How this woman entrepreneur used WhatsApp to keep in touch with weavers during the lockdown

By Rekha Balakrishnan
March 21, 2021, Updated on : Thu Jun 24 2021 18:18:41 GMT+0000
How this woman entrepreneur used WhatsApp to keep in touch with weavers during the lockdown
Prianka Dam Ganguli runs Chitran by Prianka, a home-based venture that curates sarees from weavers across India. She also hand-paints on sarees, and uses WhatsApp to grow her business.
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In 2009, when Prianka Dam Ganguli was advised bed rest during her pregnancy, she decided to use her time to get back to what she loved: painting. She had taken art classes in school, painted on T-shirts and other fabric while in college, but it remained a hobby.


She asked her mother for a plain Dhonekali cotton saree and began painting on it. This led to more such sarees. Family members who came to visit her were enthralled by her handiwork and asked if they could buy it from her. Two sarees were sold quickly.

Prianka

Six months after the baby was born, her husband asked her why she couldn’t channelise her creativity and do what she loved doing.


“I went out with Rs 10,000, bought a few plain cotton sarees, and began painting on them in earnest. I took a month-and-half to complete them, painting at my own pace,” she says.


A few of her relatives who came to visit her wanted to buy them all. And that’s how her business, Chitran by Prianka, was born. Apart from painting on sarees, Prianka works with weavers from different states of India to curate a wide collection of handloom sarees.


Through word of mouth and exhibitions, Prianka began building her business at a slow and steady pace. In 2014, she got on to Facebook with a dedicated page to showcase her painted sarees and her collections. By then, she had also moved from Kolkata to Gurugram.

“I work with traditional artists in traditional art like pattachitra and madhubani besides sourcing weaves like kalamkari, ikat, ilkal, kosa, paithani, and others.”

Prianka has a niche set of around 100+ customers on a WhatsApp group where she posts photos of her collections. These are customers that she met on her various travels and at exhibitions.

Using WhatsAppto buy and sell

Before the pandemic hit India, Prianka used to travel to different states to meet weavers and source her handloom sarees. But that was no longer an option after March 2020.

prianka

“WhatsApp was a boon during the nation-wide lockdown last year. I was able to communicate effectively with weavers from different states to source my sarees. They sent me photos of their collections and I remember having long, one-to-one video calls with weavers in places like Phulia, Bhagalpur, or Chhatisgarh to choose what I wanted,” she says.


“I would spend more than an hour on video call with these weavers and easily pick up stock.”


The woman entrepreneur also uses Instagram and seamlessly integrates the family of apps to work efficiently for Chitran.

People who visit her Facebook page use the number mentioned there to contact her via WhatsApp. On festive occasions like Diwali, she also used the video call feature to model the sarees to her customers. This, she says, provided a personal touch to the entire process, and an instant connect.


Prianka says her business has grown more than 5X from when she first began. And all this, with her single-handedly leading the efforts without a formal setup and working from the confines of her home.

“It has been a fulfilling journey. But there’s so much more to do. I am happy that Indian weaves and handloom sarees are getting the recognition they deserve. With sarees acquiring a new status as both casual and formal wear, I hope to further scale up my business,” Prianka says.


This story is part of a series spotlighting extraordinary, inspiring women from different walks of life for the See Us, Hear Us campaign powered by WhatsApp for International Women’s Day.

You can read more such stories from the month-long campaign here.



Edited by Teja Lele