Why Handmade is Expensive

There are these tiny variances and idiosyncrasies in each object, each of them being soldered, assembled and then finished using hands is in a way putting your energy, effort and SOUL in it.

Since the time I started posting pictures and specifications of the handmade speakers, the response from everyone has been amazing. The speakers have been featured in Designboom, Yanko, Tuvie and numerous other blogs and articles. It is a nice feeling to get appreciated for your work. And a lot of people have shown interest in buying them and it’s all too great.

After the price of the systems is shared then comes the not so encouraging response. A lot of people respond by saying that they are a bit on the expensive side and why not buy a JBL or a Creative system at halt the price. Some friends who don’t want to be rude end up saying “Let me save money to buy them”. I don’t take offence in it and I know everyone has some or the other constrains. Some times even I wonder are the systems really expensive! But then when I look at the entire process and time which has gone into arriving at the final products, the price is spot on!

This post is not only about the speakers. It is about each and every painstakingly handmade object and system.

I agree that you can buy a system from JBL or Creative at half the price but at I’m not running megafactories consuming resource at an unprecedented rate. The components being used in big manufacturers and my systems are almost same. The systems I make are not mass produced and to make a comparison between them and counter-shelf systems is just as absurd as comparing a Prius and Pagani! (I’m no way close to the attention to detail which Pagani has but still). These systems are not meant to be sold for the purpose of instant gratification. These systems are meant for people who are patient enough for things to happen and can value the hardwork and effort which has gone behind making handmade objects and ones who are going to take care of them for a long time.

When a Handmade object is made a lot goes into it. It’s just not about putting things together.

  • Cost of materials and components
  • Labour
  • Packaging
  • Overhead
  • Profit
  • For the Greater Good

When one is making handmade and made to order objects then economy of scale becomes relevant. A small setup can never compete with giants like JBL, Bose etc when it comes to Bill of Material and labour cost.

There is an entire slow movement behind the handmade object, a movement away from instant consumption and consumerism. There are these tiny variances and idiosyncrasies in each object, each of them being soldered, assembled and then finished using hands is in a way putting your energy, effort and SOUL in it. One has to learn and improve constantly, handcraftmanship is a way of life. When people see a handmade object a lot of them think that it’s just material, why so expensive? No one has seen the work, research and efforts which have gone to take the material to a functionalist object. A lot of work goes into making mass produced objects as well but something thrown out of injection molded machines can never come close to the love and affection put in a handmade object. My friend who works closely with craftsmen once said “Each object has the stories of the makers entwined within them”. The labour is not forced, it is done out of love for the entire process and the object.

When running a small setup the overheads can be huge. There is no steady monthly cheque, no rolling forecast or assembly lines at the starting of the month! A lot of things have to be managed and the setup needs to be frugal and resilient to external factors.

At the end of the day after giving something meaningful to the world one has to fill their own stomach as well.  A setup that does not make enough profit will go out of business. Also in order to improve and create new processes and objects one has to spend money, which can only be done if some money is left.

Deciding on materials and processes which don’t end up damaging the surrounding and environment is something which is critical to me. Whenever possible components and materials are sourced and processed locally. There is a larger ecosystem and ideology at work behind the speakers, I intend to work with foundations and plant trees to give back more then what is taken. And if the ideology and objects grow to a considerable amount, I would like to include the local woodworkers into the ecosystem. Some of the systems have been open sourced as well. A lot of people who cannot afford to buy them can make them on their own in a non commercial way.

My Handmade systems can never compete with the big shots and I don’t intend to contribute to the pathological consumption. My intention is to make he finest handmade audio systems. Next time you see a handmade product with a price that surprises you, hopefully this will help you understand what’s behind that price.

Encourage and support small setups during the holiday seasons and year round. They might need your love and attention!

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