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Love for Sarees Inspires Sisters to Build Rs 50 Crore Brand; Empower 16,000 Weavers

24th January 2023
Love for Sarees Inspires Sisters to Build Rs 50 Crore Brand; Empower 16,000 Weavers


Taniya and Sujata, a business couple, are proud of their mutual balance and shared ambition. Taniya asserts that Sujata is the heart and brain behind the team's amazing weaver management.

Think about the people you're affecting when you do something. You shouldn't do it if you end up hurting anyone.

Suta, which means a third, also produces fiber. When the Suta girls, Su, Sujata, and Ta, Tanya, discovered the magic of their first syllables, how happy must they have been.

In 2016, we formed a team of two to launch Suta. At first, we only had two weavers working with us. There are currently over 1400 weavers and office workers. According to our clients, Suta sarees always have something unique. The saree is breathable and makes you feel very comfortable; You can wear it all day long. We put a lot of love and effort into every saree weave.

We had to fight with our parents at first. They believed that we were just starting a hobby; and we would soon outgrow the whole craze. We started to convince them that it was worth it, and perhaps the rest of the world began to embrace us as well.

We did not work in the textile sector; We have received little information regarding fabrics. People will attempt to deceive them if they see two women approaching because they are likely to leave quickly. The world is moving forward, but there are still some people who think very backwards. It is still expected that the "Boss" will be a man. We only had one goal in mind when we left our well-paid corporate jobs and entered the textile industry: to make a difference. We've always wanted to do something meaningful, and this has always been our driving force.

We have always put money into the right things. We have never overspent on investments; We have always proceeded sequentially. There were nights when we wrote the brand name on the packaging boxes the night before our show. With the money we have, we have never splurged. We both started investing a small portion of our savings, say four lakhs, and eventually started making money. From the beginning, we handled the cash flow effectively. We would always try to cut corners in order to save money. For example, Sujata did the modeling and Tanya did the photography.

 

The Suta duo demonstrates to us that nothing is simple until it is accomplished. They have grown into a 5.5 million-dollar company in three years thanks to their unwavering devotion to their work and careful planning.

Taniya and Sujata are a stunning illustration of what can be accomplished with the right mindset and a sincere heart. Here, the heart and mind worked together to create a flow of sarees in a variety of styles, including batik, jamdani, hand-painted, and many more.

Suta, a well-known Indian brand known for its vibrant and soft cotton saris, will open a new store and hold an exhibition in Kolkata. Suta, run by sisters Taniya and Sujata Biswas, is a one-stop shop for sari lovers. Suta has become well-known for its modern take on traditional weaves in just a few years. The exhibition will showcase Suta's most popular collections and bring you closer to the magical world of Indian craftsmanship.

The pop-up, which will be held at Ganges Art Gallery in Ballygunge from September 2 to 4, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., will feature saris, blouses, accessories, and more. Additionally, the company will open a brand-new store at Wabi Sabi, Lake Market, on Dr. Sarat Banerjee Road.

On April 1, 2016, Sujata and Taniya Biswas quit their comfortable corporate jobs and focused solely on building a brand called Suta, which means "thread." They make sure that the communities of weaver and artisan communities benefit from their traditional crafts. Suta is a business with a mission, and their exquisite cotton sarees come in a variety of weaves, including jamdani weave, mulmul, malkesh, and banarasi.

The Suta Sisters will teach you how to start a business from scratch. "Our brand is primarily known for its collection of cotton sarees from various traditions, but we also work with the purest mulberry silk, handloom ikats, and linen, among other things." We employ methods like hand batik, block printing, embroidery, and others on cotton and silk. Even though neither of us had any experience in fashion or textiles, we both had a strong desire to start a brand that would help the weaver and artisan community and bring back India's dying arts. Sujata tells The Better India, "We have 16,000 weavers and artisans who work with us on a contract basis and also provide employment for their family members."

What started out as a hobby project to "explore our creative curiosities and personal inspirations" has grown into a business that now employs over 150 full-time employees and has brought in approximately Rs 50 crore in revenue.

According to Taniya, "Suta is an amalgamation of our collective desire to make a positive impact on the ground to ensure the legacy of our precious crafts and weaves finds a place in the modern context."

The company recently introduced a line of men's kurtas and will soon introduce women's kurtas. Additionally, the company already sells loungewear, home decor, handbags, jewelry, and other products.

“We are known as a one-stop shop for sarees, even though we are entering a lot of verticals. You can simply pick up a saree from one of our stores and put it on if you want to wear one today,” she continues.

Suta's Mumbai-based co-founders: Taniya and Sujata Biswas Building Suta The sisters grew up in a family that moved around the country a lot because their father worked in the Indian Railways, which allowed him to move around. They mostly grew up in the eastern part of India, observing a variety of cultures, cuisines, communities, and fashion choices. They never spent a long time in a single city. The saree collection that their mother and grandmother possessed was a highlight of their childhood memories.

