional cost on training employees. As a result necessity for the training institutions both private and government is increasing at present.

Government authorities play a vital role of promoting and developing local Batik industry to strengthen the economy in front of the world market. It has established variety of ministries and councils for this purpose. Ministry of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development is the principal governing authority of Sri Lankan Batik industry. It was established in terms of the provisions published in the Extra Ordinary Gazette dated 30th April 2010 for the purpose of formulating policies, procedures and programs for the development and promotion of indigenous industries in Sri Lanka. Under the authority of this

ministry several councils had been established to facilitate the Handicraft industry and thereby Batik Industry.

National Craft Council (NCC) is the leading authority that governs the Industry. It has established for the purpose of promotion, development, fostering and preservation of handicrafts and upliftment of social and economic status of Batik craftsmen. NCC conducts training program on Batik manufacturing for the apprentices to the industry on quarterly basis. It organizes workshops and seminar series island-wide to enhance the skills of batik craftsmen’s. As well as NCC helps craftsman to select quality raw materials at low prices from the market. NCC grants loan facilities for beginners of Batik and other handicrafts manufacturing and maintaining welfare facilities for them.

National Design Center (NDC) has established under National Crafts Council with the purpose of developing indigenous craftsmen including Batik. One of its main tasks is to facilitate the batik producers with latest Batik designs and find a market for their products. NDC is aware about the newest designs which have highest demand by the local and international customers. It provides those designs at free of cost on the requisition of the producers. It delivers design training programs for market occupied producers and school leavers. It hopes to enhance the skills of producers and overcome the shortage of designers’ island wide.

Industrial development board is another government Institution which is also established under the Ministry of Tradition Industries and Small Enterprise Development with the purpose of encouraging, promoting and development of the industries in Sri Lanka. It provides knowledge on how to conduct a business, facilitate to find quality raw materials, guidance for industrial needs of producers as well as it aware the manufacturers about latest technology and helps them to adopt with them.

With a view of development and promotes the exports of Sri Lankan products, in 1979 Export Development Board (EDB) was established. They help Batik exporters by searching export markets for them; acknowledge manufacturers about the promotional campaigns, present Sri Lankan products to those campaigns and providing relevant information for the exporters.

As per the statics of EDB exporting Batik fabrics, handicrafts and other Batik related products are a best method of earning foreign currency to Sri Lanka. In past decades we could see a severe decrease of foreign income from exporting Batik due to most of the manufacturers leave the industry (See figure 5). But after the end of the war of Sri Lanka, export income from Batik gradually increases in recent past. Following figure depicts the structure of Batik export items in 2012.

Figure 3: Export of Batik Items

furnishing others

accesseries 6% 1%


wall hangers

28% cloths


Source: Sri Lanka Export Statics (2012)

Batik Garments such as Sarees & Sarongs, Table cloths, Ladies wraps, Wall hangings, Batik arts and Accessories are the key export Batik items by Sri Lanka. Export statics reveals that our main Batik destination is USA in recent past by generating an average foreign exchange income of LKR 1,194,878. In addition to USA, Sri Lankan Batik products also reached the markets like Maldives, Italy, Finland, Germany, France, China, Dubai, Japan and certain Middle East countries.

The quality of export items should be inspected in good concern because we have to compete with the countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, who present high quality goods to the market. According to the EDB, Once we had lost the market portion of Germany due to supplying the fabrics made from cheap dyes.

Batik exports gave its contribution by 15.7% for total income from export of handicrafts and souvenir items in 2009 and it had increased up to 17.2% in 2012.

Figure 4: Main Batik Export Destinations- 2012





25% Germany


France Italy

11% 12%

Source: Sri Lanka Export Statics (2012)

Income from Batik exports can be improved significantly by properly promoting Sri Lankan Batiks in the global market. Most of the people know Batik only as souvenirs or caftan products. Darshi Keerthisena, Director of ‘Buddhi Batiks’, one of the leading characters in Sri Lankan Batik industry had said that Sri Lankan Batik products had not properly marketed, but it could be turned in to higher foreign exchange earning method through strategically marketing in the world market.

Figure 5: Export Income from Batiks (2004-2012)

Export income from Batik (In USD)










2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012


Source: Sri Lanka Export Statics (2012)


Department of Business Administration

Batik Industry

Textile products have strong market potential in foreign countries in which Batik products have a significant level of demand. Sri Lankan premier manufacturers highly focused on foreign market rather than local market. Since Sri Lankan Batik products has its own unique identity, a significant level of demand come from foreigners.

