What is more difficult? An innovation or selling it? Sudha Passi tells the story of Ahimsa Silks that has been producing items from silk that is derived without killing the worms.


It has been 25 years since Kusuma Rajaiah first showed the world that it was possible to obtain silk without killing the worms in the cocoon. His Ahimsa Silks, or non-violent silk fibre, has since evolved into a commercially viable fabric; but business continues to flounder for want of promoters and publicity.


Notwithstanding a patent and a registered trademark for his unique fabric, Rajaiah the entrepreneur is striving hard to make Ahimsa Silks a distinct brand with his modest range of traditional and contemporary products for environmentally-conscious fashion connoisseurs.


From traditional sarees, shawls, scarves and stoles, and dress material for women to shirts, ties, dhoties, angavastras, Ahimsa Silks is being used to make inner garments and clothes for babies too, says Rajaiah, who relies heavily on the Internet to market his products.


More than 90 per cent of his sales are through his own website and a sizeable number of them are overseas buyers. "Talks are on with bigger e-commerce sites like Amazon," he says.


"Currently it remains a niche product due to its price range," says Rajaiah. The price of Ahimsa Silks fabric is one and half times higher compared to conventional silk fabric of the 80 gram per metre variety. It is less lustrous, softer to touch, and more permeable than conventional mulberry silk, explains Rajaiah, who has 40 years of experience in the handloom industry.


"People are becoming more aware and sensitive about the environmental impact of the products they use." Rajaiah attributes the growing demand for his products to this rising consciousness, citing numerable posts on his website lauding his innovation and expressing their desire to buy them. So, pricing might not be all that prohibitive - at least at the global level.


At present, he can produce up to 5,000 metres of his unique silk fabric per month. He claims an annual production worth 4 million. He supervises the production of the Ahimsa Silks fabric and garments at every step to ensure their quality and authenticity. "I give my own design and colour scheme to the weavers," he says with pride as he recalls how he stepped into the business world in 2000 with a modest capital of 50,000 from his provident fund and family savings.