“I applied for a PhD at IIT-Bombay to study e-commerce businesses after earning my engineering degree and MBA. After that, I worked in the branding and steel industries. Sujata recalls, "At this point, Taniya and I started to think about starting our venture."

After earning her MBA from IIM-Lucknow, Taniya joined her sister in Mumbai in 2013. She now works as a consultant for IBM. Despite the fact that the sisters enjoyed their respective jobs, they were not having the desired effect on people's lives. After Taniya moved to Mumbai a year earlier, they started building their business while still working their day jobs.

They were learning, making mistakes, getting ripped off, and looking for the right fabric and skilled weavers in various parts of India for the next two years. They went to the farthest reaches of West Bengal in search of skilled weavers, where they currently operate their two factories, Shantipur in the district of Nadia and Dhaniakhali; Uttar Pradesh; Meghalaya; Varanasi, where the famous Banarasi sarees are made; In Odisha, Maniabandha; and, among other places, the Gujarati district of Kutch. Their love of fabric was further cultivated by visiting these locations.

Our appreciation for sarees also grew as we traveled to these villages. We were often told that sarees were only worn on special occasions or by elderly women when they went to the temple, among other things. We wanted to change people's perceptions about sarees and bring them back into everyday life. We started with mulmul sarees, which are muslins made of fine, light, and soft cotton. The first weavers we approached were unwilling to produce starch-free plain mulmul sarees. They claimed that plain sarees were only worn by widows in rural West Bengal, where mulmul sarees are typically embroidered. Only a few weavers were weaving plain mulmul sarees because there was not a lot of demand for them. Sujata recalls, "We eventually found those weavers."

"We didn't even give them any designs to work with initially," Sujata adds. We were making plain sarees with only one color. We wanted to introduce these sarees to young people in order to bring them back into their lives. We began offering these sarees for Rs 1,250 (or Rs 1,313 after GST). We were working full-time while doing all of this.

I used to return on the weekends, regardless of the circumstances at work. Both of us spent the weekend packing and shipping any orders we received. We were self-employed at the time, so we did everything ourselves. When we left our jobs in 2016, we had two full-time weavers and one employee who was responsible for packing and labeling. Before that, we were working intermittently on our business, planning our shoots, and establishing the business model. Taniya adds, "We also organized a lot of exhibitions, went through a lot of setbacks, learned who our customers were, and did all of that in two years." (Photo courtesy of Suta) Telling Stories When the sisters launched Suta, they were prepared and invested approximately Rs 3 lakh each. They started by making very basic sarees available to everyone.

The sisters were focused on creating high-quality, simple designs with thin or no borders at all. When word got out that the sisters offered regular work throughout the year at rates higher than the market, what started as a trickle of weavers became a flood.

Soon, they were roping in entire communities of weavers, and young Indian customers, especially those between the ages of 18 and 25, began purchasing their sarees.

We are not just a brand that sells things. We write stories on our social media handles about the reasons a particular saree is made, the story behind the product, and the thought process that went into it behind many of our products. However, the primary objective is to collaborate with numerous weavers and provide them with work throughout the year. Not only do we collaborate with them, but we also involve them in the design process, allowing them to offer suggestions that we sometimes implement. Sujata clarifies that the relationship is not one-sided.

As a result, despite the fact that many brands were not selling during the COVID-19-induced lockdown, customers continued to purchase from Suta because we kept talking about the assistance we provide to weavers in these trying times. During the pandemic, we added more of them even though we lacked the bandwidth and cash flow to do so. Taniya states, "That's what sets us apart."

Suta wants to build a close relationship with their customers as well as their close relationship with weavers. Their social media posts feature pictures of the muses in their outfits and colorful stories. They refer to their "family" of customers as "Suta Queens." The customer (the muse) or the saree's story take center stage in these posts.

But Suta's work with weavers in states like Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Kashmir, and Tamil Nadu stands out most. For the weavers Getting these weavers on board and gaining their trust was a huge challenge in the early years.

"However, talk is money! We ensured that they received payment on time. In the early days of Suta, we would inspect and pay for their sarees as soon as they were presented to us at their residence or place of employment. We even made sure that the weaver's wife, who helped him weave a particular saree, had a bank account and that the work was split equally in some cases. "Word of mouth spread our appeal to weavers," says Taniya.

These weavers are easily integrated into the workforce.

"The weavers are met by our team. These weavers provide samples, which are then evaluated by our team for quality and trained on our brand's operations. The weavers wash them and adhere Suta stickers to them when they are finished. They are onboarded after the final check, and we send designs online via WhatsApp or email. We collaborate with them under a contract. Regardless of whether we sell the saree, the payment is immediately deposited into the weaver's bank account as soon as finished sarees reach our hubs (we have two factories in West Bengal, for example) and undergo the QC (quality check).

