Friday, August 29, 2014

Wooden blocks for hand-block printing

This is where printing blocks for the hand-block printing industry are made, from seasoned teakwood, by highly skilled carvers. Sutanu of People Tree has made some new designs for Malkha, and they've just been given to the block-makers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Malkha in Chennai

Sales on the first day of the Chennai show have been satisfactory. As usual, most Malkha buyers are those who have bought it before and who wait eagerly for the next event. However, we do not seem to be able to reach the unreached... This is why we welcome events like the recent one at Hyderabad University, or the annual Kala Ghoda Festival, so that people who do not normally visit craft and handloom events get to see and try out Malkha. We're confident that once people try it they will become regular Malkha wearers. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weavers of Kappaldoddi

Well the visit to Kappaldoddi was disappointing. The weaver who had called us and said that he was from a Weavers' Co-op, wanted us to work with him individually, which of course we would not. It was saddening to see that weaving here is suffering from the same problems as it was when I first visited in 1999. At that time in Dastkar Andhra we had high hopes of developing an Independent Weaver Group here, but it eventually failed because we were not able to instill principles of group working as we had hoped to.

More about the block printing later.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A visit to Krishna district

We've been getting calls from a group of handloom weavers in Krishna district who say they're keen to weave Malkha. This is after an article on Malkha appeared in the local press.We're going to meet them tomorrow, lets see how things go. Krishna district is known for its quality weaving, probably second only to Guntur for weaving mill-spun yarn. Of course for handspun yarn there's nothing to beat Srikakulam.

 Block makers and printers are in the same area, will be visiting them too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Malkha core constituency

It was really interesting to sit in the Malkha stall at the WW Congress, and to see who was attracted to Malkha and who preferred the synthetic street clothes, gauzy scarves and Hyderabad pearls on offer at other stalls. Interesting because Malkha usually meets the public only at Craft shows, where only  people come who are interested in handmade products. The Malkha core customer at the WW Congress show was found to be the professional and academic community, mostly but not only women, from big cities and secondary Indian towns. Just one of the foreign delegates, from Norway, liked the fabric and took the trouble to look at the Malkha literature. She told us what we of course know, that it is impossible to find tailors in Norway.

The experience confirms our suspicion that there is enough of a market for Malkha within the country if we can find ways to make it available without having to add the high cost of retail now prevailing in urban Indian spaces.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The price of choice

Recently we've heard murmurs among customers at Malkha exhibitions about lack of variety of malkha fabrics. This sets us thinking about the question of choice: how much is enough? What kinds of choice do customers want? How much choice, how many different varieties of Malkha are we able to provide?

Malkha is limited first of all by its material - cotton - and its process - it is woven from Malkha yarn on handlooms in limited thicknesses. Secondly the colours in which Malkha is available is limited by the range of natural dyes, about 6 colours, which we vary by using a different colour each for warp and weft in a single fabric.

Within these limitations Malkha could technically offer a huge range of natural dyed, plain or printed fabrics; the choice for the Malkha Marketing Trust is either to make limited investments in stock, or to maintain a large inventory of many  different kinds of fabric. If we choose the second option, to offer a larger choice to customers, Malkha will have to build its investment capacity by charging customers much higher prices, putting Malkha fabrics into the luxury bracket.

And there you have it. The choice is between larger variety at a higher cost, or reasonable variety at a  reasonable price.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Border issues

Recently the division of Andhra Pradesh into two different states was brought home to us with a shock. As we always did earlier, but for the first time since the division, we bought cotton lint for our unit in Mahbubnagar, which is now in Telangana, from the cotton market in Guntur, which is now in Andhra. The lorry carrying the lint was stopped at the border between the two states! We did not have the necessary documentation and had to send it back.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reflections on the marketing of Malkha

The marketing team at Malkha needs to introspect on its marketing, customer reach, customer servicing, and generally whether the marketing of Malkha is in tune with both the need to sell the product as well as the overall objectives of the Malkha enterprise. Malkha sales at the exhibitions are generally satisfactory. Usually about 80% of buyers at these events are customers who have bought Malkha earlier. This of course is a great compliment and repeat customers are a marketer's dream.

The way in which we sell Malkha is much the same as it was 6 years ago when we first began, (we're happy to say that most of the customers who were our first buyers are still with us), which is through exhibitions and through e-mail orders, and since 2011 from our outlet in Hyderabad. Sales through e-mail orders and through the Malkha shop are growing, while sales from exhibitions are static. It is through exhibitions that we reach new customers. Taken together, marketing and production of Malkha are currently well matched.

Malkha is not large enough to hold exhibitions on its own, it is invariably part of shows organized by larger entities: Dastkar, Dastkar Andhra, Sasha in Kolkatha or the Crafts Councils of different states. These events attract the well-heeled part of society but usually not the buyers who patronize large stores selling mass-produced clothes. Since Malkha's long-term objective is not only to democratize  production but also to make good things available across the market spectrum, it should be the next step in our agenda to reach these customers.

Malkha plans to start an on-line shop to do this and to keep up with the planned increase in production. Setting up systems for the on-line sales is a long, complicated business, since Malkha wants to keep track of different permutations and combinations of yarn and cloth making in different places. Through the on-line shop we hope to reach customers who who don't otherwise get to see Malkha at exhibitions.

How to do this? One way is for Malkha to take part in Handloom shows organized all over the country by the Ministry of Textiles. We do, but these shows are often cancelled without notice. Also they go on for too long and are badly publicized, so there are few customers.

The Kala Ghoda Festival in Mumbai is an event where people who would not normally go to 'Craft' shows are exposed to Malkha, and we see that interest in our fabric among this group is growing. We look for more such events, and for permanent outlets in areas where this large segment of the Indian market shops.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Katherine Neuman of Wandering Silk dropped in at the  Malkha stall at the DAMA show in Delhi, and has written a blogpost on Malkha:

Monday, August 4, 2014

malkha with zari

Finally, a malkha saree with zari in the border... pics soon