Starting with just Rs 25,000, this woman entrepreneur’s experiment with Kota Doria fabric is now a Rs 4 Cr business

Online marketplace KotaDoriaSilk (KDS), founded by Anjali Agrawal, aims to revitalise the traditional Kota Doria fabric by giving it a contemporary twist.
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Even as she was making waves during her 12-year-long corporate career, Anjali Agrawal was often complimented for her sartorial choices. She was especially fond of wearing her favourite traditional Indian fabric Kota Doria to work.

Little did she know her love for the fabric would one day lead her on the entrepreneurial path. Eventually, she quit her job to revitalise Kota Doria and give it a digital presence on a global platform.

In 2012, Anjali launched KotaDoriaSilk (KDS), an online marketplace for sarees, salwars, dupattas, and home furnishings made from Kota Doria.

Anjali Agrwal - Founder of KotaDoriaSilk with one of her staff

Kota Doria or Kota Doriya is a lightweight fabric made of tiny woven squares (khat) handwoven on traditional pit looms in Kaithoon near Kota in Rajasthan and in some of the surrounding villages. Kota Doriya sarees are made of pure cotton and silk, with square-like patterns. 

“Kota Doria sarees were known but many were unaware of its availability as dress material for salwars or churidars. Kota Doria is light and breezy, and in my opinion, the perfect cloth for our harsh and humid Indian summers. I could not help wondering if people would buy it more readily if I could make it accessible. That made me realise this airy fabric deserved better recognition,” she explains.

Anjali says KDS had its first customer ordering online in less than a week, all the way from Kerala.

KDS offers sarees, dresses, dupattas, kurtis, and stoles with zari, gota patti, block prints, bandhej, and leheriya designs with collections in pastel and bright colours and quirky patterns. It also features newer design styles like digital print, embroidery, phulkari, indigo, bagru, bagh, and azrakh reinventing the fabric for new age shoppers.

The company recently expanded its product line to include soft furnishings like cushion covers, sheer curtains, table covers, and mats, with hand-woven zari threads sourced from Kaithoon to taking inspiration from Madhubani art.

Empowering artisans

Based in Gurugram, Anjali is a grassroots entrepreneur, working closely with artisans and looking for different ways to innovate, differentiate, and customise her designs and fabrics. She sources materials and fabric directly from weavers.

“We grew from very few artisans to 72 craftspeople, both men and women. We have 25 looms across the country working exclusively for us,” she says.

“We brought on board a talented craftsman, who was the main breadwinner for 12 people and due to the lack of work, he was unable to keep his machines running in Delhi. I have successfully worked with him on creating a few sets of design and supported him financially since the past three years. Today, his studio is running better than ever before. He has even bought new machines to keep up with the demand from KDS alone and added 10 more workers,” adds Anjali.

Three years ago, she also started the Anjali Handloom Studio as a sister concern of KDS. The weavers’ guild, under this concern, works on crafting and retaining the authenticity of other traditional Indian fabrics like Chanderi, Ghiccha, and Tusser besides linen and cotton.

A women’s network

Anjali’s creations have also attracted attention from resellers, who further fuelled the brand’s journey across the country.

“Several women who were never part of the corporate workforce or chose to drop out over time have found their feet through KDS. Through these women, the company reaches customers in different parts of the country with minimal efforts,” she says.

KDS primarily sells in the B2B and B2C space and the group includes homemakers, shopkeepers, wholesalers, and dealers.

Anjali started her venture with Rs 25,000 and pegs the current turnover at Rs 4 crore. However, she declined to share details of expenses and other financials. As for competition, the entrepreneur believes while there are fashion brands selling the fabric, no single one is devoted to it exclusively like KDS.

“The pandemic brought all of us together as one big family, single-mindedly working towards cutting down wastage and costs. We also donated over 25,000 triple-layered cotton masks to NGOs in addition to including several pieces with each order,” she says.

Anjali reveals that KDS’ outreach has grown to over five lakh people, both offline and online.

“As part of our future plans, we would be introducing more Indian artistry through our designs and patterns such as Kalamkari, Miniature, Phad, Gond, Tanjore, and other Indian folk paintings, as well blending it with modern digital prints in Indian outfits and home furnishing. Our major plan is to launch our first brick and mortar store in South India and North India,” she says.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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