Umang Shridhar,started KhaDigi to support skilled women weavers
Umang Shridhar, Class of 2017, shares her journey of starting KhaDigi to support skilled women weavers and artisans to create dignified rural employment opportunities using traditional techniques with modern technologies.
Subhadra, aged 37, hails from a small village- Mandaleshwar, Madhya Pradesh (MP) living in the town since her marriage. Where men master weavers dominate handloom weaving, she is fondly known as 'one-person army' as she can perform all aspects of creating handlooms from warping, loom setting to weaving.
Before embarking in this sector, she worked in cotton farms. It was her mother-in-law who encouraged her to become weaver as they lived Maheshwar, a renowned cluster in MP. Her knowledge of cotton seeds, cotton farming, spinning and weaving is extensive and her demeanour, endearing.
Before associating with KhaDigi, her talents were limited as a weaver. After joining our enterprise, she moved onto to becoming a master weaver and started exploring aspects of weaving such as types of yarns, working and designing them and creating a new piece of fabrics for us. Earlier she earned around INR 3000, but now due to her expanded skillset, her monthly making is up to INR 10,000.
Today, Subhadra leads a happy life, “I got to work on different tools and developed new designs. I have built my knowledge of natural dyes, which is good for my health. " I love this work as this gives me the freedom to be creative and generate a substantive income for our family.” Her children now aspire to start their small unit and become a craft entrepreneur.
KhaDigi emerges from two words: khadi (hand-spun hand-woven fabric) and Digi (digital printing process). It is a conscious effort to bring old and new technologies together to make sustainable products. The organisation aims to stabilise women economically by providing training to work on charkhas and manufacture Khadi thread from home. Currently, KhaDigi works with 300+ weavers, five master weavers and five khadi organisations.
"Umang and I started with 'reverse-mentoring'. Even before I could offer her any support, I had to lean into her world of being a young woman setting up a social business in rural India and addressing a social problem. It was catalytic for me.
This experience of mentoring Umang stretched me as a professional. Her commercial acumen, coupled with the resolve to build a responsible business inspired me. I hope she gained from this engagement as much as I did." Preeti Singh, Mentor and Learning and Development Leader, PwC India
“I started KhaDigi with a vision to support skilled women living in the villages of India. I also expanded my horizon by starting working with Khadi and handloom weavers as it provides dignified and skilled- based employment. We want to reach out to 1 million artisans in the next five years and provide them employment opportunities in the rural set-up”, says determined Umang.
“Brimming with positivity, Umang gracefully walked the two paths that saw convergence in KhaDigi, her dream enterprise. Determined about the impact she wanted to make, all her WHYs have been answered adequately at SSE. She acquired crucial 'decision making' entrepreneurial skill via her favourite 'Action Learning Sessions' there. It was well complemented with an outward journey of enterprise building at SO, where Khadigi became a reality for Umang.
Umang being receptive and collaborative in her approach has already made her mark in a sector difficult for start-ups. Fabric innovation being her core strength, KhaDigi stands tall on the same value proposition. Persistently, never judging herself or giving excuses as an answer, she has made KhaDigi a well-known brand today. For entrepreneurs on their path of self-discovery, may SSE keep creating the canvas with candid colours, originality and determination, just like they did for Umang.” Pallavi Tak, Assistant Vice President, Social Impact Incubation at Startup Oasis (SO), CIIE, IIMA