This 23-year-old third-generation woman entrepreneur aims to uplift karigars with her clothing brand
Born into a family of entrepreneurs, Vishakha Sethi has been working since the age of 17. Her family has been in the garment industry for generations with her father, Heman Sethi, independently managing R Sethi & Sons since he was 15 years old.
Passionate about textiles and enthusiastic about Indian techniques, it was a given that Vishakha took the path towards entrepreneurship after she completed her graduation from Swiss Business School (SBS).
Vishakha says being part of the industry, she felt personally responsible to uphold traditional skills and designs.
“Growing up, I have seen many techniques in practice, and honestly, it’s the most beautiful sight to see these designs come to life. Unfortunately, I have also seen the shift from these traditional techniques to mass production techniques to be price conscious. These techniques are now viewed as luxury, high-end, and costly, but this idea is completely false,” she explains.
Bringing back traditional techniques
Vishakha says karigars earn a bare minimum for these techniques and the brand ends up keeping huge margins. This prompted her to start Shrutkirti, a clothing brand to bring back traditional Indian techniques in contemporary fashion.
Her vision has always been to uplift hand artisans and shift the focus from machine to hand embroidery and power looms to handlooms, to create pure organic fabrics that are rare today and promote traditional Indian techniques.
The brand also works on a social construct.
“Shrutkirti, which literally means ‘one whose fame is worldwide’, also stands for empowering women and karigars. As a brand belonging to the modern generation, we feel we are directly accountable to the state of women and underpaid or unemployed skilful karigars.
“We do our best to fill this void; we know it’s a small step but we think that every step has the potential to start a revolution. Shrutkirti stands for the revival and continuation of traditional Indian techniques,” Vishakha says.
She admits revival might take more time than anticipated, but they are committed to informing all customers about the technical aspects of these arts to pass the word around.
Women for women
Shrutkirti works with an array of people: loom owners, independent weavers, manufacturers, and traders. The focus is on making versatile garments that are very easy to style. The startup use natural dyes for traditional printing techniques like batik, block, table print, indigo, baghru, etc. The product is finished with embellishments using hand embroidery.
“We believe minimalism is the key to sophistication. We love to play with colours but our designs reek of Indian culture and traditional techniques. At the moment, we sell kurta sets and suit sets that retail at a range between Rs 1,399 and 3,999,” the founder says.
Since the brand's inception, they have served over 500 new clients and approximately 45 percent have been returning customers. Vishakha works with a team of 35.
All products are only available on the website, www.shrutkirti.in, and the brand hopes to collaborate with other marketplaces in the future.
Vishakha feels women karigars have come into their own after associating with Shrutkirti.
She recalls, “When they first walked in, they were quiet, shy, and didn’t take charge. With time, they became confident, stood up for themselves, put their ideas forward, and worked to execute them. I also think they feel safer working under a woman. I aspire to make Shrutkirti a woman-owned and run enterprise.”
The COVID-19 challenge
Vishakha’s father is the investor in her company and she says it will take time for the company to break even.
She says the biggest challenge has been the onset of COVID-19.
“Watching the idea you have worked so hard on just crumble is heartbreaking and I had to delay the launch. I waited thinking that this would pass, but as months went by I realised that I had to coexist with this problem and that is what we did.
“I launched Shrutkirti online on social media and instantly began working on a website during the lockdown. and I am so happy that I did it at that time,” she says.
Vishakha recalls that as a child she used to ask her father to write about his strengths in her slam book. She says she would like make his strengths her own: “my family, my staff, the karigars and all the people connected to my work”.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai