We are a company that operates at the cusp of culture, loom craft and livelihoods. Essentially, we want to increase the wardrobe share of sarees so that we can share the joy and power of sarees with the world, and so that we continue to nurture and support craft entrepreneurs and artisans who are keepers of our tangible and intangible heritage. These are nice sounding words, but what do they mean? They mean that we absorb inventory risks, that we invest in supply chains and in artisans extensively. Working together with them, often to develop and execute designs and of course hustling night and day to make sales possible so that the cycle continues.
While the pandemic taught us valuable lessons- about love, gratitude, minimalism, and self-reliance, we all know that it did not affect everyone equally. And as the economy and sales started declining, one of the worst affected sectors was retail, and particularly handlooms and handicraft. And as a company, we were right in the middle of that. But by the time the initial lockdowns were lifted, we had made a few decisions.
- We would invest everything we had in our people- our employees and our network of over 100 artisans and weavers. We would not let go of anyone, and we would pay everyone. If it meant digging deep into our own personal resources, or raising money from other sources, we would do it.
- We would not ask for charity or grants- I have always believed in the power of enterprise, and in times like these, it would be credit rather than grants that would support us. We were part of several networks that supported artisans during the pandemic and we did what we could to help move stock, to provide relief, of course.
- We would apply technology extensively across the board in our operations and our sales and try to equip all our sales channels so that whenever buying came back, and in whatever format, we would be ready for it.
And by technology, we don’t mean that we developed some new platform or anything glamourous like that. We simply and quietly found the best way of working with our network of crafts persons and weavers to keep supporting them through this unprecedented time. And this has been made possible with what I like to think of as the ‘tech triumvirate’- Communications platforms like Whatsapp, Fintech Platforms like UPI and Logistics Platforms like Dunzo.
We were able to use technology and via video calls and image exchanges, designs were finalised. We then used technology to monitor and support. One of our key block printers had a family emergency and couldn’t meet the deadline. In normal times, our production team would have been on the ground with them. Given this was not possible, we developed a routine of checking in with them close to 5 times a day while our sarees were on the table, and supervised, virtually, the production work on our sarees.
But most importantly, I love how small craft entrepreneurs, weavers and artisans have been able to use technology to continue to do business- many of them not very conversant with English, but between voice messages, images and broken expressions in various languages, communication happened in a truly powerful and democratic manner. Insta pages, Whatsapp business catalogues, fin-tech payment solutions, technology driven logistics and E-commerce platforms have all played a role in getting people through these tough times.
As we end the year, it gives me great pride to see that we have provided work to over 100 weavers and artisans, launched our website, expanded to two further cities, now have a presence across Amazon, Myntra and Ajio, have released over a hundred new designs, have actually hired key members in our team and are on track to equal last year’s revenue despite the kind of year it was.
None of this was easy, and the entire team at Six Yards Plus worked overtime to deal with the challenges thrown our way- leaning on each other to make the best of circumstances with a spirit of optimism, perseverance, kindness and good humour. But the most important thing was the continued support of the #womenofsixyardsplus. Your faith in our work and your encouragement have always been our fuel- we hope we can continue to be deserving of this love.
And as we progress in 2021, hope and hard work are the only currency we have, but we look forward to the new year with determination in our eyes and a smile on our lips.
Best wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, contented 2021. May all of your dreams come true.