This National Handloom Day, meet 5 startups that seek to empower weavers
Since 2015, August 7 has been celebrated as National Handloom Day. It is a day to turn the spotlight on India’s handloom industry and honour the handloom weavers of the country. August 7 was chosen to commemorate the Swadeshi Movement, which was officially proclaimed on this day in 1905 at Calcutta Town Hall.
YourStory has curated a list of five startups that aim to help handloom weavers in the country grow and scale up and promote genuine, high-quality products in international markets.
Founded in July 2017 by Pallavi Mohadikar Patwari and her husband Amol Patwari, Karagiri connects with weavers across India to sell their fabric creations on its platform.
Pune-based Karagiri works under the Thrasio-like startup unicorn Mensa Brands. It works with more than 2,500 weavers from Banaras (Uttar Pradesh), Bagalkot (Karnataka), Yeola (Maharashtra), and Dharmavaram (Tamil Nadu). It gets high-quality silk sarees made and ships them across the world, to countries including India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, UAE, and the Netherlands.
Apart from selling through its website, the startup also runs a 2,000-sq ft physical store at Koregaon Park in Pune.
Karagiri was started with an investment of Rs 3 lakh and 40 stock keeping units (SKUs). Currently it has around 15,000 SKUs on its website across different silk categories. The company has also added categories such as jewellery and sarees like Khun and Ilkal, which are not very commercialised yet.
Karagiri says it has exported products with Mensa’s technology and ecommerce understanding. Currently, exports account for 10% of its revenue share, while the remaining comes from domestic sales.
According to the company, there is a huge demand for its products from the Indian diaspora in the US.
Karigari generated a revenue of Rs 24 crore last year and is looking to achieve Rs 50 crore this year.
Priyanka Ghule Katkar started MySilkLove, an online portal for handcrafted silk sarees, in August 2020, with a desire to improve the livelihood of weavers and artisans.
The Pune-based ecommerce startup works with more than 1,500 weavers from Banaras (Uttar Pradesh), Bagalkot (Karnataka), Yeola (Maharashtra), and Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) to source silk sarees.
Currently, MySilkLove sells through its own website. It is planning to launch its products on the Myntra and Amazon ecommerce marketplaces.
MySilkLove offers more than 5000 SKUs, across nine types of silks, on a single platform. The prices range from Rs 2,500 to Rs 80,000.
Recently, MySilkLove launched designer lehengas and traditional dresses for women. This year, it plans to roll out customised dresses, lehengas and sarees.
The startup aims to expand its SKUs to around 8000.
The company offers video-based shopping, Whatsapp support, and ‘no-questions asked’ refund and exchange policies.
The startup says it has served more than 15,000 customers till now and fulfilled over 25,000 orders. The bootstrapped venture, started with personal savings, is looking to close this financial year with a revenue of Rs 6 crore.
Aditri Looms and Crafts
New Delhi-based Aditri Looms and Crafts is a lifestyle ecommerce startup started in 2018.
Aditri, a Sanskrit name for Goddess Lakshmi, sells sarees, jewellery, dupattas, and handmade arts and crafts. The startup sells products not just in India but also worldwide.
Aditri works with traditional arts and crafts, redefined and reinvented to cater to the evolving tastes of new-age customers.
“Each creation is handmade and sourced from artisans across states in India. We curate unique collections that resonate with our philosophy of keeping real things in life alive,” says Founding Partner and CEO, Bhavna Kohli.
Aditri says it has been growing at a CAGR of 55% over the past four years and will reach a turnover of Rs 2 crore in FY23.
Aditri has over 300 SKUs, across handloom sarees, handmade precious/semi-precious jewellery, and accessories. The startup works with more than 300 craftsmen, directly and indirectly, in GOI-recognised craft clusters.
Impresa offers ethnic wear for children, men and women, including Balaramapuram handloom mundu, sarees, and kurtas, as well as Ikat, block print, and cotton fabrics.
The products are available on Impresa’s own website and at a store in Calicut. The prices range from Rs 250 to Rs 20,000.
In the last ten years of operations, the startup has worked with about 300 artisans from Kerala, Bengaluru, and Chennai. Impresa has fulfilled more than 50,000 online orders so far.
“Working in the handloom is a business of patience. If you are looking to start businesses for money, handloom isn’t the sector for you,” said the founder of Impresa, Anjali Chandran, in an earlier interaction with YourStory.
A BITS Pilani graduate and a former software engineer at Wipro, Anjali became a social entrepreneur in 2012.
Anjali’s efforts in building Impresa have received global acknowledgement. In 2017, Impresa was named among the ten best global social startups by Capegemini, Paris. The following year, she was invited, as an Indian delegate, to the US state department’s premier professional exchange programme—The International Visitor Leadership Program. Anjali was also part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women programme at NSRCEL-IIMB.
The Loom Art
This Jaipur-based startup creates clothes that are “at the intersection of art, handloom, and sustainability”. It aims to revive old and dying craft techniques and make clothes that last a lifetime.
The Loom Art was started in 2017 by Aarushi Kilawat, who was keen to propagate slow fashion and provide value to consumers and producers. The startup works with local artisans and ecofriendly materials to preserve crafts and the environment.
“The art in The Loom Art stands for the core hand embroideries that we do. We mainly work with Kantha and Sujini. My idea of design is that it’s a mode of communication where you can narrate stories. These crafts have stories attached to them,” said Aarushi, in an earlier interaction with YourStory.
Kantha is a centuries-old traditional embroidery form that evolved from the thrift of rural women in Bengal. The art of Sujini comes from Bihar and can be traced to soft, embroidered quilts made for new-borns in the 18th century.
The startup works with over 20 clusters of craftsmen based in different parts of the country. Each cluster has approximately eight weavers.
The startup’s offerings are available online via its website and on fashion marketplaces such as Aza Fashions, Pernia’s Pop-up Shop, Ogaan, Tata Cliq, and Nykaa. The company also does pop-ups.
The Loom Art collections are available through Ounass in the UAE, Omi Na-Na in the UK, Rue Saint Paul and The Klazet in the US, and Ammarah Collective in Canada.
Aarushi started the company with a loan of Rs 25 lakh from Bank of Baroda, under a scheme for women entrepreneurs. She began with a team of four people, including a tailor, an embroiderer, and a master. She took another loan of Rs 25 lakh in 2020 to scale up the company.