National Handloom Day: Former HR professional carries the legacy of Indian weavers
National Handloom day is celebrated on August 7 in India every year, a date chosen to commemorate the Swadeshi Movement originally proclaimed on August 7, 1905. This day is dedicated to all the weavers in the country who attempt to honour the diverse handloom industry.
One enterprise that has managed to profitably sustain the industry is Vinusto, a startup founded by Anshula Yuvaraj, human resources professional for over two decades who walked away from the corporate world and enmesh herself in the world of handlooms..
About the brand
Leading with the tagline 'Weavers to Wearers', Vinusto, which started as a two-person enterprise, has now expanded to a team of 16. The brand has connected about 200 artisans from Jaipur, Sambalpur and Chanderi, 50 percent of whom are women. The brand was nominated for the top 100 companies transforming India award by ABP News and Business World, and the World Transformation India award by NITI Aayog in 2021.
The profit-sharing model
Any purchase made from Vinusto directly affects the weavers, as the company works on a profit-sharing model that encompasses fair trade and payment for skill. Vinusto markets finished products created by weavers from scratch and shares 60-75 percent of the proceeds with the artisans.
“This is a new concept that weavers did not easily agree upon, given our digital platform was still under construction,” said the CEO. Yuvaraj spread word about the brand through displays in exhibitions and soon found a master weaver with a group of 25 people working with him, who placed his faith in her enterprise and soon after, the brand launched its very first display of sarees.
Vinusto has recorded a 50 percent year-on-year growth, seasonally, with goals of further expansion and bigger targets.
Made on order
Vinusto sells its garments purely on a “made on order” basis, which allows customers to customise the product as per their need, choosing their fabric, fit, colours and style that provides them a personal experience. “A vast majority of people who go to tailors and provide designs have now started to come to us and have now become our primary focus,” says Yuvaraj.
A sustainable enterprise
Given the nature of the organisation, Vinusto’s contribution to sustainability begins with the raw material. Since almost the entire operation is hand-operated, there is bare minimum consumption of electricity. The yarns used in these products comprise cotton, silk and zari material and are not synthetic. Also, since these products are made on order, there is no inventory pile-up and thus no wastage of material or skill. Leftover scrap material is later used in making home accessories. Furthermore, given a heavily monitored production system coupled with excellent time management, products are created and delivered fast, wrapped in cloth and disposable packaging.
An experience for the weavers
Vinusto provides an immersive experience to the weavers wherein they not only provide raw material and products but participate in the exhibitions that Vinusto holds, where they learn about marketing. “Pricing the product is the most challenging part of the business given the fierce competition. Therefore, maintaining an equilibrium between gaining profits whilst selling affordable products is quite a challenge,” says Yuvaraj.
Weaving the yarn
She explains the process behind creation of a material using the loom, which requires the use of both hands and feet simultaneously. A plain fabric of 2 metres in length takes a full day’s work whereas a saree containing a border takes three to four days. A saree containing intricate detail can take possibly as long as 10 days to create and perfect. “The thread that we use to weave cloth is very expensive. If and when it breaks, that causes difficulty for us to continue the work. In the handloom business, over 50 percent of the effort is put in singlehandedly by the weaver himself,” says 22-year-old Nadeem Ansari, a weaver from Chanderi.
“Customer feedback has been great for us, which has primarily been our driving force,” says Yuvaraj. She ensures the authenticity of the products through a GI certification provided to all of Vinusto’s garments.
The journey through the pandemic
Vinusto has seen multiple peaks and troughs through its journey, which was greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, because the onset of the pandemic coincided with the brand’s beginning. Despite this, Vinusto continued to push its products as well as receive orders, the delivery of which was ensured as soon as logistically possible.
Speaking about further expansion of Vinusto, Yuvaraj states that the brand plans to collaborate with governmental schemes such as ‘Invest India’, and has already registered on ‘Startup India’. She also speaks about broadening the design portfolio by launching a men’s ethnic-wear line as well as notifying its presence on popular e-commerce platforms. She also plans to create a hobby-craft avenue on Vinusto’s website, a section designed specifically to market the products of women home-makers with impeccable skills in handloom.
The celebration of National Handloom Day was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 with an aim to create awareness about the long-lost handwoven art. According to the 2019-20 Handloom Census, the industry employs about 3,522,512 workers across the country. The industry primarily employs women workers with a share of 72.29 percent of the total. As far as loom typology is concerned, 2.82 million handlooms were reported in the Fourth All-India Handloom Census, out of which 2.52 million were in rural areas and 290,000 were located in urban areas