Reviving Khadi in India



Themes: Corporate Restructuring
Period : 1985-2003
Organization : Minister for Small Scale Industries
Pub Date : 2003
Countries : India
Industry : SSI

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Case Code : BSTR055
Case Length : 9 Pages
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Reviving Khadi  in India | Case Study

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Background Note Contd...

Synthetic material was quickly replacing the hand made fabric. People who had got used to the high quality of imported materials, felt that Khadi was rough and coarse and associated it with shapeless kurtas,5 mostly worn by politicians. And therefore, in spite of the GoI's financial assistance to thousands of traditional spinners in India, they had tough time selling their product.

Reviving Khadi: From Freedom Fabric to Fashion Fabric

In 1985, designer Devika Bhojwani pioneered the Swadeshi label of Khadi ensembles. Those were distributed through nearly 5000 Khadi Emporia. To display Khadi's potential, KVIC organized a fashion show in Mumbai in 1989. Nearly 85 dazzling garments created by Devika Bhojwani were presented at the show. This was the first step towards changing Khadi's earlier image of being unfashionable. Commenting on the poor state of Khadi, Devika Bhojwani said that failures in the Khadi sector were a result of red tapism and bureaucracy prevalent in the Indian system. Even though the country had a wide distribution network, the middlemen, commissions and cuts had gradually weakened the system. She further said that though the government was taking the initiative to revive Khadi, nothing much would improve until the implementation, and the cost per garment etc. were controlled.

In 1990, the Delhi based designer, Ritu Kumar presented her first Khadi collection, Tree of Life, which helped put Khadi in the fashion circuit. With increasing interest of the western world in use of handloom and Khadi, many Indian designers began to use Khadi for their designs. The government also made efforts to promote Khadi. In September 2000, Vasundhara Raje, Minister for Small Scale Industries, initiated a movement to revive all the 7,000 KVIC shops in India and make Khadi more fashionable and affordable. The KVIC Board hired the services of leading fashion designers to help create a new range and brand of Khadi wear.

In May 2001, KVIC set up the first air-conditioned shop in New Delhi. The décor was modern and the clothes were neat and fashionable. The outlet sold Khadi garments designed by high profile designers. On the opening of this outlet, well-known fashion designer, Rohit Bal commented, "Khadi is the Indian alternative for linen. It is as comfortable and now, we've proved that it is as fashionable"6. In January 2002, a high-profile textile exhibition, featuring Khadi ensembles designed by prominent Indian designers, was launched in New Delhi to popularise the traditional hand-spun cotton.

The idea of the exhibition was to promote wholly hand spun, hand woven and hand patterned fabric, as a unique luxury product. The exhibition displayed western as well as traditional Indian attire made from the finest Khadi available in the country. Besides, nearly 110 varieties of the fabric (from the sheerest to the coarsest) were showcased. Designer Rakesh Thakore, whose collection was showcased in the exhibition commented, "If packaged well, Khadi can be sold internationally."7 The exhibition was sponsored by a Swiss charitable trust, Volkart Foundation8 in association with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).9

With many designers experimenting with Khadi, the designs are no longer as simple as they used to be. A great deal of emphasis was given to the details of the designs and many new colours were introduced. Eco-friendly vat dyes were used. In March 2002, Preyasi10, the official designer for KVIC, launched "The Khadi Range Collection-2002." In the collection, Khadi was used to create apparel such as, casual shirts, waist coats, skirts, wrap-arounds, trousers, parallels, and tops for women.

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5] Kurta is a loose fitting shirt.
6] Sengupta, Hindol, Khadi-Much More than a Fabric, Indo-Asian -News –Service.
7] 'Glamour platform for Gandhian cotton,' , Wednesday, January 30, 2002.
8] Volkart Foundation, a Swiss charitable trust, is devoted to funding sustainable development. Marking its 150th anniversary, in February 2001, the Volkart Foundation pledged US $ 1 million as a cultural and social grant. The Khadi exhibition which formed a part of this, was meant for the revival of the old cotton business, Khadi as well as to highlight the non-violence movement.
9] INTACH is an NGO that seeks to make strategic and timely intervention in order to conserve and promote India's natural and cultural heritage. INTACH has a nation-wide network of volunteers, who spread awareness about heritage, prevent acts likely to degrade their region's cultural and natural wealth and act positively to preserve and enhance local heritage. INTACH is the nation's largest NGO working in the field of culture.
10] Preyasi is a certified designer by the Ministry of Handicrafts and Textiles - Govt. of India. It claims to be the world's best Wardrobe Management Company. Since fifteen years, Preyasi has been involved in delivering designer-wear and consultancy services to clients in over 48 countries. In 2001, it signed up with KVIC as their official designer to design and promote Khadi garments in the national and international market.