Khadi: All dressed up and going places

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on April 26, 2018

VK Saxena, Chairman, Khadi and Village Industries Commission   -  PTI

Models walk the ramp wearing modern clothes made using khadi at the 'Khadi Fashion Show' in Delhi

Chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena upbeat on growth as KVIC stitches up corporate alliances, draws up a plan for global markets

Khadi, the symbol of India’s self-reliance during the Independence movement, is no longer ‘humble’ or a fossilised memory. In its new avatar, it is going places, literally: after a sojourn to Russia recently, it goes to South Africa this month. The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has chalked out ambitious plans to double the sales of khadi to ₹5,000 crore in the next two financial years. In an aspirational India, khadi has emerged a silent, transformational force: it is also a major job creator in Bharat that is India.

And, for the first time, KVIC is being helmed by a Chairman who is not from bureaucracy or political leadership, but from the corporate world, and a CEO from the IPS—Preeta Verma, (Bihar, 1991 cadre), a tough, no-nonsense, go-getter woman. Together, they are making efforts to clean up the mess accumulated over the decades and turn around KVIC.

If your postman turns up in khadi, don’t be surprised: about 90,000 of them have been given khadi uniforms. Similarly, ONGC and other PSU majors, the corporate world and the security forces etc, are also being brought into the khadi fold across India. Excerpts from an interview with Vinai Kumar Saxena, Chairman, KVIC:

Times have changed. It’s nearly a hundred years after Mahatma Gandhi left South Africa... how are you showcasing khadi in that country?

We are going to be part of a textile event in South Africa on April 29 and 30. Noted fashion designer Gavin Rajah will choreograph a 20-minute textile event, aimed to project Khadi in a modern and trendy style. The venue is Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. We are showcasing khadi during the concluding session of the two-day India-South Africa Business Summit, as a "Tribute to the Mahatma and Madiba (Nelson Mandela)’. The programme is being held in the memory of 125 years of the Pietermaritzburg incident, in which Gandhiji was thrown out of a train by White supremacists. This event coincides with Mandela’s birth centenary.

KVIC also showcased khadi in Russia recently?

Yes. Last month, we had participated in the ‘India Sourcing Fair’ in St Petersburg, where KVIC products won accolades. Other overseas exhibitions are also in the pipeline.

How has this transformational revival taken place in the khadi sector since 2014?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi became khadi’s foremost evangelist. By donning it himself, he set off a craze for this signature fabric among the youth. There has been no looking back since. The low-profile, handspun cloth has seen its demand grow among the common people and the corporate world, suddenly witnessing a 34 per cent sales growth. The average growth of production in the khadi sector was only 6.24 per cent in the decade 2004-14, which has risen to 26.43 per cent in 2015-17.

In fact, this is the only sector in the Indian economy to register a double-digit growth in the last three years. Khadi has now set a sales target of ₹4,000 crore for 2018-19 and ₹5,000 crore for 2019-20.

There were reports in sections of the media recently that seven lakh people had allegedly lost their jobs in the khadi sector but production has gone up by 32 per cent. What is your take on it?

This is an interesting story on how this industry was bleeding over the years. We discovered that nearly 11.60 lakh artisans were getting subsidy (marketing development assistance, or MDA)—the number was constant for the preceding 10 years. As many as seven lakh were fake or ‘ghost beneficiaries’.

After the implementation of Aadhar-seeded payment of subsidy directly to the bank accounts of genuine khadi artisans in 2016, KVIC was able to identify and weed out the ghost beneficiaries.  That is how we saved over ₹153 crore in two fiscal years —2015-16 and 2017-18. With KVIC’s forensic audits, as many as 503 institutions, apparently running on ghost artisans, stopped claiming subsidy! That was how we weeded out nearly seven lakh fake artisans and paid subsidy only to the 4.6 lakh genuine artisans.


