With Love, From Granny: How three generations of women are empowering over 30 artisans
For many women, the COVID-19 imposed lockdown was followed by domestic abuse. Staying at home meant taking care of family and children, as well as suffering from physical and mental trauma.
For Mira (name changed), the story was no different. With an oppressive husband and mother-in-law, she feared she would be ousted from her home. And, with no income, Mira did not know how the rest of her life would pan out.
But, a Delhi-based startup helped her find her way into financial independence. With Love, From Granny changed her life.
“I feel more confident ever since I have started working with the company. I pray that the company grows, and all of us grow and succeed together,” Mira tells SocialStory.
The artisans of WLFG
Founded in 2018, With Love, From Granny (W.L.F.G.) is a women-led social enterprise that was started by three generations of women — Asha Puri (the grandmother), Neeru Sondhi (Asha’s daughter), and Kritika Sondhi (Asha’s granddaughter).
The Delhi-NCR-based startup is involved in producing and selling hand knit, crochet, and Macramé products. The startup — bootstrapped with Rs 3.3 lakh — was launched with the idea to promote and revive knitting — an underrated and underpaid skill. It has now diversified into related product lines.
With Love, From Granny is a team of over 30 full-time and part-time artisans from Delhi-NCR, which delivers products across India through the D2C channel — its website and Instagram page.
“I think knitting and stitching are essential skills that every individual should learn, whether they ultimately practise it or not,” says Asha Puri, the Chief Mentor and the ‘Granny’ behind the brand.
How it all began
“My grandmother has been knitting for about five decades now. To overcome a very bad time in my life, I asked my Nani (grandmother) to teach me the art as well,” says Kritika, Founder and CEO of the startup. Her mother Neeru is the COO of W.L.F.G.
Kritika began knitting with her grandmother only to realise that it is more laborious than it looks. Moreover, designing knitwear was another task in itself.
After experiencing the challenges, she was surprised to see her grandmother giving away these knitted items for free.
Kritika decided to share her grandmother’s work on her Instagram page with the caption, saying, “I am being spoilt by my Nani.” And, in came the demand.
Kritika got several messages from her friends, asking her how they could get it. That’s when it struck her that people wanted to access such handmade items. She decided to bridge this gap and sell these products online.
However, Asha was unsure of her work. To help her come to a decision, Kritika posted more pictures of her other products, including scarves, and within two hours, a couple of her scarves got sold. Thus, With Love, From Granny started.
On the other hand, Kritika’s mother, Neeru, helped spread the word among her friends and looped in a majority of the customers.
“Even though it was our combined effort, we ultimately wanted it to grow under Nani’s name. It was a passion project for us,” Kritika admits.
Spreading granny’s love
Through the startup, Kritika wanted to help other women, who didn’t have any recreational activities for themselves.
But, the idea didn’t pan out at the time as Asha went back to the US. While Kritika and Neeru got back to their usual work, Asha kept knitting items.
However, in 2020, Kritika lost her job after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and she decided to go back to knitting. She learnt how to design other products, making good use of the lockdown.
“I wanted to list our products on Etsy. So, irrespective of whether Nani is in India or the US, she was not dependent on me for marketing. But it couldn't be done because of the pandemic,” Kritika says.
W.L.F.G. products range from apparels like scarves and sweaters to gadget accessories, fashion accessories, amigurumi dolls, and other home and décor products like coasters, wall hangings, etc., priced at an average of Rs 500.
The trio also focussed on summer clothing so that sales did not become seasonal.
Kritika with the artisans
Sometime in July, she shared their story on ‘Humans of Bombay’ to get her grandmother some recognition as growing the business was not on the pipeline. However, once the story was shared, orders began flowing in again.
The startup received about 100 product orders within three days. That’s when they realised they could scale their business and went back to the idea of getting more women on board.
From a team of two, W.L.F.G. has grown to a team of 30, including three men, one of whom is a dentist, looking for an avenue for creative expression.
“While we have people from all walks of life, we are focusing on artisans from underprivileged sectors through our initiative Project Neeshka,” claims Kritika.
In the beginning, the trio found it difficult to manage individual training, roster, payment, and photography for over 20 artisans. For this, the startup formed clusters, where each of the trained artisans teaches newcomers the processes.
“It’s liberating and empowering to earn through my efforts. I feel happy that I am not dependent on anyone,” says Sarita, a team leader for the state of Himachal Pradesh.
Knitters at work
The startup got anywhere between 100 and 150 orders each month, clocking in revenue between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh.
“Nearly 50 percent of our artisans are senior citizens, and 25 percent belong to the lower socio-economic group. We return up to 50 percent of our profit to our artists, and pay them 40-50 percent more than the market rate,” Kritika says.
“Since this won’t be enough to sustain the company for the long term, we’re hoping to get more bulk orders,” she adds.
She says that the biggest challenge was to organise the entire team, growing at a time when COVID-19 restrictions were maximum. Moreover, the startup had to build trust with other artisans and convince them that they were here to stay for good.
“I never imagined that building something from a scratch would be so exciting, that too with my mother and daughter. We have found a purpose that drives us every day,” Neeru shares.
The road ahead
At present, W.L.F.G. has reached a stage where it is moving from retail to bulk orders with a B2B model, specifically to sell internationally to see higher growth and a steady business.
“The focus for March is to reach a team of 40 people, and train them as well, and take our work outside India within the next six months through Project Neeshka,” Kritika shares.
W.L.F.G. aims to reach at least 100 artisans by the end of 2021. It also wants to regularise its orders. “While I am okay with bootstrapping the business, for now, it would be better if we could raise more funds in the days ahead,” she says.