Organic Shirts, A new Craze Among City Folks
FAIR PLAY, FAIR TRADE
Oct 16 2016 : The Times of India (Chennai)
FAIR PLAY, FAIR TRADE
Empowering Farmers And Craftsmen, Some Social Groups Are Creating Small Make-In-India Heroes
In the last 12 years, 33-year-old R Kala's life has transformed from that of a homemak er to a financially independent woman.Her success story has been made possible with the work of a few social groups who are helping India's labour-intensive industries to reap enough benefit and reason to hold on to their vocations. This is at a time when big machineries have outpaced them. Kala is one of the many little-known faces of the Make in India movement, who have now promising avenues.
“I have not only learnt tailoring, but also started my own unit at home. With my earnings, I have bought a house in north Chennai,“ she says. Kala is among the 200 women who market their products through Baladarshan, a fair trade company that has been working with NGOs from across India. From kalamkari artisans in Andhra Pradesh to wooden jewellery makers in Karnataka, the firm has created oppor lery makers in Karnataka, the firm has created opportunities for women in crafts production. “We collaborate with NGOs to market handmade products. In Chennai, we work with women to weave baskets and make bags from recycled plastic,“ says K S Prasad, manager, Baladarshan. The profit they make is given to the NGOs who use it to pay the workers, build a corpus to help them set up small businesses or fund their children's education.
India's weaving sector employs the largest workforce in the country , second only to agriculture. According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Indian textiles and apparel is a USD 100 billion plus industry , providing direct employment to over 45 million people and accounting for 14% of India's industrial production. Grasping this sector's potential, and wary of the exploitability that comes with its extraordinary scope, a few all Make-In-India Heroes social groups in India are working hard to establish a level playing field for every labour e community that constitutes this supply chain -from the farmer to the tailor.
. Chennai-based Tula, a not-for-profit enh terprise, was born in 2012 to educate farmers g on the benefits of organic farming. They p started with 15 farmers in Madurai, with a r lakh of rupees as capital for each. They pro vided them with native, non-GMO, non-BT, e seeds, and established an eco-friendly value a chain of employing resources to hand spin, . hand weave, manually tailor and naturally o dye garments. Today , they have radicalised the way business works out for these indig enous communities, by earning them at least n double the revenue than the mainstream market would.
Tula's garments are organic, handspun, hand-woven, naturally dyed and manually stitched. Their modus operandi is simple -increase the market price of the garment, which con secutively doubles or triples the revenue generated for its labour. “We're primarily selling the concept, not the commodity . When we reach out to social enterprises and sensitise them to this model, it gets replicated and eventually , the demand too gets created,“ says Ananthu, adding that they have impacted at least 300 livelihoods across India.
In Vidharbha, 800 farmers working under Rahul Bole's Chetna Organic Farmers' Cooperative are growing more cotton than they did in years. Since their association with Tula three years ago, Bole says not only has desi cotton replaced its BT variant, but the cultivable land for it, which was rapidly shrinking, has gone up by almost 40%.
“Through Tula, farmers now have a market for native Indian cotton. Where BT cotton seeds cost us `1,500 per acre, desi seeds cost us only `75, and they can also be carried forward for the nxt season,“ says Bole
An organic way of life
Tula Covered in The Hindu, Chennai November 20, 2016
Clothing, pickles, packaging... the city has a thriving organic ecosystem, writes RANJANI RAJENDRA
As I walk into the TÜLA store in Indira Nagar, Adyar, the first thing that catches my eye is an off-white wrap-over peplum top. It looks well-cut and perfect for Chennai’s weather, and rather chic too. The room also has on display a range of kurtas, palazzos and shirts for men and women, all fashioned out of organic cotton and natural dyes.
So yes, while there are no bright colours that pop, there are subtle off-whites, blues, greys and madders.
Set up in 2014 by 15 like-minded friends who invested Rs. 1 lakh each when they saw that farmers and artisans were in dire need of support, the group stepped in to make a difference by bringing a niche clothing line using organic rain-fed desi cotton, while ensuring that all parties and individuals involved were well-remunerated.
Over the course of two years, the organisation has managed to empower several people, including organic cotton farmers in Maharashtra and Karnataka, local weavers, dyers, artisans and tailors, eventually creating an entire organic eco-system of sorts. Says Srinath Suresh, business developer at the volunteer-driven organisation, “We have people from various parts of India creating the garments for us. For instance, the cotton is procured from farmers in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka, the embroidery happens in Channapatna, hand spinning in Gadag, weaving and natural dyeing in Melkote, block prints happen in Wardha, and so on,” he says, adding, “The garments are designed by Tara Aslam of Bangalore, who has her own brand called Nature Alley.”
