Saree is probably the most sought-after attire for Indian women. The intricate designs on the aanchal, the rich colours, and the many ways of draping it attracts thousands of people across the globe. Then again, have you ever met a person who gleams at the mere thought of sarees?
Meet Lakshmi. A native of Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu. She made Kochi her home and has been living here for over 17 years.
Family and the past
Lakshmi hails from a family of saree weavers. As a child, she would observe the process involved in creating the rich and traditional Kancheepuram saree.
“I remember playing with rolls of golden thread (jari), before it was sent to the weaving centre,” recollects Lakshmi.
Lakshmi’s father owned a weaving centre, which is currently being run by her elder brother.
In 1995, Lakshmi had completed her Bachelors in Nursing from a college in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.
“My father wanted me to become a nurse and go abroad. But my first love has always been sarees. Perhaps, destiny was kind,” she said.
She was married in the year 1996 and has been living in Kochi since. A few months after being married, she received a job offer from a hospital situated close by. However, the long working hours did not assure her of a decent income. She continued to be a homemaker for the following five months. After which, her brother suggested that she could consider selling the products made at his weaving centre to those who would be interested.
At first, she began distributing the sarees to a few people at her husband’s workplace. The word had spread like wildfire. Soon, she began distributing sarees to schools as well as at a few homes. It was not long until she had decided to pursue her passion for sarees as a home-based enterprise. Today, Lakshmi has a large clientele belonging to various strata of the society.
An eye for quality
According to Lakshmi, the most crucial aspect of purchasing a saree is to assess the quality of the product. She explains that Kancheepuram sarees are unique not only in terms of the designs, but also the workmanship. Each thread is weaved most carefully so as to get the exact shade of the saree.
“Only an expert or a person who truly understands the process behind producing a saree will be able to distinguish between the colours present in it,” says Prabakaran, Lakshmi’s husband.
It takes a minimum of 15 days to weave one Kancheepuram saree. This is because each of the processes involved in the production of the merchandise is assigned to a different centre. For instance, the raw material (silk) is collected at a wholesale rate at Bengaluru and is supplied to various weaving centres. A colour dyeing centre helps in producing the coloured threads used for weaving purposes. This procedure could consume a lot of time, in case the customer demands for a specific colour and design. Post which, the saree is made.
Another quintessential quality of Kancheepuram silk sarees is that it is soft unlike other silk clothing.
The passionate entrepreneur
Having grown up in an environment where sarees are perhaps are a community’s identity, Lakshmi values the requirements of each customer. She encourages the buyer to suggest designs and colour combinations that they would deem suitable for the occasion and works towards providing the exact attire. The merchandise is sold at a wide range of prices. From as low as Rs. 1,000 to over Rs. 50, 000, the choices are plenty.
“I have noticed that Lakshmi is gifted with the ability of assessing her customers. She is aware of the types of colours and designs that would appeal to the customer – be it an elderly person or a young lady in her early twenties. Only after assessing the customer does she present the apt variety of sarees to choose from,” Prabakaran added.
Lakshmi also takes the initiative to personally visit the weaving centre at Kancheepuram and speak to the weavers and designers about the variations in the sarees demanded by the customers.
“In doing so, I am able to give the concerned people a better picture of the buyer’s requirements,” she says.
Family means everything
Lakshmi’s husband Prabakaran and their children have been supportive throughout her journey as an entrepreneur. Despite the tough times, she was able to pursue her passion in the most effective manner.
“My children have also become inclined towards this field,” she commented.
When asked if she had any regrets about her decision to sell sarees for a living, she smiled and said that she hopes to continue what she is doing for as long as she lives.
“I believe that all women, especially Indian women, should wear a saree at least once in a year. It does add to their personality,” stated Lakshmi’s husband.
The saree that is destined for the woman
To this businesswoman, the 6-yard-long (or the 9-yard long) Indian costume for women is sacred and should be taken care of like your very own child.
“At our centre, we pray before weaving a saree. To us, it is an honour that people adorn the sarees that we make. It is also said that some sarees are destined to be draped by a particular person. There is something unique about a saree. Nobody can deny that,” Lakshmi explains.
Lakshmi stays near MES Road, Thykoodam, Kochi, and she can be contacted on 09447368200.