Therefore Sri Lankan Government now tends to organize various exhibitions both locally and internationally for promoting and introducing Batik products and encouraging manufacturers. The National Exhibition and Trade Fair ‘Shilpa 2012’ organized by the Ministry of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development is one of the examples for such exhibition which held to motivate traditional craftsmen including Batik artisans and small and medium scale entrepreneurs.

Today industry leaders pay attention to make modernized Batik items in order to win the foreign market. Countries like India, France, Mexico, Ghana, and Poland organize exhibitions and fashion competitions frequently. Prominent Sri Lankan Batik entrepreneurs now participating for the international fashion shows and could be able to win the foreign customers heart. Confluence and fusion with different cultures would lead to enhance the creativity of our products. They promote their products through participating for these competitions and exhibitions. Innovative fashionable items such as Batik beach wraps, Batik swimming suits and robes could be able to generate and retain the customer attraction. Winners of these competitions will receive the chance to exhibit their designs to global market dealers, entering to contract with them and visit those countries for seeking newer technology, innovations etc.

But Batik designers have participated in these exhibitions by spending their own without any support from government. They have to be look out these opportunities by themselves because relevant authorities do not much interfere with them and not actively participate in these things. Therefore small players who have the talent and innovative ideas cannot be able to present their products to the world, expand their capacities and would have to depend on the large manufacturers’ hand. Participating fashion shows would also be helpful to bring our products to the world.

Sri Lankan Batik Industry faces a tough time at present. Firstly, rising prices of raw materials is a big blow to the industry. As we explained earlier, Batik production needs special dyes which are import from foreign countries. In our discussions with manufacturers,

all of them said that the price of dyes were too high and rising day by day. Quality of these dyes is too poor and no quality inspection procedures are maintained by the exporters or relevant authorities. In some periods dye sellers charge black market prices from them. They have to experience it in seasonal periods of a year such as tourism season, New Year season etc. As well as government imposed taxes on it. A small tax leads to a higher price escalation because of suppliers foxy tricks.

High competition from other countries is another challenge that hinders the local Batik industry as we have identified. In our discussion with few of them, we understood that there was threaten from Malaysian and Indonesian Batik products to Sri Lankan Batik products. A severe competition exists between and among these countries. Sri Lankan Batik designers lost the market share, since competitors products are presented with high quality and low prices.

Another problem with the local Batik Industry is, Industry structure does not match with innovations. Batik industry has always been demanded to produce a continuous innovations in terms of design or style that attract customers in and compete with other fashion industry. Demand to continually create innovations in terms of a new design is not supported by batik industry structure relying on traditional Small and medium enterprises.

On the other hand, Batik industry still does not focus on technological advancements and innovations but follows on traditional techniques. Most of the manufacturers (cottage base) have been occupying in this industry since long period and does not willing to change their procedures or adapt to new methods. On the other hand they are not economically strong enough to adapt those technological advancements because they are much cost consuming and huge capital is required. Hence these cottage base manufacturers focus on local market, they are not eager to learn about new techniques. Only a very few of medium scale manufacturers are using newer technology for their productions.

Limited supply of skilled labour is another major problem. Most of the labours enter as apprentice to the industry to grab the basic knowledge and techniques. They clear off from the manufacturers after achieving gaining skills and competencies, and start their own business. Therefore manufacturers cannot retain labors in long term basis and have to suffer from labor scarcity.

Also people who engage in this industry have less educational backgrounds. Few of them have ordinary level qualification and it’s difficult to find a person who achieve more than that. A very few of medium scale manufacturers are not relevant to this discussion who have an adequate educational foundation to conduct their businesses. Because of less educational knowledge they have to face with management difficulties, cannot market their products properly, and cannot identify the better ways to face with industry changes and less of innovations.

Finally, Sri Lankan government and its relevant authorizes have not being paid much attention towards batik industry. Sri Lankan Batik industry had been ignored since a long period but it could be turned in to good foreign exchange earning method. Government did not properly identify the importance of the industry to the Sri Lankan economy and couldn’t take considerable action to rebuild it. They did not grant financial facilities in their budgets for this industry.

While facing variety of challenges, industrial conflicts and political crashes, Batik industry has begun to reawaken in past few years after end of civil war. When comparing with late half of 1980’s, it is still in a booming stage in which many of the profiles need to be developed.

