Handloom industry which makes up just over a tenth of India’s total fabric production has seen huge leaps and bounds over the course of time. With government’s constant revival initiatives to uplift this collapsing sector, it’s high time for handloom makers and promoters to shift gears. Many online marketplaces are now focusing on roping in local handloom designers and spirited entrepreneurs to ride the eCommerce boom.
Doing the same is Banka Silk, an apparel brand from Bihar that aims at working directly with the weavers and artisans community, upbringing their social strata and skills and giving a way to the fine products to outreach to the elite customers who value their commitment and hard work!
Sahil from Retailer Media hooked up with Udyan Singh, Founder, Banka Silk to know about his vision towards creating a significant change into the lives of the Indian artisans by the name ‘Banka Silk’. He also shared his future expansion plans towards the helm of the company.
Please share your background. Your education and whether entrepreneurship was something you always wanted to do?
From being a film maker to getting into a social entrepreneurship, I have always been keen towards developing and exploring multiple dimensions. After serving Indian Railways for 5 years, having the monotonous life, away from my dreams of creativity, I finally decided to forge into the world of creativity!
I experimented and used my skill-set to uplift the conventional and non-conventional livelihood sectors such as Silk weavers , lac jewelry workers, managing urban youth development centers and also for various other schemes of marginalized and socially excluded people.
How was the idea of your start-up conceptualised? What is the need you are addressing in the market?
I always wanted to give my hometown an identity, a name. I then headed towards bringing a significant change into the lives of the Indian artisans by the name ‘Banka Silk’.
Banka Silk is the organisation that works directly with the weavers and artisans community, upbringing their social strata, lifestyle, knowledge & skills and giving a way to these awesomely made products to outreach to the customers who value their commitment and hard work!
Banka Silk’s strength is fabrics in silk, linen, khadi of all types and variations. We work in the variations of Tussar Silk Sarees, Dupattas and Stoles
Is there a story behind the name you have given to your business?
My brand name is devoted to my hometown. When I was in Mumbai everybody used to ask that which place I belong. When I used to reply Banka, no one knew that there’s place named Banka exists. That day, I decided that I need to earn a name for the place I belong, for the place that created my existence.
Also, Banka is one of the largest producers of cocoons and one among the oldest places where silk weaving is practised since ages. A major section of silk weavers in Bihar belong from Banka district only. We are pleased to give our brand name Banka because we wanted to give this unknown place an identity of its own. And weavers are quite happy to see the growth of Banka.
What is your business model? Please share numbers of founders, product/services offered and current business size.
Our business model is based on true sustainability, community building and creating leaders. Establishing a strong network backed by the phenomenal skill of silk weaving. Through our endless efforts we have been able to establish strong links with over 100 families at micro level who are into silk weaving for over 100 years. We have helped in garnering a strong financial support for these groups.
At present the business is divided into three parts:
i. Selling our products online globally through various online portals.
ii. Manufacturing and supplying bulk fabrics to the bigger firms like Biba, Future Group etc. as per season, trends and their requirements.
iii. Taking part in big exhibitions and fairs where we can showcase and market our product and participating in fashion weeks nationally and internationally.
What is your current distribution in brick and mortar space? What are your future distribution plans?
Right now, we are managing our business through virtual mode like Facebook, E-mails and our own website. We have our office in Patna and Delhi and gradually we are expanding it to more places.
We are focusing on escalating more within the country by expanding online channels with other leading and reputed websites and improvising our own website. We now aim at expanding the offline model as well and opening of own retail stores and shop in shop and other selling models.
What has been your A-ha Moment in the business? (The high point)
I guess the A-ha Moment in the business was when we started selling through IndianRoots and it was selling quite well in national as well as international markets. To see the growth was an amazing feeling.
What has been your biggest challenge so far in scaling -up? How are you addressing it?
The issue of quality control has been the biggest challenge so far. Updating weavers and making them understand the importance of quality control is a big task as sometimes the traditional weavers become rigid of their points and don’t understand what we try to make them understand. Systems like dyeing, colouring, bit looms development, desk loom developments, colour strike-offs are quite important criteria when we are dealing with bigger orders. This need to get improves on a massive scale.
How do you see growth scenario is this business? What are your future scale-up plans?
The growth is tremendous in this sector. In the next couple of years, I visualise a growth percentage of 200% if we continue to manage and build this business. Future scale plans includes a lot of thigs in both online as well as offline model. In terms of online, we are planning to sell through multiple e-com portals. We are working towards improvising our own website and expand our social media network. We are also promoting the brans through photoshoots, ads & small documentaries.
In offline mode, we are planning to open up our retail outlet store in some key locations, shop in shop and kiosk models. We will be any day selling through exhibitions and ‘melas’ and would keep an eye on the national & international fashion weeks too.