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Started in a Small Himachal Village, Engineer’s Online Saree Biz Earns Rs 5 Crore

Ankush Barjata founded an online saree platform named 'Deeva' from a small Himachal village. His journey, rooted in his family's clothing legacy, was driven by a vision to provide a better life for his family.

Started in a Small Himachal Village, Engineer’s Online Saree Biz Earns Rs 5 Crore

In its recent episode, when Shark Tank India Season 3 opened its large doors, it welcomed a young entrepreneur Ankush Barjata, who was draped in — wait for it — a saree!

Ankush is the founder of an online saree platform ‘Deeva’. He started the company with a simple idea — to eliminate the middle chain in the large saree industry and connect customers directly to manufacturers.

What left the sharks amazed was the fact that at the age of 23, he had established a Rs 5 crore company — all while working out of a small village in Himachal Pradesh called Bangana.

With his work, he was able to onboard three ‘sharks’ — boAt founder Aman Gupta, CEO of Edelweiss Mutual Fund Radhika Gupta, and OYO Rooms founder Ritesh Agarwal. He bagged a deal of Rs 2 crore — Rs 75 lakh for six percent equity along with a debt of Rs 1.25 crore at 10 percent interest for three years.

“Coming from a small village with limited resources, the journey to Shark Tank was a distant dream for me. After our episode was aired, we got an overwhelming response from customers. Our phones have not stopped ringing since then,” Ankush tells The Better India.

Ankush's startup sells sarees in 50 categories — including Patola, Kanjivaram, Chanderi, Banarasi silk, and Chiffon sarees.
Ankush’s startup sells sarees in 50 categories — including Patola, Kanjivaram, Chanderi, Banarasi silk, and Chiffon sarees.

‘My grandpa sold clothes door-to-door, my mother wore threads for bangles’

Born and raised in Bangana village, Ankush had a harsh childhood. His family of 12 would live in a makeshift tin structure before moving to a 2BHK home. To sustain this large family, his grandfather would peddle clothes door to door.

“He was a feri wala selling salwar kameez in villages. We had a small tea shop in our home. We only survived on one meal a day. Our situation was so abysmal that my mother would wrap threads on her wrists. We did not have enough money to buy her bangles. In 2004, my mother started taking stitching classes and selling suits,” he says, “By 2011, our situation improved when my father joined the business after quitting his retail outlet job.”

Ankush says his success is rooted in his family’s clothing legacy. “My family’s situation has not only taught me to be humble and grounded but also about running a business. Our everyday conversation would be on sales and business,” he adds.

However, Ankush — a computer science graduate by education — took up a sales and marketing job in a Hyderabad-based company. “As part of this work, I met a saree manufacturer who was counting profits after selling 100 sarees for Rs 300 each. After speaking with him, I understood that while manufacturers make a saree for Rs 300, they are sold for Rs 1,000 in the same country,” he informs.

To sustain this large family, Ankush says his grandfather would peddle clothes door to door.
To sustain this large family, Ankush says his grandfather would peddle clothes door to door.

Later, when Ankush decided to start his own saree business, he says he used a simple Google search to find a saree map of India that showcased the kinds of sarees worn statewide. Based on those categories, he found contacts of manufacturers and prepared a database.

“Using that list, I started reaching out to them. For about a month, I continuously travelled to at least seven cities including Hyderabad, Agra, Mathura, Vrindavan, Surat, Kanchipuram, Chennai, and Kolkata,” he says.

This tour was an eye-opener for Ankush as he observed problems faced by the manufacturers as well. “From weavers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and finally to customers — there is not one but many middlemen in the saree industry. Manufacturers deal with distributors and work on credit for one month. That means they will get payments after this period,” he informs.

“I aimed to address these challenges with my startup. My solution? Once orders start rolling in, we commit to paying manufacturers promptly. My idea was that by opting for immediate payment instead of credit, they could enjoy a steady daily income,” he adds.

After understanding the nitty gritty of the saree industry, Ankush finally quit his high-paying job in 2021 and launched Deeva.

From a small village to Shark Tank

To start Deeva, Ankush exhausted all his savings of Rs 3.5 lakh and an additional Rs 3 lakh financial support from his father. Much against his hopes, he experienced extreme losses. Amid societal pressure, he moved to Chennai — where he pursued his higher education — to escape the situation.

Ankush says his success is rooted in his family’s clothing legacy.
Ankush says his success is rooted in his family’s clothing legacy.

“Everyone knows each other in a village. When villagers saw me struggle for my startup, they started throwing tantrums at my decision to quit a high-paying city job to run a saree shop. My family also kept asking me about my daily progress. I had no answers to them,” he says.

Moving to Chennai was a challenging chapter of his life. “I was surviving on loans from friends. I was living in a small room on rent and survived on one meal a day to save money. There were days when I wanted to quit; I wanted to cry and go back home,” he recalls.

But Ankush remembered all the promises of an opulent life that he made to his parents. “I had to find ways,” he says.

Besides a mobile app, Ankush designed a website for Deeva and listed the most buying categories on the homepage. “By this time, I had understood that my customers were office-going women in the age group of 25 to 45 years who wanted to wear good quality sarees on a daily basis by investing Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500. I started sourcing more such sarees from manufacturers and advertised them on the homepage for easy search,” he adds.

To boost sales, Ankush also outsourced to a digital marketing company that helped advertise the sarees. “Soon after, I started getting sales through social media. I got my first boost in April-May 2022 when I made sales of Rs 15,000 in one day. This was when I decided to come back to Himachal,” he says.

After he returned to his village, there has been no looking back. Today, he has established a multi-crore company based out of Bangana that sells sarees across the country in 50 categories — including Patola, Kanjivaram, Chanderi, Banarasi silk, and Chiffon sarees.

Ankush has established a core team of 30 people from his village. He has partnered with at least 500 manufacturers across the country. This partnership has been a win-win for Ankush as well as small manufacturers who have observed a boost of at least five times in their income.

One of his manufacturers, Himanshu Jain, who has been associated with Ankush for the past year and a half tells The Better India, “Earlier, we had to work on credit with offline distributors. This meant that we’d get payments only after 30 to 45 days. They would also buy sarees in bulk and there was no surety if all sarees would be sold.”

“So, they would return to us after a month or so and dump all the unsold sarees. The onus to sell these would fall on us. But with Deeva, we get orders only after the consumer has placed an order, and we get payments in 7 to 10 days. Here, my income has also increased by 25 percent,” he adds.

Meanwhile, to make Deeva a big brand, Ankush wanted to appear on Shark Tank India. Even though he could not make it to season 2, he made a lasting impression on the ‘sharks’ in season 3. The impact of the episode was so enormous that he observed a boost of six times in his business, he informs.

Rooted in his village, Ankush now aims to make a business of Rs 150 crore, enter into export in at least 10 countries, and open offline stores in the next year.

“I do not feel I have achieved very big. It was through my grandfather’s efforts that we started getting meals three times a day. My parents worked hard so that we could wear decent clothes. I just want to give whatever best life I can to my parents,” he says.

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“Recently, I gifted a seven-seater car to my father. Currently, we are building our dream house with a helipad and rooftop swimming pool in Himachal,” he adds, “Although these are materialistic things, having a bada ghar, badi gaadi (big house, big car) are dreams of a lower-middle income family. In eight months, I will move to our new home with my family.”

Edited by Pranita Bhat. All photos: Ankush Barjata.

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