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‘Khadi’ needs marketing, tech push to widen appeal in Indian textile arena

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Khadi
Image source: stitchwallah.com

New Delhi: The ‘Made in India’ fabric Khadi is slowly but steadily generating interest in the West. However, if it is to widen its appeal, there are certain issues which the sector should address, said the creative head of Moral Fibre Fabrics, who has supplied khadi to Hollywood as well.

“With encouragement to the khadi movement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, khadi is generating a lot of interest. This is the time to go deeper and evaluate the sector and its impact from all angles,” Shailini Sheth Amin, the creative mind behind the Ahmedabad-based company, told reporters in an email interview.

“Right now we have some focus on this most valued but dying legacy of khadi,” he said.

Noting that today’s youth will not wear khadi for its symbolism or under any emotional pressure, Amin said the fabric needs to be seen as “much more than ‘heritage’ and a ‘fashion statement’. It should reach beyond ‘bhandars’ and fashion shows”.

Moral Fibre Fabrics is a web-based social enterprise set up in 2008, and works locally with a few khadi cooperatives around Ahmedabad, creating work opportunities in production, processing, dyeing, printing and tailoring.

With the business-to-business wholesale marketplace model, the brand has an international buyer base in Britain, the US, Australia and some European countries.

The company’s fabric has also been used in Hollywood films like “Pan”, and it regularly supplies Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran, who has designed costumes for movies like “Pride and Prejudice”, “Atonement” and “Anna Karenina”.

When Amin set up her brand, her aim was to reinvent khadi as a socially and environmentally sustainable fabric while maintaining high-quality standards. But the journey has not been easy.

“I could see that there was a need to upgrade and reinvent khadi as the most environmentally-sustainable fabric and expand its varied uses. I realised that the lack of marketing orientation and technological obsolescence are the major obstacles for khadi to play a larger role in the Indian textile arena,” she said.

“When I started, almost no one believed in what we did. In fact, most of the people I came across in the field… themselves did not believe in the hand-crafted fabric. No one was interested in taking it forward.”

“Khadi fabric was considered to be badly made, badly sold and cheap-looking. This fabric had, and still has, big identity issues and it was considered an attire of corrupt politicians,” said Amin.

Of late, several fashion designers have been doing their bit to popularise the fabric, famously used by Mahatma Gandhi as a symbol of protest against the British Raj, in creative ways.

When she started out, Amin found that her brand had more international than domestic buyers, some 85 percent of sales came from abroad.

The milestone moment for the brand, she said, came when they supplied fabric to Hollywood projects.

“Our fabrics were seen by a sourcing agent for a film in a London shop and she got in touch with us. She was very pleased when she heard about the social and environmental sustainability credentials of these fabrics.”

Amin feels proud that the “rustic fabric made by spinners and weavers from small villages in Gujarat is now recognised the world over”. (Nivedita, IANS)

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As The Election Nears, India’s Opposition Promises Several Economic Steps

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a "desperate alliance," while the BJP would give a "strong government."

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Rahul Gandhi, Election
Rahul Gandhi, president of India's main opposition Congress Party, speaks at a rally ahead of October's 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

India’s main opposition Congress Party will simplify the goods and services tax (GST) and make “rational economic decisions” to attract foreign investment if voted back to power in a general election due by May, leader Rahul Gandhi said Saturday.

Launched in 2017, the GST was initially hailed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest economic reform as it replaced more than a dozen federal and state levies and unified Asia’s third-largest economy.

But its chaotic implementation and complexities — months after a shock ban by Modi on high-value bank currency aimed at unearthing untaxed wealth — badly hurt small businesses and led to millions of job losses in the cash-driven economy, presenting the biggest challenge to Modi’s re-election chances.

India,India, elections, BJP
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents in New Delhi, India. VOA

 

Gandhi, scion of India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, said during a visit to Dubai that foreign investment was at a multiyear low in India because of the “ill-advised and badly thought out economic moves” such as the currency ban and a “poorly designed GST.”

Quick growth promised

“We will take some rational economic decisions,” he told a press conference, which was broadcast live on Twitter. “We will restructure the GST and we will embrace investments from the Middle East and other parts of the world. We are the party of [India’s economic] liberalization; we are the party that gave the fastest economic growth in the first decade of the century, and will do that again.”

He said his main priority would be to create jobs, simplify the GST, rebuild confidence in institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India — whose governor resigned recently after a fight over autonomy with the government, and the Supreme Court.

Modi, election
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

 

Four Supreme Court judges held a rare press conference early last year, saying that “unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country.”

Modi told a BJP convention in New Delhi on Saturday that for Congress “every institution was wrong and only they were right.”

The Congress press conference was organized by the Indian Overseas Congress, which is present in about 35 countries, as Gandhi tries to reach out to rich Indians living abroad for funds and social media support for the party that has dominated the country’s politics for decades before being nearly decimated in the last general election in 2014 by Modi.

But back home, Gandhi received a jolt when bitter rivals, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), announced an election tie-up without Congress in Uttar Pradesh state, which sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of parliament.

Narendra Modi, India, election
Elaborate preparations for PM’s election rally. VOA

“The BSP and SP have made a political decision,” Gandhi said. “It’s on us on how to strengthen the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh and we will fight with our full capacity. Whether we do or their alliance does, the BJP is not winning there.”

Also Read:China, India Keen on Joint Ventures For e-vehicles

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a “desperate alliance,” while the BJP would give a “strong government.”

The Hindu nationalist BJP lost power in three key states recently, forcing the government to announce a flurry of measures to woo small businesses and the less well-off since then. (VOA)