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Engineer Uses Centuries-Old Fabric to Turn Rs 25000 Investment into Rs 4 Crore Empire

Gurugram resident Anjali Agarwal quit her engineering career to launch Kota Doria Silk with an investment of Rs 25,000, which she has turned into an empire of sarees, suits, home decor and more.

Engineer Uses Centuries-Old Fabric to Turn Rs 25000 Investment into Rs 4 Crore Empire

Hues, colours, and designs have always been an integral part of Anjali Agarwal’s life — whether she was sketching on her bedroom walls as a child or creating four-feet paintings for the entrance of her office building. 

Her interest in art was evident in the way she dressed as well. While studying Electrical Engineering in Kota and during her employment with several companies in different parts of North India, Anjali’s taste for subtle patterns and varied colour combinations were widely acknowledged by her peers.

“I always followed a certain style in dressing which largely consists of salwar suits and sarees. This happened organically as I was closely associated with art from childhood. But it took real shape during my college days in Kota, as the area is a haven of colours, artisans, weavers and more,” the 42-year-old tells The Better India.

anjali agrawal founder of kota doria silks
Anjali Agrawal.

It was during this period that Anjali became acquainted with a certain fabric called Kota Doria — a light woven fabric of tiny squares, which is handwoven on traditional pit looms in Kaithoon near Kota and other surrounding villages in Rajasthan. The fabric was rare and expensive, but apt for the hot climate of the state.

Anjali began purchasing this fabric and customised salwar suits. Seeing her wear this unique clothing, her friends and family from Gurugram asked her to bring them similar ones. 

The turning point

“I was really comfortable wearing Kota Doria material and continued experimenting with it even after completing college in 2003. My personal clothing was a hit among my colleagues. After getting married to my college friend from Kota, my attachment towards this place deepened. It also gave me a chance to know the city and its nearby villages from where the fabric originated,” she shares. 

Anjali worked as an electrical engineer for three years and later moved to software for eight more. In 2014, while working as a software engineer for IBM, she decided to take a break from her career due to a medical condition. She also had plans to set up a homegrown brand during this period in order to follow her passion for patterns and colours.

“Whenever people commented on my clothing and said they have never seen a similar material in their town, I’d wonder why Kota Doria fabric is not popping up in cities. Later, I understood it was due to its high price and limited numbers of weavers in the field. With an aim to spread word about this distinctive fabric and to improve the lives of the village artisans, I launched Kota Doria Silks in 2014,” recalls Anjali, who says she had no experience or background in running a business.

anjali agrawal founder kota doria silks
Anjali had no experience or background in running a business.

She invested Rs 25,000 to purchase fabric from local weavers of Kota and designed a few clothes herself. These were put up for sale on the official Facebook page and website of Kota Doria Silks. 

“I got my first customer within three days, from Chennai, and from then on, there was no looking back. I invested more money and profits and collaborated with local weavers and artisans. My home was my office too, where a few women were employed for stitching and packing purposes,” explains the entrepreneur.

a weaver at kota doria silk stitches fabric at a store
“My home was my office too, where a few women were employed for stitching and packing purposes.”

Today, Anjali says, her bootstrapped business has a turnover of Rs 4 crore. She is associated with more than 100 artisans as well as weavers from many villages of Rajasthan. She also has 15 full-time employees in the two offices in Kota and Gurugram.

“I am settled in Gurugram and the activities of the Kota branch are taken care of by my father-in-law. All our sales happen through the website and social media pages. So far, we have couriered the products to customers in the US, UK, UAE, Japan, Australia and some other European countries,” says Anjali.

anjali agarwal and a weaver at kota doria silk examine the fabrics
Today, Anjali says, her bootstrapped business has a turnover of Rs 2 crore.

Fabric full of history

Kota sarees are made of lightweight fabric suitable for the summer. The fabric is handwoven in pit looms using silk yarns to form a squared pattern. This type of weaving originated in Mysuru, under the supervision of Kota ruler Maharao Singh Kishore. 

But since the handloom method is expensive and time-consuming, most textile owners including Anjali have shifted to power looms. But she also maintains a set of hand woven fabric that is made upon request. “Usage of power looms are necessary because that is how we can sell products for a budget-friendly price. This will also help in popularising the fabric.”

Fabrics by Kota Doria Silks
Fabrics by Kota Doria Silks.

Anjali combines kota fabric with silk, cotton, or any other type that can incorporate techniques of ajrakh, hand embroidery, bagru and bagh prints, bandhej and lehriya, or tie-dye. “Contemporary digital prints on pastel-coloured fabrics of sarees and salwar suits are our best-sellers,” notes Anjali.

The venture not only sells clothing, but also has a wide collection of home decor items including curtains, pillow covers and bedspreads. “We also have a clothing collection for men,” adds Anjali, who single-handedly picks each and every design for her products. “I love doing the designing part all by myself. It is so satisfying to hear people speak about how the clothing makes them feel comfortable and confident.”

Home decor items by Kota Doria Silks
Home decor items by Kota Doria Silks.

The price range of the products starts from Rs 500 and can go up to Rs 2 lakh. 

The entrepreneur is all set to launch her physical stores in major Indian cities including Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad. “More than 60 per cent of our customers are from the South. Thus, we are planning to begin from the bottom. Also, we are planning to launch our products with brands like Lifestyle and Shoppers Stop,” she says.

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Edited by Divya Sethu; Photo Credits: Anjali Agrawal

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