Avipsha Thakur Founder, Bunavat

You are currently viewing Avipsha Thakur Founder, Bunavat

She started as Avid Handloom and Handicraft Shopper and Admirer. Then, she morphed into an Advocate for Upholding Indian Culture and Tradition.

Avipsha Thakur

INTERVIEW

Avipsha Thakur

Bunavat is Avipsha’s 2nd entrepreneurial venture. Her first startup, EasyRation, was an e-grocery platform.

You are a handloom evangelist. Tell us how you are contributing to the handloom industry?

I have been an avid handloom wearer for the last nine years. While purchasing such products, I was curious to know the story behind the weave, the source, about the weaver. Still, no seller was able to share such information adequately. Then I started researching the country’s different textiles/ art forms and began collecting weaves from different States. As a result, my love for weaves and hues has taken a different turn altogether. I have morphed from an avid shopper and admirer to an advocate of these lesser celebrated art forms. My venture Bunavat is a testimony to that. Bunavat works with over 1000 weavers across 11 States in 36 weaving/ craft clusters. Also, it conducts skilling workshops in certain weaving clusters.

What was the motivation and driving force behind getting into handloom?

On vacation in January 2018, I travelled to Rann of Kutch. I skipped sightseeing to visit Ajrakhpur, a village famous for Ajrakh hand block printing in Kutch, Gujarat. Although I did not know anyone in the cluster, I received a warm welcome from the community. There I met Ismail Anwar Khatri, a young artisan from Kutch, whose story of struggle left me teary-eyed. At his workshop, I understood how the artisans struggle to receive a meagre amount for their hand printing the sarees. This made me realise the repercussions of long supply chains between the weaver and the end consumer.

The following month I travelled to three weaving clusters in Bengal and came across similar stories. Also, the living conditions that I witnessed in these clusters were perturbing. With the thought of cutting down the long supply chain, providing fair prices to weavers/ artisans and upholding their stories to end consumers, Bunavat started. Cutting long supply chains also ensured that the sarees were now more affordable to the customers, making switching over to handloom a more lucrative option. The bigger purpose is to develop the weaving communities while ensuring a steady stream of income to them by selling their products. Thus, Bunavat bridges the gap between a weaver’s story and their craft and the end consumer. Since I do not have a background in textiles, I did a lot of reading, learned about the different weaves, and travelled to these clusters to learn first-hand from the weavers and artisans.

Bunavat was selected among the ‘Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs Startup Program and incubated by IIM Bangalore during 2018-19. Tell us your experience and how it has impacted your startup.

The NSRCEL IIM Bangalore incubator program has been an amazing experience. The mentoring support from the Professors and industry experts during the program and after that helped immensely. The collective of 100 passionate, determined and abled women is
a great resource pool who support and stand by each other. The program provided networking opportunities which have proved to be quite beneficial. We also received a stipend sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology for a year which surely supported the journey.

Subscribe to unlock the content

Loading...
How is Bunavat making a social impact? There are over 1000 weavers in 36 weaving clusters across 11 States that we work with. Working with and for weaving communities is at the core of our work. Our engagement with the weaving communities is twofold. First, we source products from them, assuring them a steady income stream that leads toward community development. Second, we proactively share their stories on our social media to recognise their unheard voices and unseen faces. Last year we raised over Rs.1.5 Lakhs to support 192 weaver families with ration supplies. This year also raised Rs.1.1 Lakhs for 31 families, based on their immediate needs. In addition, we have provided Rs.1.25 Lakhs zero-interest loans to weavers for their housing needs. Our finance support may not be very significant numbers in the larger scheme of things. Nonetheless, as a small business, we tried to allocate whatever funds we had across the various clusters to stand with our weavers. At Bunavat, we conducted a digital skilling and photography training program with young weavers of Maheshwar in February 2020. We realised the program's success during the pandemic when these weavers continued to sell their products successfully online. At the same time, we had observed how others were struggling. So, in April 2021, we deployed another program with the same\ set of weavers through online mediums, helping them with the next steps like creating lookbooks, making creative posters, international shipments. This has helped them increase sales by at least 15%. Further, for elderly weavers in Maheshwar, we have conducted programs on colour inspiration and motivation to help them excel in their work. We are committed to our communities, and their holistic development is at the core of our work. We hope to replicate this across our other communities shortly. How was it before, and what are the developments after the introduction of the “Vocal for Local” initiative? Bunavat has always promoted the concept of products made in India by rural people, and our customers were always made aware of the origin of the wares. The ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign surely got more consumers aware and interested in local products. While we may not be able to directly attribute any figures in terms of growth due to the campaign, we have surely seen more enthusiastic consumers vocal about supporting local crafts and handmade products and promoting our work.