What steps has KVIC taken to make khadi catch the customer’s eyes in India and overseas?

KVIC plans to open khadi outlets to promote the products in global markets. We have received enquiries from Dubai, Chicago, Mauritius and South Africa, under the franchisee model. Raymond has started selling khadi in some of their stores abroad. To make khadi apparels as alluring as international brands, KVIC has also set up a garment designing and stitching unit at Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. It will be formally inaugurated in May 2018, in which 72 global designers will showcase their creations in the presence of 35 Ambassadors/ High Commissioners in India.

In India, KVIC has taken initiatives to involve corporate brands and PSUs to provide the largest spectrum for khadi. Raymond has purchased more than 2.5 lakh metres of grey fabric from us and showcasing it in their 150 stores across India. Arvind Ltd also plans to buy one million metres of khadi denim every year. The Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd (ABFRL) is tying up with KVIC to develop a product line ‘Khadi Peter England’.

KVIC has also signed an MoU with NIFT for better design development and training at different Khadi institutions. Also, KVIC recently organised an interaction with CEOs of retail chains and designers at WTC, Mumbai, to give retail presence to Khadi in major malls and retail stores. Subsequently, convergence has been established with Globus, a unit of Raheja Group and Khadi Korners have been opened at Noida, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, to be followed by Chennai and Varanasi. KVIC had already inked MoUs with Cotton Bazaar and Big Bazaar in January. Big Bazaar has started Khadi Korners at their seven stores in Mumbai. Another innovation is in form of ‘Khadi Mitra’ on cards, where homemakers could sell khadi with a very nominal capital investment initially.

Models walk the ramp wearing traditional dresses at the 'Khadi Fashion Show' in Delhi


With the PM promoting yoga internationally, the KVIC had also approached the United Nations (UN) to promote khadi in their various rehabilitation programmes as it is the most environment-friendly product and provides sustenance to millions of people. The Government is making efforts to promote ‘khadi’ as a global product identity of India. Even a recent survey revealed that after yoga, khadi has second most recollection by non-Indians towards India in the world.

KVIC has started aggressively promoting bee-keeping as a village industry and job-creator in the rural and tribal areas. How has it succeeded?

With the PM giving a call for a “Sweet Revolution”, the KVIC is all set to distribute one lakh bee-boxes across India by October 2018, which would produce nearly 4,000 tonnes of honey annually. The bee-keeping movement is expected to generate additional incomes of up to ₹50,000 per annum to the rural and tribal families and prevent them from migrating to the urban areas in search of livelihoods.

How do you see KVIC performing now onwards?

Only two years back KVIC, essentially a not-for-profit body dedicated to the socio-economic upliftment of the people, saw its first profit coming that made it financially viable and more sustainable. From 1947 through 2014, this sector could not even touch the double digits growth. The highest growth rate recorded in this untapped sector in those 65-odd years was a mere 8 per cent. Last year, the KVIC products saw sales worth ₹52,000 crore for the first time in India, including Khadi sales worth ₹2,007 crore.

Products manufactured in villages by small-scale industries and social entrepreneurs, mostly by women, also saw huge demand. This feat was made possible through a constant push by the Government and the increasing trend of using organic products worldwide. The sales of village industry produce, or Gramodyog, grew 24 per cent in the last fiscal. The khadi products also achieved sales of Rs 2,007 crore in 2016-17, up 33 per cent from ₹1,635 crore in 2015-16. In 2016-17, khadi production grew by 32 per cent to ₹1,404 crore, while village industries saw a 23 per cent rise to ₹49, 997 crore – thus contributing towards the excellent growth of the sector. After Modi’s inspiration to promote yoga as an international event, the KVIC too launched an exclusive Khadi Yoga kit for the first time in May 2016 and earned nearly ₹76 lakh in less than one month’s time. Ever since, khadi and yoga are going together. Clearly, khadi is back in the reckoning.

Published on April 24, 2018

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