Minakshi Walke is embracing the call to ‘vocal for local’, by popularising products made from locally available raw materials.
Minakshi Walke, a homemaker from Chandrapur in Maharashtra, is known for making beautiful and eco-friendly handicrafts, jewellery and gift items from bamboo. She started her entrepreneurial journey in 2017 with small-scale home-made items and later established her brand Abhisar Innovatives.
While the global pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has affected the sales and economy, Minakshi is not deterred by it. In fact, according to her, this is the right time to extend a helping hand towards the unemployed people and create job opportunities.
With Raksha Bandhan and Independence Day just around the corner, the 29-year-old is busy making tricolour badges and rakhis from bamboo. She has also hired local women from an underprivileged background to hand weave sustainable products.
“The lockdown has been difficult for all of us but we have to move past the situation and reinvent ways to get back on our feet. Initially, I had only planned to focus on making a limited number of rakhis but as I found very few takers for my other products, I increased the rakhi number and even added flags in the production,” Minakshi tells The Better India.
On Making Rakhis & Badges
To maintain social distancing, Minakshi has distributed the raw materials to the local women so that they can sit at their homes and weave the badges and flags.
The bamboo sticks are intricately weaved together in different shapes and sizes to make the patchwork of rakhi. For some rakhis, even the thread is weaved from bamboo. For the tricolour badges, Minakshi hand weaves a chatai (mat) and then cuts them into small rectangular pieces. They are then coloured with acrylic paints.
Minakshi’s one-of-a-kind rakhis and tricolour badges are creating quite a stir as they are not only eco-friendly but also cost-effective.
“We have kept the price at Rs 20 for both the products, and have sold over 10,000 rakhis across India in cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Indore and Pune. Our target for the badges is around 3000.”
Mumbai-based Lata Menon, a distributor of sustainable products, purchased 700 rakhis from Minakshi after learning about her efforts through a Facebook page.
“I was able to sell all the rakhis within two days in several parts of India. What struck me the most about her products are the intricate designs and shape. They are minimal and all of them are crafted with love. Plus, the cost is affordable,” Lata tells The Better India.
On Overcoming Hardships
The daughter of a farmer, Minakshi couldn’t pursue her passion for civil engineering due to financial strains at home and was married off in her early 20s. While she gracefully embraced the role of a homemaker, a miscarriage during her second pregnancy in 2017 brought her life to a standstill, and she slowly slipped into depression.
No amount of support from family lifted her spirits. But when a friend recommended a bamboo training programme by the state forest department, Minakshi decided to give it a try.
“I had made a couple of home decor items from plywood for my house and enjoyed the process. Slowly, the programme changed my life and gave me a purpose. The department’s emphasis on preserving the traditional art of weaving bamboo stayed with me after the workshop and I decided to take it forward in my own way,” she shares.
Another reason why she chose to work with bamboo is that it is readily available in her region, “There are many bamboo jungles on the outskirts. I procure them at very low rates. Because my investment is less, I sell all my products at affordable rates.”
On Using Social Media
Being a homemaker who had no experience in marketing, Minakshi faced many setbacks when she started. For weeks together, she found it difficult to sell even one item.
That’s when her husband stepped in and introduced her to social media. She made her page on Facebook and started approaching individuals and organisations looking for sustainable purchases.
“From messaging, putting up statuses to creating posts in groups, I utilised every feature of Facebook to spread the word. That’s how the business picked up,” she recalls.
Some of Minakshi’s bamboo products that are popular on social media include lampshades, jewellery, table mats and baskets. She hopes to expand her online reach in the next few months so that she empower more women.
What started out as a hobby has now turned into a business that is pro-environment.
Get in touch with Minakshi here
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)