August 6, 2017 6:29:44 am
Once considered an indispensable part of a household, the traditional woollen blanket of Maharashtra — the ghongadi — has lost much of its ground over the last few years. A group of young entrepreneurs from Pune are now planning to revive the market for such blankets through an e-commerce platform — Ghongadi.com. The brainchild of engineers Tushar Pakhare, Niraj Borate and dentist Madhura Avinash, the website offers traditional weavers from rural parts of the state an alternative market.
Known for its rough texture, the woollen blankets are spun on pit looms and dyed with organic and natural dyes.
These blankets have been prepared mostly by the Dhangard, or the traditional sheep rearers, of the state.
On an average, it takes about seven days to spin a ghongadi. “Known as natural thermal blankets, a ghongadi is relatively easy to maintain and has a longer lifespan than other blankets. However, lack of marketing options had relegated these blankets far from the shelves of city-based stores… the artisans have also had a tough life,” said the founders.
Pakhare, who hails from the Karmala tehshil of Solapur district, said they decided to start the website after conducting a market research. “We had conducted a survey on social media, which took views from around 200 people. The results were quite positive,” said Pakhare. Ghongadi.com had started online retailing of the blanket last month. “…in a span of just two weeks, we sold 50 ghongadis,” he added. The portal has tie ups with around 12 artisans in Karmala taluka of Solapur district. “At present, we buy four-five blankets on a regular basis. Once the volume picks up, we will increase our purchase,” he added.
Backend operations are managed by a coordinator at Karmala who ships the blankets to Pune, from where it is sent out for delivery. An individual blanket is purchased from the artisan’s end at Rs 1,100 and is sold at Rs 1,500. The difference is spent on shipping and administrative expenses, said Pakhare. Pakhare added that the higher margins charged by established players in the e-commerce sector have prevented them from joining hands with them. “For a handcrafted product, such high margins will shoot up the prices,” he said. “We are trying for online and offline collaborations with like-minded people, who are trying to save such art forms,” he added.
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