Amid Covid-19, Kancheepuram Man Helps Community, Empowers Women With Saree-Weaving Business

When Kancheepuram’s Satheesh Kumar took a low-paying job after completing his diploma in Mechanical Engineering, never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that he would make his mark with saree weaving and not engineering.

Satheesh Kumar hails from a craftsman family of weavers from Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram, however, his father did not want Satheesh to be a part of the family business as he did not want his son to do ‘labour work’. However his dream was always to sell beautiful sarees like the ones he saw his father and grandfather weave. Who would have thought a few years later, Satheesh would prove everyone wrong and end up with Shri Bhavi Handloom Silks – a successful venture selling Kancheepuram silk sarees around the globe.

Opening up, he shares, “My father refused to let me get into the saree weaving business as he believed it is mostly labour work. He wanted me to complete my education, get a degree, and a high-paying job, but coming from a family of weavers, my heart was always in the saree weaving business.”

Community Aid

In 2012, Satheesh completed his BE and after a short stint in the automobile industry (2015 – 2016), he decided to chase his passion with a meagre investment of Rs 1 lakh. Instead of wasting funds and resources on setting up a factory, Satheesh decided to employ those in need of full-time jobs, who were both skilled and interested in weaving sarees. Satheesh provided such individuals and families with all the equipment, organization, and training they needed. And expanded from two families to individuals from 10 households employed under him.

In the initial days, Satheesh approached local shops to stock his creations. The 40-year-old shares, “Initially we were making Rs 2-3 lakhs monthly in sale and the shop owners who were stocking my sarees agreed on the condition that I would not sell my sarees to anyone else. This created quite a hurdle for me as I could only sell to one shop or middle man in one locality. And they wouldn’t even pay for the stock on time, sometimes paying two months later. ”

Successful online ventures

However, nothing could deter Satheesh, after two years of hard work, Satheesh took his business online and started a Facebook page: Shri Bhavi Handloom Silks, where he showcased his beautiful sarees. Having no knowledge or experience, Satheesh counted on YouTube tutorials and articles to build his brand.

Cut to, a few years later, and Satheesh’s business is booming with over 2,11,000 followers on Facebook. He shares, “Both the business and I were limited in growth before we went online, but now our circle is huge and we manage to make sales of around Rs. 7 lakh a month. What started with local orders, went on all across India and now we also sell these stunning Indian handloom sarees across the world, including Canada and London.”

Coronavirus pandemic and employment initiative

However, like the rest of the world, Satheesh’s business also faced the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic and his operations shut when the lockdown was imposed all over India in March 2020. Much to everyone’s relief, a few months later when Covid-cases were down, soon India, like the rest of the world began to unlock, and so did Satheesh’s business.

As his business runs from the homes of Satheesh’s weaver employees, transportation challenges had caused him to shut shop, however once transport and courier services reopened, the sale of Satheesh’s sarees also resumed. However, Satheesh wasn’t blind to the state of affairs around him and decided to do something to help those who lots their livelihoods amid Covid-19.

So Satheesh approached his friends, family and neighbours who were in need, and trained those who were interested to resell sarees created by his business. He got them involved in the sale and marketing, fulfilling the orders himself and the women would receive commission based on sales. Satheesh shares, “Currently, about 50 women including two transgender individuals are reselling sarees through WhatsApp and Facebook. Some even earn Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 a month. Although my business was also affected, providing a source of income to women who were in need has also helped me. I am happier about the fact that we have managed to touch the lives of so many people.”

Satheesh shares that his successful business venture has a turnover of Rs 70 lakh, but his goal is to always keep giving back to society, saying, “I want to expand my business across India and provide jobs to the needy.”

This story is submitted by Bilal Khan and edited by Alfea Shaikh.

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