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Volume 5, Issue 10 | October 2021

JGLS student attempts to fashion new business model in handloom sector with online venture

Ms. Nikita Lal, a student of Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), is successfully trying to fashion a new business model in the handloom sector with her online shopping portal called ‘Mundhani’ (www.mundhani.in). 

 

Ms. Lal says she launched the venture to support the weaving community and to promote sustainable fashion. The inspiration behind her venture, she says, was to transform the handloom into a mainstream business. She says: “The handloom sector shouldn’t become a resort for the government’s schemes to curb unemployment.  Of course, cooperative societies guarantee a minimum wage and employment. However, there was a need to take this craft as a mainstream business activity because it would never be valued if products were not turned into commodities. That is how Mundhani was conceptualised: an aesthetic for the metropolitan crowd but an economy for the village. I have one fundamental: the weaver should be paid more than me and the process should be transparent.”

 

Ms Lal, who is from Kerala, says she was exposed to the plight of Indian craftsperson at an early age. “Right before leaving for college, the deadly 2018 floods hit Kerala around the Onam season, which is the busiest business time in the state, wiping out stock and damaging looms, resulting in damage worth crores. Two years later, the Covid-19 pandemic struck and destroyed sales during the Onam season once again. This was when I thought I should actively do something about it.  After interacting with weavers of the cooperatives, I sensed that it is not financial assistance that they really require as they get it from the government and cooperative societies. Rather, they needed a stronger bond with the urban clientele who would be able to afford their craft and hence help sustain their livelihood. When handloom is taken forward in a purely cooperative model, economics is being ignored and completely taken out of the picture.”

 

She says working with weavers highlighted the gap between the different classes in the country. “As an entrepreneur, my day ranges from explaining my design to the weaver in minute detail to explaining to an urban customer anywhere about why a handloom saree on which a weaver would have spent 3 days working would cost what it is worth. From my website to the domain name or payment gateway or even the completely biodegradable packaging. I have done it all.  Law school education has enabled me to be an ethical businessperson and an agent of empowerment.”