Say Hello to Sus­tain­able Fash­ion with Toile!

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A pro­file of Toile, a one-of-a-kind eco-fash­ion brand

re­main cot­ton-based, which has be­come fairly nor­malised and over­sat­u­rated due to global com­pe­ti­tion. Within this par­a­digm, the es­ti­ma­tions made un­der the Na­tional Tex­tiles Pol­icy draft are built on the ‘Make in In­dia’ phi­los­o­phy, which hopes to cre­ate a re­newed spirit of man­u­fac­tur­ing in the na­tion. How­ever, when it comes to high-mar­gin branded goods, there is very lit­tle that has proven to be suc­cess­ful and In­dian trade is still built on vol­ume rather than value. Even the core push of the Brand In­dia cam­paign for the tex­tile mar­ket hasn’t gone be­yond khadi since it is a truly orig­i­nal and in­te­gral part of In­dia’s brand iden­tity.

KVIC AND KHADI PRO­TEC­TION

Given the im­mense brand value that khadi has for the sec­tor and the na­tional econ­omy, it wasn’t a big sur­prise when the KVIC sent a le­gal no­tice to over 220 firms in the short span of the last two and a half years. Their com­plaint against these com­pa­nies was sim­ple: to stop sell­ing khadi prod­ucts which weren’t reg­is­tered for us­ing ‘khadi mark’ or us­ing terms like ‘hand­wo­ven’ and ‘hand-spun’. The com­plaint was fur­ther de­fined by the Chair­man of the KVIC as be­ing cru­cial to pro­tect­ing the In­dian indige­nous fab­ric and its buy­ers. Their key al­le­ga­tions has al­ways been that the KVIC in­tends to pro­tect buy­ers from be­ing cheated by firms that sell khadi prod­ucts with­out due ben­e­fits to the khadi ar­ti­sans.

This is in­deed a valid con­cern as over the last few years, the sales of khadi goods have sig­nif­i­cantly spiked. Given the global trends to­wards or­ganic, nat­u­ral and sus­tain­able prod­ucts, the In­dian ad­van­tage of khadi is a nat­u­ral win­ner. In 2017, the seem­ingly niche khadi fab­rics in­dus­try posted sales of over

R2,005 crore in In­dia–its high­est yet–which was a 33 per cent rise over the pre­vi­ous year. All of this also fed into the broader khadi-based vil­lage in­dus­tries mar­ket, which marked its high­est sales of R50,000 , crore dur­ingg the same pe­riod and in­cluded prod­ucts like honey, ssoaps, cos­met­ics, fur­ni­ture, and food ititems. More­over, the in­dus­try con­tin­ued to provipro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant boo­boost to the Mi­cro, SS­mall and Medium EEn­ter­prises, ppush­ing sales pro­jec­tions for 201819 clo­closer to R5,000 crore for kkhadi.

GIVEN THE GLOBAL TRENDS TO­WARDS OR­GANIC, NAT­U­RAL AND SUS­TAIN­ABLE PROD­UCTS, THE IN­DIAN AD­VAN­TAGE OF KHADI IS A NAT­U­RAL WIN­NER.

KVIC VS FABINDIA

The key mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the KVIC’s le­gal cases against the nu­mer­ous firms is based on the fact that true khadi is in­tended to be hand-spun and hand-wo­ven as de­fined by the KVIC Act, while pri­vate play­ers are falsely us­ing mech­a­nised pro­duc­tion. Com­pa­nies that sell khadi prod­ucts le­git­i­mately reg­is­ter for the khadi mark by pay­ing a fee and prove their pro­duc­tion tech­niques, thereby em­ploy­ing ar­ti­sans and com­ply­ing with other re­quire­ments. The com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that the KVIC re­quires a share of rev­enues from the sales of any com­pany’s prod­ucts has also played a role in fos­ter­ing con­fu­sion.

Of the many com­pa­nies that were tar­geted by the KVIC, per­haps the most well-known is Fabindia, which is known for its eth­nic wear brand. The con­flict be­tween the two en­ti­ties has been go­ing on for over three years, with the KVIC is­su­ing a state­ment to Fabindia or­der­ing the com­pany “to cease and de­sist im­me­di­ately and forth­with from dis­play­ing charkha or us­ing sell­ing prod­ucts bear­ing the charkha or khadi mark or any sim­i­lar mark on goods and use/sell prod­ucts bear­ing the word/mark ‘khadi’ or any sim­i­lar mark what­so­ever or how­so­ever re­lated to khadi.”

The KVIC also stated that Fabindia’s vi­o­la­tion has caused “ir­repara­ble loss, harm and dam­age to the good­will” rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the khadi trade­mark and has led to losses to the ar­ti­sans. How­ever, the com­pany has re­fused to act on this or­der and has called the KVIC ac­cu­sa­tion ‘base­less’, ex­press­ing its will­ing­ness to de­fend it­self ‘vig­or­ously’. But de­spite its protes­ta­tions and de­nials, af­ter over three years of con­flict, Fabindia signed an un­der­tak­ing with the KVIC stat­ing that it will no longer use the word ‘khadi’ in its prod­ucts. De­spite this, the KVIC is in­tent on seek­ing resti­tu­tion for Fabindia’s prior vi­o­la­tions, and in June 2018, the KVIC de­manded R525 crore (25 per cent of Fabindia’s av­er­age an­nual prof­its over the last three years) in dam­ages from Fabindia. Their claim re­mains that Fabindia ‘il­le­gally’ used the KVIC trade­mark ‘charkha’ and sold goods with the ‘khadi mark’ tag falsely, with Fabindia prod­ucts ac­tu­ally be­ing fac­tory-made cot­ton gar­ments that were sold un­der false la­bels that de­nied ar­ti­sans their fair share and de­ceived cus­tomers.

KHADI’S FU­TURE

The khadi in­dus­try has al­ways been en­sconced in a pro­tec­tive shell of reg­u­la­tory con­trol, which has made as­cer­tain­ing its true com­mer­cial po­ten­tial im­pos­si­ble. But as more en­trepreneurs and con­sumers have flocked to­wards new de­signs, new styles and new ways of us­ing the fab­ric, it is very much pos­si­ble that the new fab­ric of In­dia might be the old­est one we’ve ever used. Clearly, the ris­ing sales and proac­tive ac­tions of the KVIC are in­dica­tive that khadi has an im­por­tant role to play in In­dia’s tex­tile ex­port story. The re­vival of khadi has clearly be­gun, but whether it can be sus­tained in the long term is squarely in the hands of the Govern­ment and the KVIC.

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