Marrying into the Family Business : Shining a Light on the Roles of Handloom Art – Tejashree Najwale
For all the studies of commerce and economics that academics have undertaken over the years, family businesses have only in recent decades become a focus of scholarship, and very limited research was dedicated to examining women’s roles and the unique challenges they face in this specific context.
Tejashree Najwale belongs to a Maharashtrian family and at the age of 46 years when she felt that as per her set priorities, she had given sufficient time to her kids and other family members as a mother and as a wife, she decided to start her own business.
Tejashree did her BhSC (Bachelor of Home Science) and then did her diploma in Computers (Database Management) in 1994. She does not like to sit ideal, so she developed an interest in various arts. While studying, she learnt drawing, painting, dance (Kathak), stitching, driving, swimming, cooking, backing and machine embroidery.
In 1995, she got married in Jabalpur (MP) and managed all the responsibilities as a housewife. Since she got married in a business class family, she understood and supported the family all the time.
After 2-3 years of her marriage, Tejashree’s husband left the job and started his business. Tejashree started supporting her husband in the office to work in his business.
Tejashree is associated with many social institutions like; Vivekanand Kendra (Kanyakumari), Rotary Club of Jabalpur Queens, Vaari Mahamandal, Maharashtra Samaj, Bhagini Mandal etc. for social work.
With her social collaboration and networking, she has connected to many wonderful social women and trying to help each other by creating a safe and empowered environment for women.
Since the beginning, she has high inspirations to do something unique for people, community and nation, which also gives complete satisfaction.
Tejashree has decided to work on the clothing business and promote Indian Handloom (हथकरघा) art. She said, “With my small effort, the Indian Handloom business will somewhere contribute for boosting the economy of the nation and at the same time gives an opportunity and exposure to weavers (बुनकरों), who puts their real hard work for such beautiful art.”
She started Shri Tajas Sarees in 2015 with Kosa Silk Sarees and dress materials at a small scale. Tejashree started engaging with customers and began to learn about their liking and demands.
Handloom sarees are a traditional textile art of India. The production of handloom sarees is important for economic development in rural India. Completion of a single saree takes two to three days of work. Several regions have their own traditions of handloom sarees.
Some of the well-known Indian handloom sarees are Kanchipuram silk sarees, Maheshwari saree, Bagh print saree, Chanderi Silk Sarees, Tussar silk saree, Banarasi silk saree, Baluchuri sarees, Sambalpuri sarees, Kantha stitch sarees, Bhadhini sarees and Munga sarees. Handloom sarees are made out of good quality silks to give a lustrous look.
Tejashree says, “The handloom sector plays a vital role in the country’s economy and as a result evens the government is implementing several measures to optimize all the resources available. The handloom sector is the second-largest economic activity after agriculture which involves nearly 30 lakh weavers. It contributes nearly 22% of cloth produced in the country. The handloom industry belongs to the pre-independence period and the new economic policy in India is implemented to thrust this industry.”
Talking about the challenges for a businesswoman Tejashree said, “One of the common challenges for these women was separating home and business responsibilities. Motherhood management was very important for them, and this often conflicted with their expectations as a business partner.”
She also stated, “For women who marry into a family business, the fundamental question is: ‘Whose company is it?’ Do they themselves have any equity in the business? There are clear differences between women who have grown up in an entrepreneurial family and those who have not.
When I analysed women who had grown up in an entrepreneurial household, I noticed that they had fewer problems establishing themselves in the business because of their previous experiences.
Whereas women who did not come from an entrepreneurial family struggled with the adjustment to a work-oriented lifestyle and the reality of very little leisure time. What is interesting is that, after the period of adjustment, they fully embraced the new lifestyle and often looked back at their old life as unfulfilling.”
Tejashree faced typical challenges of price and quality from their customers for the Handloom Sarees and Dress Materials. Since the market has become very competitive, and there are options available at a low price but again the quality of those items are not up to the mark.
She said, “One of the risks you face when running your own company is that you often take things too personally. When your customers reorder a product, and you can’t get it to them as quickly as they’re asking, you do silly things like air-express it to them, which really harms your bottom line. So, our focus right now is on streamlining our operations. My wish is to eventually have other products besides clothing, like home décor for example, just to diversify our product line and appeal to other types of retail shops.”
She decided to compete in the market by keeping the prices low but without compromising on the quality of the products. This definitely hits her profit margin but with her clear long term strategy, she came out of that dark competition and was successful in creating a large customer base for herself.
Because grace never goes out of style.
Tejashree expanded her network very rapidly with customers as well as with Weavers directly. This helps her to set the right expectations of her clients with the Weavers and get the proper product as pe her customer’s demand.
With such a working style of Tejashree, her customers have shown a lot of trust in her and at the same time, she started giving more business to the Weavers, which was her dream to increase their footprint in India.
Now, she has a large customer base in India and abroad. Tejashree has broadened the collection of her Handloom Sarees & Dress Materials (Chanderi, Maheshwari, Kanjivaram, Paithani, Kota, Banarasi etc.) and apart from that, she added multiple new products like; Bad Sheet, Bed Covers, Dhoti and much more.
In just 4 years of timeframe, Tejashree has become a very successful entrepreneur and role model for many other women. She manages to increase her company turnover above 20 Lakhs for Handloom products, which is not easy to position in the competitive market.