Khadi needs to get out of the image it is trapped in if it has to survive today’s cutthroat market. And the Khadi Board is trying to give the humble, hand-spun fabric a savvy feel.
Designer khadi meets netawear
KHADI COMES with heavy associations – self-reliance, struggle, freedom… But this humble, hand-spun fabric is now crying for deliverance of sorts from its own image. Surely, if Khadi has to survive today, it has to get out of its rather dubious and dated image as netaware.
The good news is that the past few years have seen some positive efforts by the State’s Khadi Village Industry Board (KVIB) in this direction. In keeping with the spirit of the times, the board is slowly making a shift from its role as a financial facilitator for Khadi associations and gramodyogs to an aggressive marketing agency.
For one thing, the board is making an effort to “dress up” the outlets themselves. Most outlets are housed in old buildings and the concept of display is almost non-existent. Even a no-profit and no-loss institution can no longer afford this.
So, KVIB is now doing up most of its shops. “We have asked NID to work out a logo,” says Mr. Bore Gowda, the Chief Executive Officer of the board. The KVIB has also put forth a set of proposals in June this year urging for computerisation of Khadi Bhandars, modernisation of cotton khadi production centres and so on. Right now, the only Khadi Bhandar equipped with computers in the City is the one on Kumara Krupa Road.
But these computers are not being used as much as they could be, since the staff has not been adequately trained.
The board is also doing something about what the middle-class always complains about – that the staff in Khadi Bhandars are lackadaisical.
If the modern-day business relies heavily on the public relations skill of the seller, the fact that most salespersons at Khadi outlets come from rural areas and don’t speak the smooth urban tongue can, unfortunately, make a difference. KVIB is now trying to put in place some incentive schemes, definite targets, and training programmes by professionals.
But the biggest effort at breaking away from the old model has been the attempt at making Khadi a designer fabric.
This may have sounded like blasphemy less than a decade ago, but Khadi first became part of a fashion show in Mumbai in 1989. Several fashion shows in Bangalore over the past two to three years have had the likes of Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra sashaying down the ramp clad in Khadi outfits. A big exhibition and sale held earlier this year showcased Khadi as designerwear.
The fabric found its way to even Dubai last year at a trade fair, and the response was favourable. The coarseness of Khadi as well as high main-tenance efforts might put off a sizable section of the middle-class, but designers as well as textile experts are working towards giving it the right feel and look with some value additions. An example is the wrinkle-free Khadi.
“Khadi is coarse and uneven because it is entirely hand-spun,” explains Mr. Bore Gowda.
He feels that it is time Khadi becaa fabric for all. Makes one wonder: How would Gandhiji himself have reacted to these modernisation efforts? Would he have squirmed at the thought of Khadi walking the ramps? But Gandhiji was progressive in his own way, and he was not always against modernisation. Khadi, for him, was primarily an instrument of self-reliance and employment-generation for the rural masses. The efforts of the Khadi Board certainly do not run contrary to this aspiration.
Hindu On Net