How many of us are aware of the rich textile heritage of India? Our love for Indian weaves is restricted to a few occasions when we flaunt handloom sarees and kurtas to validate our Indianness. There are only a handful of retail outlets which have established their brand simply on the strength of the beautiful textiles and unique weaves that this country offers.
Launched on 1st Jan 2018 by a former IT professional Ranjani Narayanan, Madras High Street is a retail brand that celebrates Indian heritage in all its finery. It offers a diverse array of locally woven clothing that not only showcases the amazing craftsmanship of Indian weavers but also contributes to their economic upliftment. In fact, Madras High Street aspires to be an ethical, weaver-friendly and customer-friendly, environmentally sustainable enterprise that would help transform the lives of weavers across India.
The first chapter of an incredible story
Setting up a business, especially an unconventional one, requires great willpower, fierce determination and of course a solid conviction in your dreams. Ranjani’s story epitomizes all these and more. Her journey from an IT-professional to an entrepreneur wasn’t merely a cakewalk.
In her own words, she says “I had worked in the IT Industry for over 14 years. Sure, having a steady and stable job gave me access to regular earnings, yet the monotony of it all was too much, and each day felt exactly like the other. My soul was highly dissatisfied. My grandfather had owned a textile shop and my grandmother had always told me she saw me running my own business one day. Though it was an extremely tough decision, with courage in my heart and a need to do something better, I went to my hometown. Once there, I interacted with a few weavers who were dealt with injustice by the capitalist society. With every handwoven saree, which took a whole of 4 days, they gained minimum profit, while the retailers or the brands gained too much. All that honest effort was never enough to bring in either money or even recognition.”
“Through them, I knew what I was going to do. I had always had a passion for dressing up and so I began ‘Madras High Street’ and began with selling these sarees sometimes even with zero profit to build a trusting client base. Slowly I had enough clients and I made sure to keep my profit margin to the minimum to help these extremely talented weavers. I took up social media as my tool of marketing and began working to the best of my abilities. With my family supporting me, I began to feel more confident about myself.”
Madras High Street: Weaving a dream of possibilities
Madras High Street is an online boutique that sells handwoven sarees and designer jewelry. The sarees are bought, without the involvement of any middleman, directly from the skilled weavers across India. This helps provide market price to weavers enabling them to sustain their business and livelihood and at the same time, making these beautiful creations accessible to customers without incurring any additional overheads.
As Ranjani rightly said “Our mission is not to make profits and transform into retail business. This sets us apart in the market and earns the trust of customers who reach out to us instead of the overpriced retailers.”
The startup is based out of Chennai with a pan India and global customer base. In order to cater to the needs and wants of buyers, product customization is also done. All one has to do is simply DM the MadrasHighStreet on Instagram.
Thoughts about the future
The superior product quality laced with impeccable customer service has ensured a sustainable client base many of whom are repeat customers. The future goal is to expand this customer base and create an environment friendly enterprise that would inspire others to run a business venture while giving back something to the society. Lastly, Ranjini’s golden words sum up the company’s aspirations. ‘Be Honest. Be Ethical. It might not give you a million today, but tomorrow it will.’
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