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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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Can Modi’s ‘AIM’ Challenge Global Manufacturing Hub China’s Dominance?

PM Modi has set his eye on water management, agriculture and security issues

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Modi, AIM, Global
The prime focus of the government as well as NITI Aayog remains on accelerating the pace of manufacturing sector in India. Flickr

Eyeing the global revolution in tech-innovations, the Modi government, in its second avatar, is all set to redefine the scope of ‘Knowledge and Innovation’ at NITI Aayog. Before leaving for his foreign visit to the Maldives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a series of meetings with technocrats, top officials and key cabinet colleagues, discussing how to radically redefine innovations and technology on manufacturing front to compete with China.

Over all, the prime focus of the government as well as NITI Aayog remains on accelerating the pace of manufacturing sector in India. On domestic front, PM Modi has set his eye on water management, agriculture and security issues and he would likely underline his priorities once he chairs the first big meeting of NITI Aayog, on June 15.

In the wake of sharp criticism from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on the alleged failure of NITI Aayog, the government now seems more determined to take the Aayog to a new height, inducting domain specialists at the rank of Joint Secretary and above.

“The PM’s dream project is the success of the Atal Innovation Mission,(AIM) the flagship project of NITI Aayog to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. If AIM takes off well, the country would soon be a substitute for China as a global manufacturing hub. In fact AIM complements Make In India, Digital India and Start up India mega projects,” said a senior NITI Aayog official.

Modi, AIM, Global
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a series of meetings with technocrats. Pixabay

To provide impetus to the industrial growth, the NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar recently told media that a slew of big bang economic reforms are being pursued by the Modi government. These include change in labour laws, privatization moves and land banks for new industrial development. Once the stage is set for a positive industrial environment, the innovation mission will finally accelerate the growth of the manufacturing sector.

Global tech giants such as Adobe, Amazon, Dell, IBM, Intel and Microsoft are already partnering with Atal Innovation Mission. The AIM project serves as a platform for promotion of world-class innovation hubs, and self-employment activities in technology-driven areas.

Through AIM, the government expects a radical change in country’s MSME industry.

Earlier in Modi’s first tenure as PM, his Cabinet Minister Kalraj Mishra and later Minister for State (Independent Charge) Giriraj Singh did not impress the business fraternity while running the ministry for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). In an after thought, Modi in his second innings gave the charge of this crucial ministry to Nitin Gadkari, known for delivering the goods on time.

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“Modi ji had spoken about the project to Gadkari ji. He (Gadkari) was more than willing to take up this challenge. I am sure MSME would now be one of the most important ministries in the government as it also addresses the problem of unemployment and lack of a fast-paced industrial growth,” said a BJP leader close to Gadkari.

Another big change on the scene is the Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL). It is Modi’s long-term plan for revolutionizing the young Indian minds. The ATLs are innovation workplaces where do-it-yourself kits on latest technologies like 3D printers, Robotics, Internet of Things, are installed at schools using the government grant. The mission director of AIMs , R. Ramanan, an IITian, says that by next year 10,000 ATL workplaces in the Indian schools will bring radical change in the near future in the field of innovation.

The objective of PM Modi through mega ATL project, is to enable India to become a global leader in technology and innovations, the key to rule the modern-day industries. (IANS)