Sarees, a cultural imprint of India known worldwide. Six meters of long vivid colors that catch an ethereal beauty transforming a person. Each thread is a piece to a story portrayed by the artisan in their preferred language. VibrantHues, by Rituparna De and her two co-founders, aims to achieve her vision of bringing out the artisanal beauty of sarees to showcase to the world. Along with sarees, they have also recently started product lines in stoles, dupattas, hand-made jewelry, kantha embroidered bed covers and cushion covers, etc.
Ms. Rituparna De has an MSC in Economics from Calcutta University and an MBA in Finance from IMT Ghaziabad. She has worked in the corporate world for over 20 years in companies like JP Morgan, Societe Generale and Mphasis as a business analyst and product owner. Her love for artisanal products brought her to co-found VibrantHues. Follow our conversation with her as she recounts the journey of VibrantHues, telling us the story of sarees with a special emphasis on sustainability and fair wages.
The birth of an Enterprise – How VibrantHues was started
A trip to Shantiniketan in Kolkata during the winter poushmela is where the seed of the idea that went on to become VibrantHues was first planted in my mind. Walking down aisles of handmade artisanal products like dokras, hand embroidered kantha sarees, etc. made me appreciate the beauty of the artistic creations. I realized the amount of work that goes into making products with such complex intricacies.
Stepping into that world of myriad colors made me realize the potential of the Indian handmade artisanal products industry. Yet the products found in the mela are usually not even found in big shops of Kolkata, the hub of Indian sarees. I want to be able to bring such artisanal products like the kantha-embroidered sarees on a global platform and showcase them.
My journey in the corporate world has given me knowledge and skills in improving user experience and providing great customer journeys. I want to use these skills in VibrantHues and take it to great heights. This goal and my love for the work soon led to me leaving my corporate job and working on building VibrantHues full-time.
The Stitching behind VibrantHues – Customers, Creativity and Challenges
Our main aim is two-fold, firstly to create stories on textiles and bring artisanal work to the global forefront and secondly to bridge the gap between artisans.
Each and every one of our sarees is akin to six yards of canvas that is magically transformed by artisans to tell you a story. They keep in line with indigenous designs that are rooted in our country’s culture and tradition while having a contemporary flair to keep up with the times.
We target progressive urban women who like or advocate hand-woven, and natural textile-based products. Our sarees are sustainable with a lower negative impact on the environment. Moreover, they make you stand out and leave an impression of elegance on others. Additionally, these sarees can be worn in both corporate settings and festivities.
We aim to bring together sarees from all across India, especially hand embroidered, under one umbrella.
The main Stakeholders- Artisans and Customers
We want to build clusters or villages where the artisans learn from each other and get fair wages to be able to increase their own business. This is why we help them become tech-savvy and be able to demand fair compensation.
We also look toward a customer-oriented business. We talk to customers to understand what they want and deliver world-class luxury products that match their tastes and wants. For the same, we hold physical exhibitions where people can feel and see the clothes in real life. Many times, artisans even come and directly help sell their work. This helps bridge the gap between them and the customers. However, with increasing online competition, we are looking to build on our ecommerce platform and start working with influencers to reach customers.
The Story behind the Saree – The Artisans
A visit to the artisans quickly gives one an insight into their busy lives. We don’t realize the nuances to making a saree in the village. With animals everywhere, sometimes cows, goats, etc. cross over them or dirt and hay get on them. This is why we made artisans understand the importance of finesse and quality. A torn saree won’t be accepted by a customer and will lead to losses for the artisans. For this, we have tried to teach them technology to help their businesses and organize workshops among them. Being a very localized skill, there are very few artisans well skilled in hand embroidery. Accordingly, the workshops aim at helping them impart knowledge among each other.
We also came up with the idea of fusion sarees – south meets east concept. For example, we experimented with creating kantha work on ikkat, Mysore crepes, and Kanchipuram, very different from the usual silk or tussar-based work. Despite skepticism among artisans, we pushed for it. The sarees were so beautiful that they were quickly became a customer favorite. Currently, we are working on making sarees with different motifs that tell us all a story.
Sustainability and Fair Wages – The Reasoning behind the Challenge of pricing
There is limited availability of authentic handspun and handwoven sarees in the market. That along with the difficulty in getting good quality and authentic raw materials is another struggle that makes the price point rise. Along with this at VibrantHues, we ensure that artisans earn a fair wage. Artisans deserve fair compensation for the hard work they put into creating such beautiful products. Giving them a fair wage compensates them as well as makes them happier about what they are doing. We also emphasize to customers that the sarees we sell fall into the category of niche products- they are sustainable and will last for generations.
A Platform for First Generation Entrepreneurs – Collaboration with NICEorg
India has a plethora of heritage and culture hidden in the nooks and corners of the country. Undeniably, a country with a history rooted in authentic hand embroidered artisanal work, products like this have immense potential globally. I believe this initiative started by NICEorg is wonderful. Getting training and attending webinars that help run the business are a big support and provide a lot of help for first-generation entrepreneurs. It also gives us a platform to showcase artisanal talent and the culture of India.
NICEorg wishes them the best of luck in their journey ahead!