On National Handloom Day, meet 4 startups that are empowering Indian artisans, weavers, and craftsmen
Since 2015, August 7 has been celebrated as National Handloom Day, a day to honour India’s handloom industry and the many talented weavers.
This date was chosen to commemorate the Swadeshi Movement, which was officially proclaimed on this day in 1905 at the Calcutta Town hall. The movement aimed at boycotting British products and reviving domestic products and production processes.
The first National Handloom Day was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 7 , 2015, at the Centenary Hall in Madras University, Chennai.
YourStory has curated a list of four handloom startups that aim to help handloom weavers in the country grow and scale, and also seek to promote genuine, global-quality handloom in international markets.
Husband-wife duo Dr Amol Patwari and Pallavi Mohadikar Patwari started Karagiri in Pune in July 2017.
Pallavi Mohadikar's grandfather was a weaver in Vidarbha. Her childhood was spent swathed in yarns of indigenous Indian weaves, watching him spin beautiful tussar silks from mere yarn. Her grandfather also used to weave kosa silk saris; they had two handlooms in their house in a small village called Pauni near Nagpur. In those days electricity was a big issue, but still her grandfather used to keep weaving under the dim light of an oil lamp to take care of his family of around 10 people. Inspired by his struggle and success, Pallavi decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge.
Karagiri started with a team of five weavers and now works with more than 150 weavers. The startup offers a wide collection of trendy ethnic designs ranging from Kanjivaram, Paithani, Irkal, and Bandhej, and also offers designer lehenga and anarkali. It aims to provide a complete wardrobe solution for all the ethnic-wear needs of customers. Products are priced between Rs 2,500 and Rs 30,000.
The company, which has recently started delivering in Tier II and III cities, has also expanded its digital presence across India, and is now eyeing an international clientele.
Karagiri now aims to expand its 10-member team to 50. By the end of this year, it aims to expand SKUs from 3,000 to 10,000. On the product front, it is set to launch a range of exclusive lehengas and more exclusive saree designs.
Last year, the handloom startup generated revenue of Rs 1.5 crore; it is eyeing revenue of Rs 5 crore this year.
Founded in 2018 by Suren Chowdhary and Tholi Sandhya, Inde’ Loom sells artisan-made sarees in natural fibres and soft cotton, online and offline. Apart from its own website, the startup also lists its products on online marketplace Etsy. Offline, it sells via home-based resellers, rack spaces in boutiques, and display pop-ups at trunk shows.
The startup directly works with artisans and weavers across India to train, upskill, and help them avail of government schemes such as the Yarn Supply Scheme (where weavers get access to original certified natural yarns like silk at a discounted price).
Their USP is sarees that are pure handloom and high-end designs that are handmade. Each of these sarees takes two to three months to be made, and some (made of pure organza silk and hand-painted) weigh less than 200 gm. The startup currently has a 12-member team.
The one-year-old startup claims that it is growing 30 percent month on month in revenues and sales. Its products are priced between Rs 4,500 and Rs 18,000, and the startup has listed more than 4,00 products on its website. With a user base of around 10,000, the startup claims to currently receive five to six online orders per day.
Since inception, the year-old bootstrapped startup has generated revenue of Rs 40 lakh. It is targeting revenue of Rs 2 crore in the current fiscal.
Inde’ Loom is also planning to launch four offline stores to showcase exclusive works of weavers. These will be in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.
Started in 2018 by Pratima, New Delhi-based startup Aditri (the Sanskrit name for Goddess Lakshmi) is a lifestyle ecommerce startup that sells sarees, jewellery, dupattas, and handmade art and crafts.
Aditri is social entrepreneurship brand that has its own facilities in West Bengal where it trains women from underprivileged families in the art of weaving and stitching. Once trained, these women are engaged all year around for making their products. The startup is working with a lot of women who are now able to sustain their families and contribute to the family income.
Aditri currently has 400 SKUs of sarees and silver jewellery. It also has significant traction in international markets with 60 percent business coming from the US, the UK, Canada, and Southeast Asian countries. In just a year, the startup has achieved more than Rs 50 lakh in gross revenue, with at least 30 percent operating profits. It is targeting a minimum of Rs 1 crore in gross revenue this year.
Each Aditri creation is handmade and sourced from artisans across states in India. It curates unique collections that resonate with their philosophy of keeping “real things in life alive”.
Self-funded so far, Aditri is now looking at funding of around Rs 2 crore for products expansion, technology development, online advertising, and social media engagements as well as for participating in global handloom exhibitions and forums.
Wood & Yarn
Started in 2012 by Anju Nair, Chennai-based Wood & Yarn sells artisan-made sarees and fabrics through Instagram via emails and direct messages. For offline selling, the startup has launched its own store in Chennai and also organises exhibitions.
Anju has been guided by her mother Kala Thamby, an established textile designer from Chennai with 30 years of experience. The startup has already held two solo exhibitions in Kerala; the next is planned in Mumbai this September. The startup is also working on its website, which is expected to be live soon.
Wood & Yarn has around 300 SKUs currently. With a team of 25 people including weavers, karigars, and hand dyers, the startup plans to expand across India now.
Last year, the bootstrapped startup clocked revenue of Rs 20 lakh. It is now looking to scale up rapidly and reach a turnover of Rs 5 crore in the next five years.
The startup said it planned to achieve this growth by serving the unmet demand for contemporary designs as women want to make a personal style statement rather than a fashion statement.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)