How a Woman Entrepreneur in MP is Changing Fortune of Bundelkhand With Khadi, Gandhian Ideology
KhaDigi is currently working in seven clusters – Maheshwa, Chanderi, Morena, Jabrol and Jaura of Bundelkhand and has plans to set up ten such centres across Madhya Pradesh by 2020.
A Khadi weaver in Bundelkhand.
Bhopal: The parched landscape of Bundelkhand sits divided between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. For many years now, the region has been making headlines for the growing incidence of farmers’ suicide reported from there. But recently, a khadi revolution burgeoned by a young woman entrepreneur is trying to turn the fortune of the people.
Inspired by the Gandhian ideology of Gram Swaraj, 27-year-old Umang Shridhar, connected with local handloom weavers of the region to incorporate their work in ‘KhaDigi’, a private company she established a few years ago. Her aim is to turn khadi and khadi-related products into a brand.
After completing her education from Delhi University, Shridhar decided to return to her hometown Kishanganj, a small village located in the Damoh region on Bundelkhand and work with the locals. “Being a native of this region I understood the hardships of locals. The people of Bundelkhand don’t need anyone’s sympathy, they just need a push in the right direction. That’s what I tried to do,” she said. Through KhaDigi, Shridhar trains local weavers and artisans, offers them help with equipment and a platform to showcase their talent at a larger scale.
Associated with Ekta Parishad, a Gandhian organisation branched in Bhopal, Umang was always inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology of Gram Swaraj. “I always wanted to work for the rural economy, especially the women and empower them.” KhaDigi currently employs hundreds of women weavers along with men.
Unlike many, Shridhar has no qualms about other fabrics outliving the scope for khadi fashion. “This is the era of khadi,” Shridhar said. “We are living in a time when climate change is more real than ever. People prioritise making eco-friendly choices and want to get rid of synthetic fabric. Khadi provides for an excellent substitute.”
KhaDigi currently has buyers in big corporates like Reliance industries and the Aditya Birla Group and a flourishing clientele. However, the beginning, Shridhar says, was a humble one. “I started off by borrowing Rs 30,000 from my mother to set up the company and soon found investors and banks extending support,” she said. Her unique project has been funded by IIM-Ahmedabad under their initiative ‘Invent’ meant to aid projects benefitting the poor sections of society and a Bhopal based private company –ArtTech.
Her company is working in seven clusters – Maheshwa, Chanderi, Morena, Jabrol and Jaura of Bundelkhand and has plans to set up ten such centres across Madhya Pradesh by 2020. The private company is also working on a GenNext fabric –soy fabric, produced out of a yarn made with soybean waste in MP.
“Countries like China and Japan buy soy waste from us at Rs 30-40 a kg and sell it back to us in the form of yarn valued at around Rs 650 a kg. So, a state like MP with huge Soybean waste has vast potential of producing soy fabric,” Shridhar said.
Besides Madhya Pradesh, Shridhar is also working in West Bengal and Maharashtra. She also has plans to expand base to South India shortly. “If we wish to strengthen the country, we have to work with Gram Swaraj ideology in mind,” she said.
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