Urgent need to revive & promote our heritage weaves
Anuprerna is an artisanal textile producer involved in working closely with 300+ weavers in rural West Bengal to produce ethical, sustainable and beautiful handwoven textiles using indigenous weaves and techniques. Paulami Chatterjee interviews Amit Singha, Owner & Curator of Anuprerna, to assess the plight of the weaving community in the midst of the global pandemic. Singha also shares details about the company's recently launched online platform.
Amid the COVID crisis, how is the handloom industry sustaining itself? How is the livelihood of weavers associated with you impacted?
Due to the Covid19 pandemic, the handloom industry has completely come to a halt. The ripple effect can be seen from the end consumers to manufacturers and in our case, the artisans as well. Our artisans are affected due to lack of work and unavailability of mode of communication for the transfer of goods. We channeled all our working capital to pay our employees and artisans. We ran a small campaign trying to get help in this troubled times to donate funds to our artisans. A lot of well-wishers helped us a little to enable that.
What challenges are you facing in day to day sourcing and order delivery?
Even if there was a little demand, we were unable to fulfill it due to the absence of logistics partners. Moreover, there is so much uncertainty around the pandemic; we are unable to plan anything in advance or get a way to handle our employees, our weavers, and all our stakeholders. Now the logistics have opened up and we are receiving few orders from domestic and international clients as well.
In the pre-COVID times, what was an individual weaver earning from you per month? How much has that reduced now?
The average earnings of an individual weaver are in the range of Rs 9,000 - 10,000 per month with consistent work throughout the year. As their earning depends on consistent work, it has reduced due to lack of work.
What kind of support are you providing to the weavers in the current state? How different is your effort in really uplifting the plight of this talented lot?
We already had some work planned and designs we wanted to develop; fortunately we shared that with the weavers just in time before the complete lockdown was imposed in the country. As they work from home, they could continue working during the lockdown period as well. For rest, we ran a small campaign to collect funds and donate it to our artisans. A lot of well-wishers helped us a little to enable that.
How are you trying to market your products?
We do have offline clients to whom we showcase/send swatches/yardage fabrics. Recently, we have launched our online platform to connect with both B2B and B2C clients to market our products, crafts, artisan stories, etc.
What was the seed money when you launched your brand and how did you go about securing it? Have you broken even?
The business has been pioneered and driven by my father since 1983, inspired by the artisan's community around, started out of a small village in Burdwan district of West Bengal. There were ups and downs based on the market condition but it has been a stable business since then.
Post my education as a computer engineer and an MBA graduate, with work experience of 3+ years in the field of finance & strategy, I decided to spearhead this venture associating with this brand Anuprerna to target international consumers. It's completely bootstrapped so far and has been profitable since the start.
Where do you source the raw materials from? How does your supply chain work?
We source our cotton yarns from south India, khadi yarns from eastern states like Bihar, Odissa also north east Assam for silks and a lot of yarn is sourced from our home state West Bengal as well.
All fabrics are woven across different clusters in Bengal by artisans working from their homes. Weaving wages are fair and sufficient for them to live a happy healthy life but one thing they always look for is continuous year-long work as most of them are paid on a contract weaving basis.
How many weavers do you work with? What is the percentage of women in them?
We work with 100+ weavers across multiple clusters across West Bengal. Usually, it is a family-oriented homeworker economy where the men are responsible for weaving and the women are usually involved in the pre-weaving activity. Usually, in the weaving field, 30 per cent are women. Our weaver information is shared on our website.
Which are the most widely sold handlooms at Anuprerna?
We are engaged in offering an exclusive array of fashion accessories and natural fabrics such as cotton, khadi, linen, and east India's indigenous handloom silk fabrics. We also specialise in a variety of hand weaving and printing techniques like jamdani, batik, block and screen printing. The primary craft we have been dealing with is khadi.
Which are your major markets abroad? Tell us about your retail presence.
Our clientele mostly include domestic brands and designers. We are gradually reaching out to export clients through our online platform, social media presence, and certain other sustainable platforms primarily across the US, UK, and other European markets. We recently launched our web platform to reach retail clients as well.
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