[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How actor Kritika Kamra started an Instagram store to help Chanderi weavers during the lockdown

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In this feature of 100 Emerging Women, we feature actor and entrepreneur Kritika Kamra, who started Cinnabar with her mother to help Chanderi weavers sell their dead stock during the lockdown.
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When actor Kritika Kamra visited her hometown in Madhya Pradesh during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, she saw the plight of handloom weavers in Chanderi. 

“I hail from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, which is close to Chanderi. I have always loved the architectural beauty of the place, which is so rich and vibrant. We always buy our sarees from Chanderi. But during the lockdown, the weavers’ condition was really bad. They had piles of untouched stocks of sarees, but couldn’t sell them. This meant they had no means of livelihood as well,” says Kritika in a conversation with HerStory.

The weavers at Cinnabar

Image Credit: Cinnabar Instagram page

The situation struck a chord with her and her mother. After speaking to the weavers, the mother-daughter duo decided to start Cinnabar, an Instagram store, which sells Chanderi sarees.

“We have been buying sarees directly from the weavers for years. Cinnabar is a way to empower the weavers of Chanderi and help them find a platform to earn an income and make a living. We realised that helping these weavers with money or ration for a few months wouldn’t solve the problem. It is like using a band aid instead of stitching the cut,” says Kritika.

Kritika adds that her NIFT experience helped her with getting the basic understanding of the fashion and the business. 

Bringing the weavers to Instagram 

The mother-daughter duo buy these sarees directly from the weavers and sell them online. Kritika’s mother Kumkum sources the sarees from the weavers, and takes care of all the operational work. Since there are already many sarees in stock, the duo began showcasing those on the online platform. They hired a local tailor to help make cloth bags to help pack the sarees as well. 

“We pay the weavers in cash as they want the money in their hands at the moment,” says Kritika. She adds that the sarees range from Rs 5000 to Rs 50,000. 

“Each family has one loom and four weavers. My mother travels to these villages and ties up with the weavers, who in turn connect us to other weavers in the area. Currently, since there are a lot of existing stocks and raw materials, we are commissioning those,” says Kritika. 

While the second wave was more difficult than the first, the team was able to get back on its feet and continue its associations. 

An actor and entrepreneur by chance

Kritika says that her foray into entrepreneurship with Cinnabar is as unplanned as her acting journey. 

An NIFT graduate, Kritika got into acting by ‘fluke’. “I was in college, and one morning someone said they would like me to audition, and that’s how I got into acting,” says Kritika. 

She says the pandemic has taught her gratitude. “We have learnt to not take things for granted and focus on our relationships and things that affect everyday life that we tend to overlook,” she adds. 

Advising young women, Kritika says, “Take that first step. Believe and everything else will follow. Plans are overrated, and things may not go your way. You don’t have a map every time, and sometimes you don’t have people on your side. If you have the courage to take that first step, things fall into place." 

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For more on TechSparks 2021, click here.

Applications are now open for Tech30 2021, a list of 30 most promising tech startups from India. Apply or nominate an early-stage startup to become a Tech30 2021 startup here.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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