Startups are the craze and people starting up straight out of college aren’t a very big shock anymore. The internet wave has set in and it has given an opportunity to many starry eyed youngsters to dream big and build their own fortune. And this is the sector which gets most of the attention in media as well. In this process, offline businesses get sidelined sometimes and the value they’re creating doesn’t get enough light.
One such example is the story of Maku Textiles- a designer brand that originated from the slow fiber movement which encourages the use of hand woven cloth. Weaving is a dying art and the government is initiating numerous projects for the upliftment of these communities but hardly anything trickles down to the people for which it is meant.
|Santanu Das and Chirag Gandhi|
Santanu Das, a designer from NID Ahmedabad was aware of this situation and wanted to do something via which the weavers can be helped directly. Chirag Gandhi, an engineering graduate from Nirma University joined forces with Shantanu to startup Maku and it has been almost an year since they started full-fledged operations.
|So, what they do?|
To explain in layman terms, the duo makes designs and gets them woven from the weavers in West Bengal and Kachchh, GUjarat and then they sell it in the markets. But there is a far deeper story here.
The middlemen rule
The textile industry is huge in terms of the amount of money involved and the scale at which it operates but the people controlling it are few. A close knit clan at the top which then widens up hugely at the bottom and the biggest role that is played in this business is by the middlemen. The ‘hand woven textile’ industry is formed by the weavers at the bottom with a local middleman who manages them and delivers to the textile firms or individual dealers. And then it sold at exhibitions or boutiques. The markups are huge and a cloth which is sold at expensive price points hardly 5 % goes to weavers.
And the change
This set rule is what Maku and a few others in the market are trying to change.
“We want to create a better ecosystem for these weavers so that the craft is not lost and it is a fair deal for everyone in the game, from the weaver to the middleman to the end customer,” say the duo. Other brands in the hand woven textile market started out in a similar fashion but eventually there is a greater coincidence that happens.
Santanu and Chirag have started out with the motto of anti-fashion which doesn’t allow them to showcase their garments at fashion shows and they want to keep themselves as pro-weavers but the model is still shaping up. The duo had started up with some money from their parents and their own savings. They have now managed clocking in average revenues of around INR 1 lakh a month. Their main sales happen via exhibition in different cities in India, stores and direct sales via their FB page and other connections.
The Road Ahead
Currently based out of Ahmedabad, Maku is shifting base to Kolkata and is also hiring people to expand their business. VC funding is not a conventional route for such startups and hence they’d be looking at getting a loan from a bank in the near future. This designer-engineer duo is on an ambitious trail and the possibilities for Maku as a socially conscious brand is huge.