The world begins to pay attention to Sri Lanka together with the end of the war which had been destroying our country nearly thirty years. Sri Lanka is able to grab more tourists attraction because of its’ natural beauty. Figure 6 indicates the growth of tourists’ arrival to Sri Lanka in 2011 by comparing with 2009. Boom of tourists industry directly leads to awaken the Batik industry again. Foreigners are demanding Sri Lankan Batik products because of its unique nature. Most of the manufacturers predict that Batik industry will become a better industry to earn foreign currency in the future.

Figure 6: Tourist Arrivals from 2009-2011



Source: SLTDA Annual Report-2011



On the other hand young Batik designers in the industry are willing to do innovations and tend to modernize their products by matching with modern world. They present their products to the competitive fashion industry by using newer technological knowledge. In this perspective, they predict that they can compete with foreign fashion designers and leaders of apparel industry.

In our discussion with one of the prominent Batik trainer in Sri Lanka, he said that people, specially young generation were attending for his training institute at Folk Art Center for learning Batik artistry recently. He also said that this trend was continued in last few years and mainly because of the end of war. “Young people are eager to learn and they try to go beyond the tradition. They make Batik crafts rather than traditional Batik apparels. For example they paint in Batik and make arts”, said by him. He expects more trainees will come to his training institute in future as well. So he organizes his training courses with more strength and expects to introduce newer techniques to his apprentices.

Government has granted a tax exemption on imported dyes in recent budget. This will leads to encourage the Batik manufacturers further more. Government has implemented this policy under policy of development of indigenous and infant industries policy. In addition there is a growing trend of paying more attention on indigenous industries by the government. In such a situation, we hope that batik industry has a strong potential of rebuilding its lost position.


Over the past century the Indonesian art of batik making has become firmly established in Sri Lanka. By the passage of time industry deteriorate due to several reasons and people left from this industry. The Batik industry in Sri Lanka is a small scale industry which can employ individual design talent and creativity. Batik has its own specific methodology of which can create thousands of designs and styles. From the first step of drawing motif on fabric to the final step of dissolving the wax by using variety of ingredients is amazing to observe, eager to learn and you will be addicted if u do it once. Batik products are varying from garments to souvenir and furnishing items. But modern Batik manufacturers go beyond the traditions by introducing modernize Batik products such as Batik swim wear. All these innovative products have reached the local market as well as global market making USA our main export destination. Growing trend of export income from Batik can be seen in recent past which proves that industry is being rebuilt in post war Sri Lanka. Government plays a significant role in the development of Sri Lankan Batik industry by formulation policies and procedures as well as facilitating training programs to up-lift the skill level of the industry to continue it to the future. Recently, Batik industry is facing a tough time due to rising prices of raw materials, limited supply of labour, technical obsolescence, competition from other countries etc.

The development of the Batik industry in Sri Lanka has taken a slow pace all these years due to to the challengers it has had to face during the recent past. But Batik industry has shown an accelerated development along with the tourist industry of Sri Lanka after thirty years war coming to an end. Therefore we can conclude that the Batik industry of Sri Lanka would become a lucrative industry in the near future. Therefore government should pay more attention than that by taking actions to reduce the impact of above challenges and giving assistance to growth. If so we can hope that this precious artistry will be continued to the future by adding further values.


Since Batik industry is an industry which is of economical potential that can bring about great many advantages which may favourably influence in the development of the Sri Lankan economy, following recommendations are made concerning the economic potential and problems faced by the industry.

  • Promote Batik within Sri Lanka

Before try becoming a global force, we should promote it within Sri Lanka and our own should recognize this as an ingrained traditional art. Members of government and members of the community should take interest in this beautiful cultural experience and boost this impressive sector. Sri Lanka Ministry of Cultural Affairs should collaborate with other Ministries connected to the textile industry to uplift the local batik trade and develop it to standards even surpassing those seen in the industry’s golden era. So government can play a major role in making people liking Batik. For an example In Malaysia and Indonesia, 5-7 ministries are backing their batik industry. They have made batik a national product in their countries. Every week, they have a batik day where people wear batik garments.

