The Rajasthan government’s fashion push to Kota Doria saris has promoted the handloom fabric as a brand the world over, but the weavers still struggle in the absence of a direct marketing access, feel handloom experts.
They have to go doorbelling to sell the handmade saris braving the challenge posed by mushrooming powerloom fakes passed into the market as a cheap option. The price of a handloom sari begins from Rs 2,500 a piece whereas its powerloom copy is available for Rs 250 to Rs 1,500, experts say.
Most of the weavers say they need policy protection and better marketing opportunities to promote the product internationally and augment their income as well. Their remarks are significant in connection with the Rajasthan government’s efforts to attract fashion designers to do value addition to the 300-old fabric art by roping in international designer Bibi Russel to promote the product.
Weaver Rehana Bano admits that the Russel-like efforts give the product a dash of innovative designing to hand- made saris, but says what is needed is direct marketing access to weavers. “It (Russel’s fashion show) has helped augment weavers’ earnings too. But, still that is not enough to make us selfreliant industrial units, who take pride in their work and feel rewarded by selling their product at good prices. What we need is marketing outlets. We should have access to global buyers,” she says, somewhat echoeing Russel’s suggestion that the Kota Doria products should be promoted through online bazaars too.
District industry centre officer SC Mathuria says the government organizes melas and haats for the weavers to help them sell their products. However, Bano says, “That is good, But, doesn’t it cut into a weaver’s working hours, affect his output and thereby his earnings?”
Another weaver Rasheedan Bano (50) says now they earn Rs 5,000 each every month for manufacturing five sarees, reflecting the financial condition of around 3,000 Kota Doria weavers inhabited in the narrow bylanes of Kaithoon town in Kota. Rasheedan and her husband Shabbir Hussain Ansari say a decade ago, the income was barely Rs 800-Rs 1,000 for weaving out five saris in a month. “That way the earnings have gone up. But, taken expenses into account, we need to earn more,” he says giving HT the glimpse of the reality.
President of the Kota Doria Hadauti Foundation ( KDHF) Nasruddin Ansari says the augmentation in weavers’ wages is a positive sign. But, he says the price of a sari depends on the designing work it has — that is also a factor, besides a need for a marketing push in the face of challenges thrown down by the fakes.
Former president of the KDHF Abdul Waheed Ansari says the good thing is that the number of looms has increased from 1,500 to 2,500 over the years, engaging around 3000 weavers, who contribute to “the total business of around Rs 85 crore” every year.
He links the change to Bibi Russel effect. Russell introduced new designs in the Kota Doria Kota Doria is a fabric made of cotton and silk yarn with square patterns called Khat in the local dialect. International fashion designer Bibi Russel, during her visit to Kota last December, had said that she saw a possibility of improved marketing and access of Kota Doria to more and more buyers. She had also asserted the need for a value addition to the fabric by diversifying into manufacturing lady suits, stoles, men apparels and others besides saris. She also called for patenting of Kota Doria saris for checking the sale of cheap powerloom fakes. Zenab Bano of Kotsua (Kota) was awarded the National Award by the President of India in 1995-96 for Kota Doria work. Basheeran Bano of Kota got the National Certificate Award in 2012-13 for her Kota Doria product.
Adding to this, wholeseller Asghar Ali Kachara says the demand for the fabric from Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Mumbai has picked up after the Russel shows, organised recenty in Jaipur and were also held in the past.
The use of Kanjivaram designs on Kota Doria fabric has increased its demand specially in south Indian states as the Doria saris are lighter and porous which make them a comfortable wear in hot and humid climate of South India, says Nasruddin. However, he rues that the entire production is consumed in the domestic market alone.
About the production of Kota Doria saris in Kaithoon, one retailer Niyaz Ali says the quantity of the saris has not much increased in the last decade as earlier weavers used to manufacture simpler and cheap Kota Doria saris in large numbers and now they weave heavy saris incorporating the designer input and ensuring value addition, which takes time. “Around 6,000-to-7,000 saris are manufactured every month in Kaithoon whereas earlier such figure was around 6,000,” he says.
“There is need for a dedicated Doria market in Kaithoon where customers can directly buy the products from weavers and weavers do not have to move out to other cities for selling it door to door,” he says.