In May 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while announcing economic reforms to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, introduced a word which has since become common in Indian vocabulary: Atma-nirbhar.
'Atma-nirbhar' which literally translates to self-reliance. For Indians in lockdown, it meant being independent, financially, socially, and having the ability to do daily tasks on their own.
For businesses, however, it means not only do they achieve the 'Make in India' tag but also help in creating a sustainable product which adds to Indian's integrity.
On India's 74th year of Independence, here's a look at five very niche Indian businesses that really define 'Atma-Nirbhar.'
An 89-year-old woman from Assam is now giving a second life to worn-out saris that were punctured with holes from years of fraying and were accompanied by the smell of naphthalene balls.
Latika Chakrabarty, who hails from Dhubri in Assam, has worn and loved sarees for as long as she remembers. "We have worn saris since we were 13," she said. "It is a cultural thing, I guess."
After her marriage to Krishna Lal Chakrabarty, who was an Officer-Surveyor in Survey Of India that she traveled to various places in India, which gave her the opportunity of seeing different kinds of saris from different regions.
She now uses rejected kurtas, frocks and old sarees as her base material to make cloth bags. "It depends on what is available," she adds.
In times of pandemic, Latika has also taken to making the most essential garment of the new normal: Face masks. Operating out of an Instagram page and a website, you can read more about Latika's bags here.
If you have grown up in an Indian household, chances are your grandmother would make you a blend of steaming sweet-smelling, spiced tea every time you sneezed. The homemade cure for almost all ailments was your grandmother or her mother's secret recipe of spices, and medicinal plants.
Dweller Teas, a start-up tea business from Manipur, is bringing back that same taste - and that feeling of nostalgia. Founded by Elizabeth Yamben, who grew up in Manipur,' Dweller' was created with the thought that tea and home should always go hand-in-hand.
The idea of the startup came to Yamben one morning after she had moved away from Manipur for better opportunities, and was sipping tea. "I felt like making a quick list of perceived local strengths of the place I grew up in," she said. And once she realized the potential of everything that is locally-grown and harvested, Dweller came into being.
Dweller also provides job-opportunities to the local harvesters in Manipur.
At the age of twelve, Yamben had moved away from home in search of better opportunities in education. Living away made her want "to create those opportunities back home. I would often think about returning one day to start an initiative based on the local strengths for sustainable livelihoods.
Dweller is available on its own website and e-commerce platforms. You can read more about them here.
Thinking of quirky socks? Soxytoes should be your pick.
Founded by Kolkata based entrepreneurs, the digital platform which specializes in quirky socks (and now masks), the brand is dedicated to make the space on your ankles be a cool, conversation starter.
Whether it be their best-selling product, 'Netflix and Chill?' the brand has come a long way since it was founded in 2017.
Soxytoes which primarily operates out of its online website, and on e-commerce portals with limited offline events, is as self-reliant as it gets.Vidushi Kanoria, the co-founder of Soxytoes opens up to News18 in an interview about how everything in the product is home-grown.
"We're a self-reliant brand. Our materials, are sourced all from inside India."
Soxytoes has factories in Noida where the manufacturing process takes place, and provides employment to locals for the production. All essential materials, including the raw material is sourced from local Indian brands, and Vidushi herself curates and supervises the designs.
They have also recently come out with anti-viral masks, which are made with 100% fine weave cotton & treated with silver-based anti-viral infusions and are 'good vibes only.'
You can check out their website here.
The 'healthy snacking' brand which emerged out of a strange observation by the founder that India did not have healthy options, has become the choice of munchies for many Indians, especially in times of pandemic.
Started in 2015, the brand initially relied on a subscription-based model and has now evolved into an a-la-carte model where the company tries to create a balance between healthy and tasty.Speaking to News18, Founder and CEO, Aditya Sanghavi, shared how the plan was to come up with something where "Taste was paramount," to meet India's diverse palate.
Since the company makes perishable food products, everything is manufactured in India, in the most 'atma-nirbhar' way possible: Everything is sourced from within the country, manufactured and packaged in the country as well.
Snackible sells predominantly out of their own website and e-commerce platforms like Amazon, and some of their sub-brands may even be available in your local kirana stores!
In the post-Covid world, where everyone wants to focus on health, Snackible seems to be the right platform for traction, and as Sanghavi reveals, they've "seen a drastic traction on the website," during the pandemic.
Snackible also helps out its supply chain: All of its raw material is sourced only from small, local farmers. The business runs on farm to plate for their products, and even the packaging for the products is done by a small company in Gujarat. It turn, it creates a sustainable chain that really aligns with the concept of 'Atma-nirbhar.'
You can check out their website here.
Nua, the Indian brand which is breaching the women's hygiene product space so far only owned by big names like Stayfree and Whisper, is making its presence felt by its uniqueness: customization.
As more and more people turn to products that are custom-built and tailor-made for them, Nua's motto also relies on the same: "It's all about being customer-first."In an interview with News18, co-founder and CEO Ravi Ramachandran, explains that the purpose is to be more than 'just another brand which sells sanitary pads.'
Having built a community of over 1 lakh women in the last three years, "It is a safe place where they can ask or express anything they want, have sessions with gynaecologists, learn more about mental and physical wellness."
Recognized as a 'Make in India' brand, all of Nua's current and upcoming products are Indian. The core raw material of customizable pads is sourced from South Korea, but the final custom manufacturing is done in Maharasthra. Nua also employs locals and contractors in Maharasthra, in turn providing jobs at a ground-level for this Indian brand.
Nua also turned saviour where in "essentials," women hygiene was often overlooked. Nua collaborated on 'Project Prerna' with YWater India and the Navi Mumbai hub of Global Shapers, who along with Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the State Government helped out in reaching women on-ground to sanitary pads.
"Our aim was simple - raise money and supply pads to 30,000 women in urgent need who reside in the low-income neighbourhoods of Mumbai and beyond," explains Ramachandran.
Nua's products reached women living in containment zones with restricted movement or women who had lost their jobs.
Nua ended up distributing 300,000 pads in areas such as Dharavi, Mankhurd, Govandi, Colaba, Kamathipura and also COVID hospitals in Navi Mumbai. With State Government's help, we were able to reach out to the low-income communities and migrant workers in Malegaon. You can check out their website here.
In case you ever need anything and want to be sure about the 'Indian-ness' of the brand, you now know where to go.