With Modi’s spin, khadi is the new in thing

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 08, 2018

What’s chic File photo of actors Salman Khan and Sonam Kapoor in designer khadi outfits   -  Vijay Soneji

Ever since the PM turned evangelist for the fabric, its sales have skyrocketed

Nearly a hundred years ago Mahatma Gandhi gave khadi a spin, positioning the modest fabric as a symbol of Indian resistance to British rule. When Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, he became khadi’s foremost evangelist. Over the last three years, the low-profile, homespun cloth has seen its demand grow among the common and the corporate, with the khadi component in the textile industry trebling from 0.25 per cent to 0.78 per cent — a 35 per cent growth year-on-year.

“The average growth of the khadi sector was only 2.5 per cent in the 2001-14 period, which has risen to 35% in 2016-17. In fact, this is the only sector in the Indian economy that has registered a double-digit growth in the last three years,” VK Saxena, Chairman, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), told BusinessLine.

The khadi sector has seen its turnover increase from ₹1,510 crore in 2015-16 to ₹2,007 crore in 2016-17. It currently employs nearly one crore people, including the 4.69 lakh new jobs created in FY17. In the 18-year period between 1996 and 2014, there was little addition to the number of charkhas (spinning wheels), numbering 9.6 lakh. Since then, nearly 20,000 solar charkhas are being added annually, he said.

The corporate world, responding to the PM’s appeal in his Mann Ki Baat radio broadcasts, has lapped up khadi like never before, in the form of Diwali gifts. Currently, KVIC dispatches one lakh coupons a day to corporate houses. There are nearly 15,500 khadi outlets across the country.

Textile retailer Raymonds bought 1.72 lakh metres of khadi fabric for value addition in FY17 and a fresh order for 50,000 metres is pending with KVIC. Arvind Mills will buy 10 lakh metres of khadi denim this year, while the Adiya Birla Group will buy three crore metres of khadi fabric, Saxena said.

Last year, Air India gifted 46,000 khadi travel kits to international business- and first-class passengers. ONGC ordered khadi worth ₹43 crore for its 34,000 employees, while NTPC ordered 23,000 silk jackets for its staff.

Khadi’s biggest contribution has been in empowering women, providing dignified jobs to the needy, and helping them gain self-employment. From bringing tribal poachers in the Kaziranga National Park to the mainstream, and reopening a Gandhi Ashram at Sewapuri, Uttar Pradesh, to enabling elderly women in Punjab earn a livelihood so that they could buy their grandchildren gifts, the khadi sector has effectively transformed lives.

Even the the e-commerce platforms have lapped up khadi. “Business in khadi has seen an average 25-30 per cent jump in the last two years, and 70 per cent in the last three months. There is also a significant jump in number of suppliers on our platform. We now have around 1,000 of them,” said Dinesh Gulati, Director, IndiaMART, a leading online marketplace for business-to-business (B2B) transactions.

Published on October 01, 2017

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