Ahimsa Silk and Doodhpathri

An equity analyst turned biofuels entrepreneur, Ahimsa Silk, hand-block printing revivalists and the Valley of Milk are part of our newsletter this week

Rashmi Pratap
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Ahimsa Silk and Doodhpathri

Ahimsa Silk and Doodhpathri

Dear Reader,

When it comes to fabrics, the queen is definitely the silk. From sarees and dupattas to shirts and kurtas, silk can be used to make any garment. It is also an ancient fabric. The famous Chinese Silk Route that connected the East with the West and also passed through India was named after traders who carried silk produced in China to the rest of the world. Weavers in India also procured silk from them to make exquisite silk pieces.

But do you know cocoons are boiled or steamed with the silkworm inside them to obtain silk? Around 10,000 silkworms are killed to produce one silk sari! The rising awareness about this cruel practice is making popular another variety of silk, called Eri or Ahimsa silk. It is cruelty-free because the moths are allowed to leave the cocoon before it is boiled.

This is the silk Iba Mallai chose to work with when she quit her corporate career of eight years to work with the indigenous weavers of Meghalaya, writes my colleague Riya. 

Iba’s startup, Kiniho, has given financial stability to around 200 women spinners and weavers in and around the Umden village. Kiniho’s focus on creating contemporary sustainable designs by blending Meghalaya’s traditional spinning and weaving skills with modern styles has endeared the brand to global buyers. Iba exports her products across the world and the income is helping empower more and more women.

Globally, there is a rising awareness around handmade, sustainable products that generate livelihood for artisans and also keep the earth unharmed. Hand-block printing is one of them. From Rajasthan to Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh to Madhya Pradesh, India has a rich tradition of using wooden blocks dipped in natural colours to create patterns on fabrics.

With the declining interest of the younger generation, many entrepreneurs have taken it upon themselves to keep alive and revitalize hand-block printing by contemporizing the craft. My colleague Anu has written about five of these entrepreneurs who are giving a new lease of life to hand-block printing. Do read up about them.

Last week, I spoke to Ashvin Patil, an engineer and MBA who worked for 17 years as an equity analyst and then quit to set up a biofuels startup! Ashvin belongs to an agrarian family from Maharashtra and knew the hardships farmers face while disposing of agricultural waste (the rice stubble burning in north India makes annual news).

Ashvin’s research showed that one way to use agri waste was to make biofuel pellets by compressing it without any binding agents. His startup, Biofuels Junction, supplies this eco-friendly fuel for use in the boilers of some of India’s top companies including Hindustan Unilever, CEAT, Mondeleze and about a hundred others. 

The farmers are paid up to Rs1200 per acre for clearing their waste (he works with over 25,000 farmers) and companies reduce their carbon footprint by using biofuels. And as for Biofuels Junction, it has become a Rs66.5 crore company in just four years! The story has all the interesting details. Do look it up.

Our Sunday piece is on Doodhpathri or the Valley of Milk in Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir. There’s an interesting story behind the name of this picturesque place where there is no human settlement.

And in the Money section, Karan has given tips about tackling the rising interest on your loans. 

Happy Reading!





How sustainable fashion brand Kiniho is empowering women weavers of Meghalaya


Five entrepreneurs reviving hand block printing


How Biofuels Junction became a Rs 66.5-crore company in four years