India is one of the few countries in the world where cottage industries continue to function, even as more and more entrepreneurs are turning to the online sphere to market their products to a wider audience.
Though various state governments claim to support these small-scale entrepreneurs and ventures through welfare schemes and marketplace opportunities, these industries have hardly made any progress regarding technology or returns.
These ventures often end up incurring heavy losses, as they have to compete against cheap, mass-produced goods by factory-based manufacturers besides steering clear of conniving go-betweens.
Hailing from a weaving village in Kannur, Christy Jobin had observed weavers and the quality of their work from close quarters since her childhood. Even then, the workers (who were mostly women) were rarely paid their dues on time and often struggled to make ends meet.
This disparity became even more pronounced when she worked as a designer with a state-owned co-operative society for four years.
“What had pained me during these years was that most of these women were the sole bread earners of their family. And they weren’t given their daily wages. Instead, they were paid less than ₹500 and that too only upon weaving entire articles like a saree or a mundu (dhoti). Also, most welfare schemes or festive bonuses, for which these women put their blood and sweat to push the production higher, took months and sometimes years to reach them,” says Christy to The Better India.
She had had enough and put up down her papers in 2013. Christy had a better plan in mind—to open a store of her own and employ not only weavers but also other small-scale women entrepreneurs who could sell their homemade products with proper returns and no middlemen to cheat them off their hard work.
And thus, Looms & Weaves took flight with a store near the General Hospital Junction in Thiruvananthapuram, for which she pledged her gold jewellery as seed funding.
But Christy didn’t find the traction she expected, based on her assumption that handlooms were a thriving business.
Things finally looked up for Christy when her friend broached the idea of teaming up with e-commerce giant Amazon, which had begun to spread in the Indian marketplace.
Looms & Weaves foray into the e-commerce space began with ten products. Four years later, today Amazon sells about 700 exclusive products from Kerala under Christy’s venture.
Starting with towels and bed sheets, she soon started expanding her inventory and began reaching out to small women entrepreneurs who dealt with spices, homemade snacks, ayurvedic and beauty care products and even native curios like ‘nettipattam’.
“My focus had been upon bringing women entrepreneurs and farmers across the state on board and empowering them with sustainable livelihoods. We have over 100 women from varying backgrounds supplying their products of hard labour to Looms & Weaves store. Unlike their previous returns, here they get spot payment which is a great respite for most of our cash-strapped employees,” Christy explains.
A major support throughout the years has been her husband, Jobin, whom Christy attributes as being her backbone.
Jobin has been managing the reins of Looms & Weaves as Christy gave birth to their daughter earlier this year.
Perhaps Christy’s best moment since her foray into this venture was when Amazon listed products from Looms & Weaves as the best sellers from Kerala last year. Heartening progress for a venture that helps local weavers get value returns for their skilfully made products.
At present, Christy has been receiving a daily average of 200 orders from across the country and some orders have been placed all the way from the United States. “It makes me immensely happy that Looms & Weaves is helping these women lead better lives while our customers are benefitting from our quality products. As of future, we want to take these products to a global marketplace,” adds Christy.
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Looking at the humble beginnings and the trajectory that Looms & Weaves has charted in these four years, we hope that Christy and Jobin can achieve that milestone as well and wish their entire workforce good luck.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)