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How a Pune start-up didn’t just survive the pandemic, but tripled its revenue

In an interview, Pallavi Mohadikar Patwari, who founded Karagiri with her husband talks about essaying the turnaround and corporate responsibility towards handloom artisans.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
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A Pune-based startup that works with 800 weaving families across India to make handloom saris has posted a revenue of Rs 3.20 crore in July, exceeding its projection by three times and defying the grim global business environment.

“At times like this, some strategies need to change. A lot depends on how smartly you navigate the situation and convert the pandemic into an opportunity. For us, almost all deliveries were shut and business was down from the beginning of March till the end of May, but right now, our workshop is buzzing and we are delivering 200-300 orders per day, which is three times our pre-Covid figures,” says Pallavi Mohadikar Patwari, who founded Karagiri with her husband, Dr Amol Patwari, in 2017. In an interview, she talks about essaying the turnaround and corporate responsibility towards handloom artisans:

At what stage of the pandemic did you return to the drawing board to strategise?

Someone from my family had travelled to China in October-November and when they came back, they described the grim situation there. We knew the coronavirus was going to come to India, so we decided to ask ourselves the tough questions very early. What if the situation becomes really bad in India and nobody buys saris? What if people stop celebrating festivals and weddings as before? We were quite worried about this. We were thinking how to manage the situation in a way that our sales would not plummet.

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What were some of your innovations?

The natural solution was to come up with low-cost products. Our average price is Rs 6,500 per sari but, as a desperate measure, we launched a collection with a selling price of Rs 3,000 per piece. That was the first time we were entering a low-price zone but we got a very good response. After two months, we observed that the new segment did not affect the sales for high-value products. Then, we came back to a marketing strategy where we decided to promote both segments separately. The new segment added an extra mass to the audience. Coming up is a new line of ready-to-wear saris that millennials, a segment that does not wear saris, as a rule, can drape on easily.

We also decided to use the lull during the lockdown to plan our collections for Diwali and other festivals of the season. We created a lot of stock and it is because of that we have doubled our expected revenue. We also kept our gateway open and kept taking orders, promising our clients that we would deliver only when the lockdown ended. We started delivering from June.

How did your company tackle the impact of the lockdown on the weaving community?

We work with weaving families from seven to eight states, with clusters in places such as Varanasi. On an average, two or three people from every family is involved in weaving. We kept up the orders and all of our weavers were working during the lockdown and earning. In one case, a weaver from Pauni, near Nagpur, has four daughters. The son, a security guard, lost his job and the weaver was the breadwinner during the lockdown. My grandfather was a weaver of Kosa saris in Bhandara, near Nagpur, and I grew up seeing him work by the light of an oil lamp, which was a very difficult thing to do because weaving needs a lot of precision. In our company, we look at ourselves as family members of the weavers and we grow together.

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