The road to connectivity

Products made by weavers and artisans in far-flung regions catch the fancy of a clientele hooked to social media. Meet the women who’ve made this possible.

Published - February 26, 2016 03:30 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Malyada Govardhan and Ramya Rangacharya of Hands Of India

Malyada Govardhan and Ramya Rangacharya of Hands Of India

Chettinad check jacket, anyone?

Jayashree Krishnan, a CA, and Anita Chandramohan, an architect, drawn by their interest in handlooms and traditional techniques, set up Maati Crafts store in Mumbai in 2009. In 2015, the outfit saw the potential to tap a pan-India clientele through social media, particularly Facebook. “The ads on this platform help and users who see their friends liking the page, check it out of curiosity. Now we have a good customer base in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai,” says Jayashree. She observes how buyers from Kolkata and New Delhi place more orders for flowy jackets designed from Chettinad saris while customers in the south place more orders for block-printed apparel from Rajasthan and Gujarat. “People like to buy online what they don’t easily have access to in their cities,” she emphasises. Textiles apart, also works with artisans of terracotta and batik, for instance, to create artefacts.

Technology to the rescue

Ramya Rangacharya was an officer with the Air Force. Work took her to nooks and corners of India and when she found time, she explored local crafts and met artisans. “She wanted to start a venture that generated employment in rural belts,” says her sister and co-founder of, Malyada Govardhan.

Malyada was working with eBay and looked at providing technological support. “We launched Hands of India formally in 2010, the background work was on since 2006,” she says. Back then, mobile penetration and internet connectivity was dismal.

Today, Malyada and Ramya interact with weavers in far-flung pockets through whatsapp. “They send us images of samples on whatsapp for approval,” says Malyada. The sisters conduct workshops with artisans to orient them to cater to an urban clientele. Hands of India conducted travelling exhibitions and with time, the loyal clientele began shopping online.

Made in India

Channapatna is a small town off Bangalore, known for its wooden toys. During her visit to Channapatna, Anusha Anand found local toy makers selling Chinese toys. “They were selling their handmade toys along with cheaper, machine made imitation toys. The sight broke my heart,” she recalls. Anusha wanted to create a platform for indigenous artisans to reach more consumers. For two years, she and her team reached out to artisans across the country — Kutch, Jodhpur, Pondicherry, Kashmir, Chettinad, Manipur and Nagaland among other regions, creating apparel, jewellery, furniture, deity idols, paintings, traditional kitchenware, traditional tiles, seasoned teakwood furniture and more. went live in August 2015 with an emphasis on hand-crafted articles. All of Peacockcolours’ sales happen online, with 70 per cent of the traffic driven by Facebook. “Existing customers spread the word. Random page visitors, who like and share our pictures online, also play a substantial role,” says Anusha, adding, “There is a bigger market for handicrafts than we think. People are ready to pay a premium if required.” Peacockcolours also plans to have a forum for under privileged children to showcase their skills in ‘Colours for Kids’ category.

Working women for working women

In most photographs that announce an outfit from a new collection, a corporate working woman shares the spotlight with an artisan designed the product. intends to highlight that when you buy a kurta designed by an artisan, you create employment for women in the rural sector. This working women for working women concept has found takers. Okhai Centre for Empowerment was mooted by Tata Chemicals, tapping into tribes like the Rabari in Okhamandal, Gujarat. Traditionally, tribes in Kutch were identified by their unique embroidery styles handed down over generations. “The women are excellent with appliqué work. When Okhai was set up, the artisans were given an orientation to design products that can be worn by a professional to a boardroom,” says Kirti Poonia, who heads Okhai. Kirti began as a banking software engineer with TCS and worked with different Tata companies. “I’ve always been inclined to fashion and took up a three-month project with Okhai. I felt this was my calling,” she says.

Okhai stepped up its presence online and in social media in the last six months. “On Mondays, our posts are educative, for instance on how mirror work is done or the difficulty in block printing in the rainy season. We have ‘impact posts’ that show how weavers and artisans are benefited through the sales. One of the women told us she bought two-wheeler from the money she earned through these sales over a period of time,” says Kirti.

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