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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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The Answer to The Impending Questions On Demonetization Are Here

While it did broaden the country’s tax base, it was a nightmare for the immense, cash-dependent informal economy.

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Indian Currency. Pixabay

Nearly all of the currency removed from circulation in a surprise 2016 attempt to root out illegal hoards of cash came back into the financial system, Resever Bank of India  has announced, indicating the move did little to slow the underground economy.

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi’s currency decree, which was designed to destroy the value of billions of dollars in untaxed cash stockpiles, caused an economic slowdown and months of financial chaos for tens of millions of people or demonetization.

Modi announced in a November 2016 TV address that all 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes, then worth about $7.50 and $15, would be withdrawn immediately from circulation. The banned notes could be deposited into bank accounts but the government also said it would investigate deposits over 250,000 rupees, or about $3,700. The government eventually released new currency notes worth 500 and 2,000 rupees.

 

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An activist of Congress party hold the banned 500 and 1000 rupee notes.

 

In theory, the decree meant corrupt politicians and businesspeople would suddenly find themselves sitting on billions of dollars in worthless currency, known here as “black money.”

“A few people are spreading corruption for their own benefit,” Modi said in the surprise nighttime speech announcement of the order. “There is a time when you realize that you have to bring some change in society, and this is our time.”

But even as the decree caused turmoil for those in India who have always depended on cash — the poor and middle class, and millions of small traders — the rich found ways around the currency switch. In the months after the decree, businesspeople said that even large amounts of banned currency notes could be traded on the black market, though middlemen charged heavy fees.

demonetization
Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with mayor, flickr

The reserve bank of India report said in its Wednesday report that 99.3 percent of the $217 billion in notes withdrawn from circulation had come back into the economy. Some officials had originally predicted that number could be as low as 60 percent.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“Frankly, I think demonetization was a mistake,” said Gurcharan Das, a writer and the former head of Proctor & Gamble in India. He said that while it did broaden the country’s tax base, it was a nightmare for the immense, cash-dependent informal economy.

“You can’t overnight change that in a country which is poor and illiterate. Therefore, for me it’s not only an economic failure but a moral failure as well,” Das said. (VOA)