  • Establish an association of Batik craftsman

Our findings reveal that local Batik industry is not well organized at the national level. As a result Batik designers and manufacturers have a low bargaining power in the market. Therefore we recommend establishing an association of Batik craftsman enlisting the people who are really passionate about the craft, so that they will be able to face the challenges collectively ahead of them and to negotiate with relevant authorities to favourably up-lift the socio economy condition of the craftsman.

  • Sufficient raw materials

The industry is gradually deteriorating due to the high cost and limited supply of raw materials. The question of raw material is however crucial to the large scale expansion of the industry. Therefore government should take initiative to develop policies and regulations to maintain sufficient raw material supplies at reasonable prices.


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  • Secure adequate financing

Unavailability of capital and financial credits is a major constraint in developing and expanding Sri Lankan Batik sector. Many Batik designers are dealing with innovative products and services, but do not have the monetary and other resources to expand and make a name for them. Therefore direct support to designers to shore up their finances is a must. Government should grant adequate financing through budgets to develop the industry and also we recommend initiating a micro finance programme to provide adequate finance to artisans. A proper knowledge of theses financing methods such as how to prepare and present a loan application, collateral acceptable by banks as security against a loan should also provide to them.

  • Invest in Research and development

Batik industry still does not focus on technological advancements and innovations but follows on traditional techniques. Innovations in terms of a new design is not supported by batik industry structure relying on traditional Small and medium enterprises. Therefore government should invest in R&D in collaboration with prominent entrepreneurs to support continues innovations.

  • Initiate programs to enhance technical and management skill of craftsman

Out study reveals that unavailability of training programs and low level of education has become a problem to enhance the skill level of the industry. So authorities must initiate programs and workshops to develop both management skills and technical skills of craftsman. Because lacking management skills and skills in costing and pricing could lead to losses in their operations.

  • Build partnerships with travel agents.

Batik designers, especially boutique owners could negotiate agreements with travel agents to bring tourist regularly to the Batik boutiques. So that they will be able to enjoy a constant demand throughout the year

To export successfully artisans need to be able to supply according to the quantity, quality, design, price and timing requirement of the foreign buyers. Although this is often not an easy task for small scale manufacturers, especially who may be located in rural areas far


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from the commercial centre, they can take certain steps in conjunction with government institutions and other local trade organizations that can facilitate their international marketing effort. Followings are recommendations on ways to increase Batik exports.

  • Determine Export level

Supply of batik products should be at level that are of commercial interest to importers. The types and volumes of products that are and what could be produced in the country should therefore be determined, and steps taken if necessary to increase supplies. Therefore relevant authorities should conduct a supply survey both at enterprise level and community level to obtain details on production capacity, output capacity of skilled and semi skilled artisans & etc.

  • Establish export intermediaries

Intermediaries, either government or private, could often offer the most promise for developing export of Batiks produced by artisans in rural locations. Therefore government should encourage and facilitate export intermediaries; further more government can create their own intermediaries as well. Working through trade associations is another possibility. To be effective an intermediary should have an established presence throughout the producing area; successful export experience supported by in house skills in business, export management, freight and shipping planning, up to date telecommunication and working capital to finance the production of export orders. Trade organizations and government institutes such as Chamber of commerce or Export Development Board can be effective catalysts in initiating dialogues between such associations and groups of artisans.

  • Inform foreign buyers

One key to attracting foreign buyers is to provide relevant information through international magazines, catalogues, websites and exhibitions to allow them to review the export offers of Batik suppliers effectively and efficiently.

  • Organize Special events

Other types of special promotions events could be arranged specifically for the Batik Sector. For an example Indonesia developed a successful annual promotional event out of what began as a buyer week. This event is promoted in major market as a part of national


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merchandise and commodity show. Inviting well known fashion designers to visit the country and encouraging them to use exceptional craftwork in their fashion collection is another promotional technique we recommend.

  • A marketing campaign

A market development campaign for the handicraft sector including Batik could be an effective way to make a country’s known in the target market. This sector also requires a well developed campaign such as “Visit Sri Lanka” promotional campaign launched by Tourism authority. Therefore we recommend initiating such campaign to promote the local handicraft in the global market.


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Batik Industry

Appendix A: Process of Batik Making

Batik has been both an art and craft for centuries and is part of an ancient tradition. Simply it is the art of decorating fabric with molten wax and the dipping it in dye, which does not penetrate the wax so leaves behind intricate patterns, often in many colours. Before analysing the industry it is obvious to know the process of Batik making. Therefore as the first step of our analysis we observed a process of Hand drawn Batik, to get a basic understanding about the industry. Followings are the steps of the Batik making process as we observed.