Because they always know there is work, weavers work with us for a long time. Unless they keep making mistakes, their payment is not contingent on how we sell their collection. Because we have a large team overseeing it in our factories, our quality control is completed quickly. Taniya adds, "Our QC is strict, so our pay structure is slightly higher than the market."

The Suta Sisters will teach you how to start your own business from the ground up. Weavers and artisans are paid per product. The amount paid depends on how complicated and intricate each product is. It also varies depending on whether it is made using a power loom, handloom, jacquard loom, or another method.

Suta has a full-time contract with weavers, and the pay of each weaver is determined by the number of items they produce, their skill, and the weaving technique(s) they use. Some artisans only produce seasonal goods (such as Batik sarees), whose lead times may be significantly longer than those of standard sarees. As a result, their prices are higher than those of simpler products with shorter lead times.

We pay our weavers and artisans fairly, depending on their level of expertise. Additionally, our weavers at Suta are guaranteed 365 days of work. About 80% of the weavers and artisans are contracted (full-time) workers. This indicates that even in times of limited cash flow, we generate new work for them if the work is completed quickly. We work to improve their standard of living in addition to the 25-35% of each product's revenue that goes to them,” asserts Sujata.

Suta Sailen Kumar Kundu, who oversees a group of weavers affiliated with the Begumpur Handloom Cluster Development Society in West Bengal, discusses his interactions with Suta. Weavers and artisans are at the core of Suta's work.

"We make sarees from cotton. When they came to Begumpur in 2018 to look for sarees, we met Suta. They came across us and asked about our sarees. They adored our sarees and have continued to purchase them ever since. They buy at least 1800 items annually, if not more. Suta buys cotton sarees from us with thread counts of 100/100, 80/100, and 40/60," he says.

Additionally, Suta does not return inventory when a weaver's collection does not function properly or has a color or design flaw. Instead, they either use embellishing techniques like block printing and embroidery, upcycle them, or think about including the defective products in another collection.

“We take the product, shoot it as a one-of-a-kind product based on the defect, such as a color error, and we upload it on our website. If there is a significant flaw and the saree does not sell, we deduct a small amount so that we can put the item aside and consider ways to repurpose it. However, we never return the saree or sit with the weavers. Instead, we upcycle them and sell them in a variety of forms. Taniya explains, "We provide most of the yarns, but in some villages, we don't control the entire supply chain."

Suta even runs a project called Suta Earth, in which they use old sarees to make bags and ship packages in them. Take, for instance, the Khesh saree, which are made from old sarees that have been torn and rewoven into them. Khesh is made of a lot of their single-colored sarees.

We upcycle any sarees that have flaws and turn them into Khesh sarees. When weavers take a break from weaving and go outside, there may be a certain line that separates the saree at the center. This line looks awful in a place where people can see it, so customers ask for an exchange. We use block prints and other embellishments like embroidery to cover that line or demarcation so that the line doesn't show,” she says.

In point of fact, Suta has established various units to repair the faulty sarees.

"What we are doing is foolish, if you ask a business consultant or an investor. Having said that, Sujata argues, "we have to be smart to find a solution for defective products rather than putting the burden of selling that inventory on the weaver."

 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when a large number of new weavers were brought aboard, their treatment of weavers continued. Many of them contacted Suta online because they were out of work.

“We wrote an email to Suta sometime in October 2020 about how the pandemic was making it difficult for us to sustain ourselves. We inquired whether Suta could assist us with some work. Their team came to see our work and visited us. They liked it right away, and by November 2020, Suta had begun providing us with work, according to Kolkata-based artisan Martin Ghosh.

Suta's cushions, sarees, and curtains are made by Marin and his team of artisans. We make bullion, Kantha embroidery, French knots, and other things. We even get to work on Batik silk and Mulmul fabrics from Suta. We received a lot of work from them last year. We received between 200 and 250 sarees from them to hand embroider. 700-800 artisans were able to earn a living from the work they did for us. We are forever grateful for this,” he continues.

In a similar vein, Jaan Mohammed, a Kashmiri Pashmina weaver who has been collaborating with Suta for the past five years to produce shawls, stoles, dresses, mufflers, and caps for them, discusses how he overcame the pandemic. We had less work during the lockdown, but Suta helped us through those trying times, and we are very grateful for that,” he says.

Suta's long-term goal is to recruit more weavers from various parts of India so that no traditional craft is lost. We only intend to recruit additional weavers as our primary objective. In addition, we intend to work entirely with natural fibers in the future and broaden our customer base by opening additional stores and e-commerce platforms like Nykaa Fashion and Myntra. Sujata asserts, "These alliances with e-commerce platforms will help us at least move the volume of products and give out more orders for weavers." This is true regardless of whether or not margins improve.


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