When young Kunal Vaid, with an MBA degree in hand, joined his family’s apparel exports business and visited the interiors of Jharkhand to find out the bottlenecks in the production of organic silk, he was shocked at what he saw. Women were ‘thigh reeling’ the yarn — a tedious process where they draw filaments from the silk cocoon and twist it around their thighs. The painful and slow process caused bad cuts and bruises and backaches. He decided to do something about it.
In two years he designed a small machine for the women and, to suit the remote setting, he made it solar-powered.
Around 80 women began using his machine. They found it drastically cut their production time.
Soon, Vaid started receiving orders in hundreds. Working with a local organisation, Jharcraft, the demand for the machine grew.
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From 2011 to now, Vaid has 11 different machines in his portfolio that are affordable for rural workers and perform all tasks — reeling, weaving, and spinning. Seven of them are hybrid — powered by solar energy with the option of running on electricity. On a typical sunny day, the machine is capable of working for ten hours on solar power.
“We set up the machine in homes, or wherever they are wanted, by setting up a solar panel, which charges the battery that powers the machine,” says social entrepreneur Vaid, who is the CEO of his venture, Resham Sutra.
“When we first provided these machines, we started getting complaints that they had stopped working. We realised that the rural women were not adept at maintenance and started working on a maintenance model. Today we provide training in servicing as well.”
The company is among six selected for the ‘Powering Livelihoods’ programme jointly run by Villgro Innovations Foundation and the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water.
“Their grant is helping us grow both in width and depth,” says Vaid.
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Resham Sutra today works in the production of Tussar, Eri and Muga silk in 16 states in central, eastern and north-eastern India.
Of the silk workers around 98 per cent (12,000) are women. Apart from improving the working conditions of silk workers, the machines have also upped their income dramatically. Vaid estimates that in eight hours, a woman makes 300 grams of yarn and earns ₹300 for it.
Resham Sutra has its manufacturing unit in Delhi’s Mundka industrial area and produces around 400 machines a day. It has an international clientele too, among silk weavers in Africa and silk fashion designers in Iceland, Switzerland and France.