These days it’s not just enough to buy a handloom saree off the shelves. A conscientious buyer has to tick several boxes before making that purchase — one of which is to ensure that the weaver of that elegant drape has got his/her due. A Hyderabad-based startup Inde’Loom aims to safeguard the interests of their artisans besides reviving the Indian weaves and making them more attractive for today’s women.
Founded by Sandhya Tholi and Suren Chowdhary, the 12-member startup team works directly with artisans and weavers across India and helps them sell handloom sarees online and offline. To empower the artisans and help them earn better income, Inde’Loom has come up with a ‘maker-to-market’ module, which will bridge the gap between the weavers and the buyers.
“We work with artisans and weavers across India to design better, handcrafted products for women across the globe. Along the way, we make sure that the weavers get a fair share for their hard work and are provided with safe working conditions,” says Tholi.
Tholi and Chowdhary, who are friends, were determined to work on a social impact startup. Chowdhary took a sabbatical to travel the length and breadth of India and interact with various artisans working on handloom and handicrafts in rural hinterland. In this journey, he and Tholi met more than 60 National Award-winning artisans, with whom they are working now.
“We are working closely with almost all award-winning artisans and weavers across the country. We don’t have middlemen and so pass all the extra money to weavers directly, and help them earn more profits. The startup sells artisan-made sarees in natural fibres and soft cotton both online and offline. Offline, it markets sarees through home-based resellers, rack spaces in boutiques and display pop-ups at trunk shows,” says Chowdhary.
To empower the artisans, the founders have married heritage and modern aesthetics. The company has satellite offices in West Bengal (Nadia, Santiniketan and Kalna), Gujarat (Bhujodi), and Kashmir which helps connect handloom lovers across the globe with collectives produced by master artisans/weavers across handloom clusters in India.
“Illiteracy, unawareness and ignorance about the market and government schemes result in low incomes and less opportunities for the artisans. This is where we are trying to help. The startup directly works with artisans and weavers to train, upskill and help them avail of government schemes such as the Yarn Supply Scheme (where weavers get access to original certified natural yarns such as silk at a discounted price),” says Tholi, who is a commerce graduate and has sales and marketing experience. She looks after sales, marketing and networking.
Chowdhary is a management graduate from IEMI Paris, France, and has global work experience, having worked with startups and consulting firms in the US, UK, Europe and East Asia. He looks after operations, interactions with artisans, design innovations, skilling, re-skilling, digital media and growth strategies.
Inde’Loom believes in sustainability and promoting products that don’t harm the environment. Chowdhary says, “Our brand is for women who love slow fashion, handloom and handmade products, but are unable to find the right platform to buy because of lack of trust and traceability.
We shoot videos of the whole process while the sarees are being made. This brings immense happiness to artisans as they get respect for their work. Shoppers also find real treasures, with interesting design elements, colours and aesthetics. These handloom/handmade products are much more fashionable than others.”
For offline retail, Inde’Loom works with a network of 40 resellers in India and the US. Most of these are women who operate from homes. It also supplies products to select boutiques in India (Kochi, Vijayawada, Delhi and Bengaluru), the US, the UK and Poland, and works with them on a profit-sharing model.
At Inde’Loom, you get all types of sarees, from Kantha to Khadi cotton, Linen, Silk cotton, Matka silk, Jamdani, Organza, in various colours and designs. “The USP of these sarees is that they are hand crafted pure handlooms with high end designs. Such sarees take two-three months to be woven and then they are hand painted which takes another six to seven months. Jamdani is woven for 45-60 days to make one saree. A few of our sarees weigh less than 200 gm. They are made of pure organza silk and are hand painted,” says Tholi.