Women are blessed with multiple skills — they are equally able to nurture a family and nourish a business. As entrepreneurs, women have not only improved the quality of their own lives, but have helped others to grow and flourish too. The fashion industry has proved particularly congenial to women entrepreneurs. As we celebrate Women’s Month, we get in touch with a few amazing entrepreneurs from the handloom and handicraft industries, and listen to their stories.
A love for all things woven
Rama Rebbapragada, owner of Studio Rama, loved handlooms even as a little girl. As she grew up, she wanted to be part of the handloom industry. “I remember my mother who was a Maths teacher wearing crisp Bengal handloom cotton sarees to school. Today my heart breaks when I see people wearing synthetic clothes,” she says.
“It was my love for handlooms that made me start Rama Studio. We stock a collection of hand-woven sarees and dresses,” she explains.
Rama reveals that she did not initially think that the field was challenging, but competition became tricky once the industry started to expand. “I had to think about colour combinations and textiles,” she says.
Beauty from waste
Renu Rao, known for home décor and lifestyle products made from recycled waste, has made a success of her brand — WeRecycle. “I have been in the business of handmade paper for the last 25 years. I worked with a brand named Deckle Edge. There was a lot of waste when we cut the paper, and we never got around to doing anything productive with it,” says Renu. “I wanted to use this waste to make lifestyle products and that is how we started WeRecycle,” she shares. Renu says she uses a lot of typically Telangana designs in her products, and that’s how they have acquired a recognisable identity “As a woman entrepreneur I feel it is challenging to balance personal and professional life. Luckily, I had a lot of support from my extended family and seeing that, I wanted to help those struggling with such problems,” she adds.
Weaving a better future
Sudha Rani Mullapudi, Co-founder and CEO of Abhihaara Social Enterprise which is committed to sustain handloom and craft-based livelihoods by enabling women producers, worked hard to remind people about handlooms. “I have been in rural development for the past 20 years, so handloom has been my job profile since then,” she says. “As a child I developed an interest in handloom seeing my mother and others wearing Venkatgiri, Pochampalli and other such sarees. I was fascinated with the geometrical designs. I was particularly attracted to the magical Ekat weaving and developed a special bond with it.”
Mridula Das, the founder of Ambica a hand woven and hand crafted store says, “I belong to Orissa and we have a very rich tradition of weaving in our part of the country. Orissa has more than a hundred types of weaves. I specialise in the Berhampuri weaves. Though I was country head of learning and development for Hinduja Global Services, I chose the field of Textiles as it excites me.”