How an investment lawyer made her foray into the world of fashion is a story a lot of entrepreneurs can learn from. Sometimes, what you believe you are cut out for may not make the cut at all. And this is what happened to Madhuri Aggarwal, the founder of Weaves of Tradition, an online portal that sells sarees, dress material, dupattas, stoles, woollens, readymade garments, handcrafted jewellery, and home linen sourced from artisans across India.
After working as an investment lawyer for five years, Madhuri went on to do an MBA in 2014 to gain more knowledge of the world of business, management, and finance. Later, she realised that the combination of law and MBA was not welcome in most companies and firms.
“I was often questioned about my seriousness about pursuing a career in either field. For two years I knocked at every door I could think of. Soon, I realised I was running after something that wasn’t meant to be,” Madhuri says.
So, Madhuri relied on Plan B: her plans of entrepreneurship. She didn’t have to look too far for inspiration. She explains. “My mother is my biggest inspiration in terms of developing my love for fashion. She used to wear beautiful handloom cotton and silk sarees, and her sense of design and style always inspired me to design and enter the world of fashion.”
That is how Madhuri decided to take the plunge to pursue her passion for fashion and styling in 2017 and launched Weaves of Tradition.
Weaves of Tradition began with a budget of Rs 70,000 and 50 products, and its website was launched in 2018.
Supporting artisans and artists
Weaves of Tradition stands for the handloom, arts, and crafts that are created all over India. The startup’s vision is to create a business that caters to all these while addressing the requirements and sensibilities of both the old and the new. At the root of every product is a requirement of eco-friendliness, ethical sourcing, and the need for development of the handloom and handicraft sector as well as small artisans and artists whose livelihood depends on the art they create.
Currently, Weaves of Tradition offers fashion, jewellery, home linen, and handicrafts. It will launch bags and shoes very soon.
“My idea was to create a brand that was eco-friendly and ethically sourced without being prohibitively expensive. This is the basis of every product I sell. You will find a wide price range of the products sold by Weaves of Tradition, so every customer has an option to buy a product that they can afford,” Madhuri tells HerStory.
The startup procures products from all over India, including from handloom institutions, artisans, textile units, karigars, and craftsmen. It has a network of around 50 weavers, 16 hand block printers, and eight textile manufacturers.
Building a product base
Once the product is sourced by the startup, it goes through customisation with embroidery, tassels, dyeing, printing, as well as pairing with other fabrics. For example, 95 percent of their sarees are paired with different blouse pieces and accessorised with tassels. This is the part where the Weaves of Tradition’s design and styling elements come into play. Each product is then checked for defects, stains, or any other issue. The finished product is priced, photographed and listed for sale.
The pricing keeps in mind not just the cost of the fabric or its add-ons, but also the time and effort that goes into the making of the finished product.
“The most difficult part is maintaining a healthy balance between the value that goes into the product and the value that it gives to the customer. At Weaves of Tradition, you will mostly find only one unit of each product, because every product is customised or hand woven or handmade, thus giving it uniqueness and a greater value to the customer,” Madhuri says.
Some of the products such as digitally printed dupattas are available in bulk because the printing process itself requires a larger quantity of each design.
Weaving a USP
The uniqueness of the products of Weaves of Tradition is that each product goes through a number of processes thereby employing a number of skilled artists and giving them an opportunity to earn. It is not a simple buy-and-sell business model, but a buy, upgrade, and sell model.
“I also upcycle old sarees. One of the important requirements of sustainable fashion is reusing the old. Heirloom sarees, those that are 30-40 years old, have excellent quality of fabric and zari work. Upcycling these sarees with embroidery, borders, new blouses, getting them polished are just a few of the things I do. I will be starting tailoring services soon to convert these heirloom pieces into beautiful garments,” Madhuri says.
Apart from its own website, the startups also sells its products on Amazon.
“I have three to four logistics partners when it comes to shipping. There are some places where private companies do not provide services and for such places, I use India Post,” she says.
Weaves of Tradition’s target market is women from the age of 16 years. “I have a very good customer base and a large number of those are repeat customers. I hope to build my customer base with better products and better pricing as I go on increasing my selection and product offering,” she says.
Challenges in the path
Madhuri started Weaves of Tradition when her baby was just three months old.
“It was the most difficult time of my life, when I had to take care of my little one without much help as well as set up the business. It has been an exhilarating journey, nurturing and bringing up two babies. Most days I would work all night and take care of my baby during the day. My biggest support during this time was my husband, who has supported me in every way possible,” Madhuri says.
Growth and future plans
The Bengaluru-based bootstrapped venture, which began with 50 products initially, now has about 1,000 stock keeping units (SKUs). Its products are priced from Rs 200 and go up to Rs 10,000, depending upon the fabric and the craft, the manufacturing time, and method.
Over the last two years, the startup claims that it has been growing at close to 250 percent per annum and around 27.5 percent month on month. The venture, which generated a revenue of Rs 32 lakh last fiscal, is targeting Rs 10 crore annually in the next 10 years.
“The future revenue plan for Weaves of Tradition is to expand its categories and product selection to become a complete eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle brand. A huge part of my business will also be dedicated to upcycling, upgrading, and recycling used products to create new ones,” Madhuri says.