With the growing move towards organic products and reviving native seeds, the city is witnessing the creation of an organic eco-system with several players stepping into the fray with organic produce, products and clothing.
Take for example Sheela Subramanian, founder of Paati’s Kaimanam. She retails pickles, masalas, podis and leghyam, all made from organic produce. “I make everything myself, while my mother monitors my work. I procure my ingredients either from an organic store in the city or directly from an organic farmer,” she says. The USP of Paati’s Kaimanam is also that Sheela is working towards reviving traditional recipes and methods of making these products. “I specialise in Tanjore cuisine and use recipes that date back at least 200-250 years; these have been passed down by my grandmother, great grandmother, and the women before them. Until now, these recipes were handed down by word of mouth, but now I’ve begun recording them. In fact, I still use the same measuring tumbler that they did.”
And, there are no shortcuts when it comes to sun-drying or roasting the ingredients, she insists. “Sambar podi, for example, has to be sun-dried for at least a week, and I am very particular about the way the spices are roasted and ground. Which is also why I prefer making everything myself,” she says.
Her reason for choosing organic ingredients, she says, is because her initial market research exposed her to the amount of adulteration that goes into regular products. “This is my attempt to cut out the chemicals and commercialisation. I largely operate based on Facebook or WhatsApp orders. I don’t want to sell in stores simply because it will mean scaling up the manufacturing. It’ll become one among the other products in the market,” says Sheela, who is also setting up a distribution system in Bangalore with the help of a friend.
Kalaimagal Subramani, a city-based entrepreneur, also chose to set up an organic store called Nature’s Bucket, specifically to help people lead a healthier lifestyle. “We retail only natural products; even the packaging we use for all our products is ecofriendly. We’ve tied up with organic farmers to procure the produce and also make it a point to monitor these farms frequently to ensure quality control. In fact, we’d started off by cultivating in our land near Karur for about a year-and-a-half before we decided to expand, given the growing demand,” says the former IT employee, who switched to an organic way of life after facing health issues.
Though the movement is slow, it is gaining traction because people living in cities are growing more aware about the way their food is grown and produced. Says Alladi Mahadevan, founder of Green Embryo and an organic farmer himself, “Things are definitely looking up. Even farmers are more aware and are changing the way they cultivate crops. In the cities, entire communities are coming together to adopt a healthier way of life and are even growing their own fruits and vegetables minus the chemicals.”
Paati’s Kaimanam: 98401 80916
Nature’s Bucket: 99622 50949
Green Embryo: 98402 77566
Tula Shirts in Movie by Anantha Sayanan
Soon u will see Tula on one of the most attractive heroes in (T)Kollywood!
Actor Shivakumars wife (mother 2 of the busy Kollywood heroes- Surya and Karthi) used to come to OFM regularly. After we moved to this new Indranagar space, she had not visited. Suddenly a couple of days back she came in and I was showing her around our new space..she would observe so well and comment so sharp..on seeing the desi green gram she would say, ‘oh this small natty variety is still there? Oh nice..let me buy that// oh this variety of rice..’and so on.. she wud also narrate some incidents around some of these stuff (that’s what most of our products are about – linking to traditional old practices , products, nostalgia, linking to health..) then when she saw the cold pressed oil she asked “is it from wooden ghani? Then why are u selling it for so low? Why sell at loss?” – where people would ask why is it expensive? that’s not the point of this post though.. then I took her to Tula and explained..she was so happy and was impressed so many hand spinners n weavers are touched..after all she is from kongu belt!
She took a shirt for actor Karthi..i told her the shirt she picked would be one size smaller for Karthi and she said “ he has leaned down heavily for the Maniratnam’s movie” she then said ‘anyway let me take the other one too and send back the one that doesn’t fit’..
Then the next day actor Karthi’s designer comes up and says ‘ he sported a Tula and liked it..there is a new shoot starting from moro..so he asked me to see tula fabric and get shirts in all colours available..may be we shall try to have tula shirts to the maximum in this movie and lets support it is what he said”
So friends- Tula will act soon.. it will be in the movies.. and if you find Karthi more attractive blame it on Tula:-)