(Photo:plus size evening
If one traces the life and journey of khadi — the crown jewel of Indian
traditional fabrics — the one sentiment it triumphantly conjures up for every
Indian is that of freedom. Political freedom then and freedom of spirit now,
through every phase of its growth, khadi has been more than just a piece of
Under the veil of simplicity, the versatile fabric has for long carried the
weight of balancing traditions and style. And as traditions go, the time has
come for khadi to reinvent. The government’s initiative to promote khadi, along
with Indian fashion houses’ interest to take the agenda forward with their
prowess of design and scale, has set a grand stage for the resurgence of brand
Talking to DH about the government’s approach, Khadi and Village Industries
Commission (KVIC) Chairman V K Saxena said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s
initiative to popularise khadi has come a long way in supporting the industry.
The khadi industry generated employment for about 2,025 artisans in FY2016-17,
while the village industry generated 4.08 lakh jobs,” adding, “We are very keen
on generating employment, and hence we are distributing charkhas and looms, and
also replacing old charkhas.”
Last year, khadi and village industries’ turnover was Rs 52,000 crore, of
which khadi contributed Rs 2,007 crore. This year, khadi revenues are expected
to grow by 35% to touch Rs 2,700 crore.
Over the last one month, KVIC has announced association with textile giants
Raymond and Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail that will see the launch of khadi
products under their respective brand names.
Lalbhai Group’s flagship Arvind, which is due to sign an agreement with KVIC
within a week or so, has been working closely with the khadi sector for several
years. An MoU between Arvind Mills and Rajkot-based Saurashtra Rachnatmak Samiti
(SRS), enabled the former to produce ‘denim khadi’ at a global level, wherein
the latter, a voluntary organisation, provided raw khadi materials to the
“Public-private partnership impact on khadi sales may be difficult to
quantify at this stage, as we are still experimenting. But the impact will
definitely be significant,” says Saxena.
Over the past 7-8 years, Arvind has spun out hand-woven jeans for various
brands, including its own Creyate, and Levi’s. This year, the company is working
on a collection of hand-woven jeans for some Japanese brands. Moreover, this
season, Arvind is working on hand-spun fabric in the shirting space as well.
With these plans underway, the number of khadi artisans that Arvind works with,
is set to run into the thousands from the 750 artisans it had worked with during
the last season.
“Today, the segment claims a small part of Arvind’s total production because
of capacity and price constraints, and we are trying to break through these
constraints,” says Arvind Limited Executive Director Punit Lalbhai.
Raymond Vice President and Head (Sales and Distribution) Ram Bhatnagar says,
“The whole idea behind launching khadi is to make it more relevant in today’s
day and age. At this stage, it is all about achieving volumes and getting the
supply chain and distribution right.” The company is aiming at an initial
revenue of Rs 20-30 crore from the khadi collection this year. Raymond’s design
team is working with 30 khadi clusters, each complementing the other to achieve
innovative design and perfect finish to appeal to the youth. Come August, and it
will launch its khadi portfolio consisting of shirting and suiting fabrics, and
suits and jackets for men.
“Authentic Indian products resonate strongly with the Indian consumers and
there is an increasing demand for hand-made fabric, that stays true to its roots
and exudes simplicity and vogue at the same time,” says Aditya Birla Fashion and
Retail Business Head Ashish Dikshit. Peter England, an Aditya Birla brand, will
launch its khadi collection across the country through its 700 retail ponts,
KVIC outlets and leading ecommerce portals.
Alongside these fashion giants, khadi is also getting a good deal of its
design bravado from designer Ritu Beri, who has been appointed as adviser to
Knots along the way
Although it has written itself a rich heritage of quality and design, the
industry faces its own set of challenges today. Entry barriers, market
restrictions and compliance issues — the khadi industry is battling it all, in
its own capacity. On entry barriers, Saxena says, “Earlier people lost interest
in the industry as the procedure to get authorisation to undertake khadi
activities was very tedious. Now, we have made the process simple, and it can be
completed online.” Getting the Khadi Mark registration is a matter of 45 days
now, he adds.
For an industry that is dealing with accessibility and affordability issues,
market challenges for khadi also enlists lack of awareness. Over the years,
khadi has gained itself a reputation of being an ordinary fabric suitable for
politicians. However, as things are changing, now more rapidly than ever,
sustainability in production and adaptability in design, have made the fabric
aspirational among the youth.
“Now it is all about making it accessible and affordable, and while the
domestic market continues to grow, the focus is on opening up to international
markets. We want to take Indian expertise to the world,” says Lalbhai. He
believes that as of now, the metrics to measure growth in the segment should be
employment creation, ability to create an international market in the segment
and improving affordability. “Affordability is another key area. While currently
the price of hand-woven fabric is more than double machine-made fabric, the idea
is to bring it to 30-40% with economies of scale in play,” Lalbhai adds.
In this context, it also becomes pertinent to create the right kind of
employment, which supports social upliftment of artisans. KVIC is currently
working with 2,372 khadi clusters, employing more than 4.1 lakh artisans. While
Raymond is set to generate 2.5 lakh man hours of employment for khadi artisans,
and has already purchased 1.27 lakh metres of fabric, Peter England has agreed
for a minimum procurement of khadi and khadi products for five years, with
primary purchases of muslin cotton and silk.
KVIC is already selling its products online through Paytm. Soon it will be
made available on mygov.in also. “While retail partners play a huge role in the
growth of the industry, the opportunity is not limited to that. The railways,
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Air India and other such entities, are
all purchasing khadi products,” says Saxena. “We have approached various
embassies to adopt khadi. Circulars have already been dispatched and we are
expecting orders soon,” he adds.
With sufficient push from the government and encouraging response from the
industry, khadi is set to make a glorious comeback. Keen on crossing borders
this time, the fabric is sure to enwrap more enthusiasts in its simplistic
elegance. Authenticity, sustainability and style — as the three converge, Indian
consumers may just find their sense of progressiveness in their roots.Read more