Khadi got a new lease of life during the Indian independence movement and became an icon of the nation’s freedom struggle. Gradually though, the fabric came to be associated with ruggedness and lack of finesse, and got relegated to a backseat among the list of fabrics. For a very long time during the evolutionary stages of India, Khadi was fighting a losing battle. Some relief came when Khadi started getting blended with other fibres like silk and wool to produce appealing, colourful fabrics with some distinct qualities and sheen. Well, even then Khadi could never get over its image of ‘commoners’ cloth’. Several designers took turns to reviving the image of Khadi and ensuring that it starts getting associated with modernity while simultaneously underlining the traditional feel that it embodies. Yet there are miles to go before Khadi bears a victory baton.
Priyanshi Jariwala is one of the few visionaries to sight the glamour quotient in Khadi. Priyanshi took the plunge into entrepreneurship with an assurance to the young that she would introduce Khadi to them in a fashionable and ever-so-desirable form. Her innovative start-up, The Khadi Cult, offers fashionable and youth-centric Khadi clothes.
Priyanshi completed her graduation from Narsee Monjee College of Commerce & Economics and the immediate option before her was to join her family business. Her family is into metallic yarn manufacturing. They also own a diagnostic centre franchise of Apollo hospitals. But, Priyanshi had other aims. She wanted to join her family business not as a natural successor but as a deserving successor with an idea about business to make it big on her own merit. She wanted to make a meaningful contribution. She wanted to learn the nuances of ‘doing business’ before venturing out. Through some friends, she came to know about EDII’s Post Graduate Programme in Management – Business Entrepreneurship. The curriculum, as she says, “promised to give me what I was looking for”. She decided to join it and very soon, Priyanshi was learning ‘how to do business’ at EDII campus.
Speaking about her learning at EDII, Priyanshi says, “Studying at EDII was a different experience altogether. The professors were approachable and were always ready to help us with our business ideas. They tested waters every now and then to make sure that we were certain and confident about our business idea.”
EDII changed her perspective and she started looking for an opportunity to set up her own business. Right from the first year, Priyanshi started working on her business idea. She had a liking for clothing and accessories, and these were the two opportunities she focussed upon for market research. Ultimately, she settled on floating a business of providing comfortable and fashionable clothing in Khadi for the youth. Priyanshi shares, “I understand the requirements of today’s youth. While they have an orientation towards western clothing, they also prefer comfort and style. I decided to move away from the run-of-the-mill fabric used in designing clothes for the youth; instead gave them different kind of clothes that promise style and comfort.”
Priyanshi knew that she was choosing the road less trodden but she was determined. She visited a host of Khadi Bhandars to assess the market and without much ado, took to business. As she says, “Assuring myself of success, I just started designing Khadi clothes.”
Priyashi addressed all the lapses that she had noticed during her visits to Khadi Bhandars. She expanded choices for youths and pitched Khadi as a stylish fabric, which remains cool in summers and provides warmth in winters. She adorned the clothing with modern prints, styles and cuts. With such focus, Priyanshi worked on her start-up. Even for her internship, she worked on her own start-up, thus having perfected the strengths and assessed the weaknesses by the time she launched her unit.
Luckily, six months after Priyanshi started working on her start-up idea, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, in Mann ki Baat, mentioned that Khadi should be widely promoted among youth. With Prime Minister’s accent on Khadi clothes, it became easier for Priyanshi to venture into the market.
The path for Priyanshi was not a bed of roses. Lack of experience and practical training did put her into losses and wastage of metres of cloth. Reaching out to people was also a task. However at this juncture, she used her entrepreneurial training.
As she puts it, “There was a time when on account of a technical error, I wasted 22 metres of cloth but instead of panicking, I used the cloth creatively and made beautiful bags out of it. So, at every stage, I fought till I gradually felt confident.” She also trained herself by working extensively with textile professionals and designers. This helped her achieve creative landmarks by way of designing Khadi chaniya-cholis which got her noticed. She is also careful about not repeating her designs and places more focus on innovating. Her next innovation is Khadi Denim.
Today, Priyanshi’s products are in demand in Surat and this demand is constantly rising. Priyanshi plans to make Khadi popular in India and abroad and is already in talks with a few companies in New Jersey, France and Europe that are interested in the distribution of Khadi wear. This young entrepreneur is all charged up and is taking small steps to success. Her confidence is contagious and there’s no way The Khadi Cult wouldn’t make among the top Indian clothing brands, five years down the line.
We wish her all the best!