Step 1: Drawing the motifs using pencil on fabric

The chosen fabric must be first prepared. It is recommended to wash it even few times to remove any dirt. Very often fabrics are also boiled to prevent fabric shrinkage afterwards. The outline of the pattern is blocked out onto the cloth. Traditional batik designs utilize patterns handed down over the generations. It is very seldom that an artisan is so skilled that he can work from

memory and would not need to draw an outline of the pattern before applying the wax. Often designs are traced from stencils or any other method. Another method of tracing a pattern onto a cloth is by laying the cloth on a glass table that is illuminated from below which casts a shadow of the pattern onto the cloth. The shadow is then traced with a pencil.

Step 2: Apply the wax along the dawn lines

The fabric is usually stretched on a wooden frame, and a special applicator known as ‘tjant’ is used to apply melted wax. Handmade wax lines are really time consuming. This technique also requires precision and incredible patience. It is much faster to apply wax on fabric using special stamps.

Step 3: Dye Bath

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When the wax in applied and dry, the fabric can be dyed. Normally dying was done in earthenware tubs or large concrete vats. Traditionally colour is applied in two phases. The first step is to immerse the fabric in a solution of some kind of soda and few other ingredients in order to enhance absorption of colour in the next stage. The amount of time it is left in the bath determines

the hue of the colour; darker colours require longer periods or numerous immersions. The fabric is then put into a cold water bath to harden the wax. Modern batik making allows using one stage dying specimens, which considerably simplifies the process. If designer wants few shades of a certain colour on the batik, they can repeat the process of waxing and dyeing few times, always starting dying from the lightest to the darkest colours. If a marble effect is desired, the wax is intentionally cracked before being placed in the dye bath. The dye seeps into the tiny cracks that create the fine lines that are characteristic of batik.

Step 4: Reapply wax

When the desired colour has been achieved and the fabric has dried, wax is reapplied over the areas that the artisan wishes to maintain the first dye colour or another colour at a later stage in the dying process

Step 5: Boiling

The next step is to remove the wax. To do this, designers immerse batik for few moments in boiling water. There are usually some special substances mixed with the water helping to remove the wax (e.g. soda).

Step 5: Drying

The final step is to dry the Batik fabric once the wax is all removed. It is appropriate to use sunlight rather than any kind of drying procedures

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Appendix B: Workforce of the Industry

As per the study, 35 employees were selected as the total employee sample. Among them 10 employees are belonging to small scale Batik manufacturing organizations where as others are belonging to Medium scale manufacturers. The employees were subjected to the study in the questionnaire method.

Among the interviewees 25 respondents were female Batik workers where as rest were Male workers.

Figure 7: Batik workforce by gender

Male Female

Source: Survey Data

Further, as per the findings 88% female workers and 40% male workers engage in the Batik production (Total 28 workers) while others are administrative workers.

Figure 8: Classification of workforce by function




Production WorkersAdministrative workers

Source: Survey Data

Production managers, Store keepers, Accounts executives and Drivers are considered as administrative workers under this study. Among the three women administrative workers one is a production manager worked at a medium scale manufacturer.

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Furthermore, out of 28 production workers who directly engage in the Batik production process, only 4 were followed through the vocational background. All these 4 respondents were working in medium scale manufacturing organizations.

Figure 9: Method of Training

On the Job Training Vocational Training

Source: Survey Data

All These four respondents had gain the knowledge and expertise through the training programme conducted by the NCC.

According to the reason behind the selection of occupation, among the 35 employees, financial reasons were found as the most preferable reason and social acceptance as the least popular reason.

Figure 10: Reason behind the selection of occupation

Financial reason Social AcceptencePreffered

Source: Survey Data


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Ministry of Traditional Industries and Small Business Development, The list of registered craftsman from1/1/2010 to 31/10/2012 (English), [Online] available at , accessed on October 10,2013.

National Craft council (2012), Annual report

Sri Lanka Export Statics, published by Information Technology Division of Sri Lanka Export Development Board

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (2011), Annual report

Thilakasiri, J. (1994), Handcrafts of Sri Lanka, Moratuwa.


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Keller, Dale. And Keller, Patricia, (1968), Report on the Handicrafts of Ceylon, Ceylon Tourist Board, pp 25- 31.

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