With the aim to innovate and contemporize the traditional Kota Doria fabric, Anjali decided to take the brave plunge into launching a business after 12 long years in the corporate world. Her tryst with innovation in kota fabric, along with trendy designs and personalized sourcing, turned KotaDoriaSilk into a 4 Crore INR turnover company. She began her journey with her heart in the right place, and started empowering women to sell from home and encouraged artisans to work based on new age demand from a young experimentative audience.
A software engineer by profession, Anjali Agrawal was a corporate women who loved wearing her favorite traditional Indian fabric Kota Doria. She was often complimented for her sartorial style by her colleagues and friends. Little did she know that this would eventually lead her to an interesting, and fulfilling path of entrepreneurship thus laying the foundation of KDS.
Anjali recalls how she got a lot of compliments for wearing outfits made out of the traditional Kota Doria fabric. Many in her social circle too appreciated her choice, and would even request her to source the same clothes that she wore, and at that moment the thought clicked her that despite its regal ties, Kota Doria’s fame and appeal was bound to the confines of its specific region.
Anjali recalls, “This is when I decided to embark the journey of creating awareness about this beautiful, light fabric and not just making it accessible in India, but also across the globe.
Being in the corporate world gave me a sense of professional achievement, but deep down inside I was still not fully content. There were still some sketchy thoughts in my head, and I felt I was meant to do more. I took a leap of faith by putting aside the safety of the corporate world, and started my entrepreneurial venture by creating a Facebook page and an initial investment of Rs. 25000/- in 2014. This was when my brainchild KDS was launched.
Gradually my home venture grew on the strength of a facebook page, and within a short span of a year KDS had reached a decent demand and by 2015 KDS launched its full fleged e-commerce website.
The journey has been been very rewarding, and has consummated my creative and intellectual needs and still motivates me to create more employment, she added with nostalgia.
Sourcing from the grassroot and Expansion
Anjali stayed close to the grassroots, worked closely with the artisans, always looking for ways to innovate, differentiate and keep on customizing her designs, fabrics, and more ensuring she was in a better position to cater better to her audience’s demand. To maintain the authenticity and novelty of the fabric, she started sourcing the raw materials and fabric directly from the weavers. As time grew, her investment into the market and understanding of the textiles industry too grew. Anjali was soon able to decide understand the components and the ratio that went into weaving. She immersed herself fully into training and aligning the weavers with KDS’s specific business requirement.
Under the KDS umbrella, the artisans began working steadily on orders placed by admirers of KotaDoriaSilk across India. Her complete involvement in all aspects if the business helped to grow the appeal of her clothes and the collaboration enabled the weavers and craftsman families to have a steady and secure financial independence.
This served well to encouraged her artisans to put in more dedication and effort, and gradually they grew from a few in the beginning to 72 craftspeople with an equal 50%: 50% ratio of female and male artisans under the KDS umbrella. Today, there are over 25 looms working exclusively for Anjali.
KDS has started to become a home known brand especially in the South for Kota Doria fabric and the increasing demand was pushing us to create, and to explore newer colours and more patterns than ever before. As part of this development and expansion we explored more trends, innovative designs, prints and patterns.
To substantiate our credibility into market three years ago, we laid the foundation of Anjali Handloom Studio, a sister concern of KDS. The weavers’ guild under this concern works on crafting and retaining the authenticity of other traditional Indian fabrics like Chanderi, Ghiccha and Tusser besides linen and cotton. These looms also showcase the beauty of hand-woven textile as opposed to machine-made duplicates and helps retain the authenticity of the traditional fabric.
Empowerment and Emancipation
At KDS, we have not created one big family of our craftspeople, but have also liberated our artisans to be a marketers for us. We have created a network of artisans and craftspeople from all over India based on their regional specialization to showcase their talent as well as traditions on this fabric, by this there has been a constant security of regular smooth earning in comparison to the seasonal income.
I remember coming across and immediately bringing on board, a talented craftsman who was the main breadwinner for himself and others. As an employer, he was impacting 12 lives and due to the lack of work he was unable to keep his machines running in Delhi. Since the te he is associated with KDS,
I have successfully worked with him on creating a few sets of design and supported him financially since the past 3 years. Today, his studio is running better than ever before—he has even bought new machines to keep up with the demand from KDS alone and added 10 more workers!”, Anjali smiles.
From the beginning, Anjali’s creation attracted attention from resellers, who further fueled its journey across the country. Several women who were never part of the corporate workforce or chose to drop out over time have found their feet through KDS. Over the years, several such women have been empowered as resellers. Through these women, KDS reaches customers in different parts of the country with minimal efforts. Anjali proudly salutes the effort of associated women business partners from across India.
Reinventing the Traditional Weaves
By connecting the dots between hardworking artisans and an ever-evolving customer base, we ensure that each piece crafted caters to young and old alike. As an outcome of our relentless efforts, we eventually spread out from traditional prints like block prints, zari, gota patti, to modern digital prints, embroidery, Indigo, Bagh, Dabu, Hand dying, Bandhej, Leheriya and Azrakh that tapped a whole set of new and younger, bolder audience and made this fabric young forever.
Our freedom of experiment and focus to create something new and unique have been one of the USPs. From hand-woven zari threads founded from a village in Kaithoon (Rajasthan) to taking inspiration from Madhubani art and incorporating it in our designs have been a hit and have opened up new avenues domestically and globally.
Kota Doria has primarily been used in Indian wear, more so in sarees, however our launch of new lines into traditional salwar suits, Dupattas, Stoles of Kota fabric were well accepted by customers as well. This encouraged us to never refrain from experimenting and eventually led to showcase our tradition into linens and home decor as well.
Happy tales from the pandemic times
What began as a means to popularize a traditional kota fabric, Anjali has not just helped exhibit the same but also allowed her weavers to sustain themselves in these tough times. During the pandemic, when people lost their job and struggled to earn their daily bread, KDS helped its network of artisans, craftsman and associated women channel partners to thrive.
The confident social entrepreneur quips, “Taking the advantage of our digital presence and access, we continued selling more and we took utmost care to minimize our wastage, to optimize our talent and to utilize our resources in the best manner possible.”
The pandemic also brought the new normal and essential, i.e. masks. KDS donated nearly 25,000 triple-layered cotton masks to NGOs in addition to including several pieces with each order. “By offering effective yet comfortable masks, I am trying to ensure that more people wear them, thus curbing the spread of the virus”, Anjali adds.
The Pandemic taught all of us new lessons, that brought all of us together and taught us the value of being together. It was more about holding hands and working as one big family, and single mindedly working towards cutting down wastage and costs during those unprecedented times, she added emphatically.
The Road Ahead
With a journey of over six years, KDS has become a symbol of tradition meeting the digital. With buyers and resellers from PAN India and a global reach, today, our website boasts of a beautiful amalgamation of traditional Indian outfits embracing newer designs as fashions change.
“Quality fabric, exclusive designs, and fast delivery – this is the KDS promise”, she emphasizes. And with the bulk of her customers being those who return to KDS time and time again, we have won their faith in us.
My greatest pride is that more people now have access to this fabric”, admits Anjali. The material has already found a place in several European homes and is well poised to make waves among the global audience in the years to come. Considering our larger chunk of audience that lies in South of India, we plan to launch our first brick and mortar store there soon with more products ranging from traditional wear to linens and home decor.