SMOOTH AS SILK

Marwar - - Contents - Text Anurima Das

Es­tab­lished in Kolkata 47 years ago, In­dian Silk House Agen­cies still grabs cen­tre stage in ev­ery home where silk is the in­dis­pens­able at­tire. In con­ver­sa­tion with MARWAR, Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the brand, gives an in­sight into their re­mark­able jour­ney.

It has been a mem­o­rable jour­ney of 47 years and In­dian Silk House Agen­cies still grabs cen­tre stage in ev­ery home where silk is the in­dis­pens­able at­tire. We in­ter­acted with Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of In­dian Silk House Agen­cies, to get an in­sight into the brand’s re­mark­able jour­ney.

THE DUDHORIAS MOVED FROM Ra­jalde­sar in Ra­jasthan to Mur­shid­abad (more pre­cisely, Az­im­ganj) in the early 1700s. Their fam­ily was con­sid­ered one of the most his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant fam­i­lies of the re­gion, with Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria’s great grand­fa­thers hav­ing earned var­i­ous titles/recog­ni­tions for their con­tri­bu­tions to so­ci­ety.

The Dudhorias, who are now based in Kolkata, how­ever, have not for­got­ten Az­im­ganj and have been try­ing to re­con­nect with their roots over the last few years. “We are once again mov­ing our fo­cus, time and re­sources to de­velop Mur­shid­abad as a re­gion, which has stood frozen in time for the last 100 years. As a first step, we are restor­ing our 250-yearold fam­ily palace, Bari Kothi, into a rus­tic, lux­ury bou­tique ho­tel, with the in­tent of boost­ing in­ter­na­tional tourism in the re­gion. This project will be sig­nif­i­cant for the lo­cal com­mu­nity and econ­omy and will be the first of its kind in the re­gion,” says Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria.

Start of the jour­ney

The Dudhorias’ foray into silk sa­rees, how­ever, goes back to Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria’s fa­ther, Sri Su­mati Chand Sam­sukha, who had set up a sa­ree show­room in North Kolkata. A dili­gent en­trepreneur, with sheer hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion he went on to turn this sa­ree out­let into a lead­ing house­hold name across In­dia. In the year 1971, his sons Dilip Ku­mar Sam­sukha and Tarun Ku­mar Sam­sukha, amongst oth­ers, set up an­other show­room at Rash­be­hari Av­enue of Kolkata with the in­tent of cater­ing to the grow­ing ur­ban pop­u­la­tion of South Kolkata, adding the suf­fix ‘Agen­cies’ to the name In­dian Silk House.

“My fa­ther strongly be­lieved that with strict qual­ity con­trol and the right pric­ing, ev­ery woman in In­dia would be able to wear a sa­ree pur­chased from In­dian Silk House Agen­cies,” says Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria, who used to in­tently ob­serve how her fa­ther ran his busi­ness with the per­fect mix of zeal and en­tre­pre­neur­ial acu­men, day-in and day-out. Keen to fol­low in her fa­ther’s foot­step, she joined the busi­ness in 1998. As luck would have it, the op­por­tu­nity to carry for­ward her fa­ther’s legacy did in­deed present it­self soon af­ter with her el­der brother say­ing that she could take over In­dian Silk House Agen­cies. “It was a dream come true mo­ment and I started my jour­ney of cre­at­ing a brand which catered to ev­ery woman who dreams of wear­ing a beau­ti­ful silk sa­ree,” Dud­ho­ria rem­i­nisces.

Threads of won­der

In­dian Silk House Agen­cies spe­cialises in all kinds of tra­di­tional sa­rees such as Kan­ji­varams, Oparas, Tus­sars, Matka Silk and other re­gional hand-work sa­rees such as Kan­tha Stitch and Baluchari. Also avail­able is a large range of re­gional sa­rees such as Ben­gal Tant Cot­ton Sa­rees, Chan­deri,

We have ac­cess to hun­dreds of looms across In­dia, giv­ing us the abil­ity to cre­ate any de­sign, on any fab­ric, with any spe­cialised craftsmanship

Garad from Mur­shid­abad, Matka Silk, Gad­wal Silk, Pocham­pally, Man­gala­giri Cot­ton, Jam­dani Cot­ton Sa­rees, etc. Non-tra­di­tional sa­rees in­clude geor­gettes, chif­fons, crepes and nets. Amongst the most pop­u­lar cat­e­gories are bri­dal Be­narasi sa­rees, pure silk sa­rees, hand­loom sa­rees and pure cot­ton sa­rees. The price range varies from R1,000 for cot­ton, Jam­dani and Tant sa­rees to R1,00,000 for pure gold zari Opara sa­rees.

“We have ac­cess to hun­dreds of looms across In­dia, giv­ing us the abil­ity to cre­ate any de­sign, on any fab­ric, with any spe­cialised craftsmanship. All our sa­rees are wo­ven by highly skilled kari­gars and weavers,” Dud­ho­ria elab­o­rates.

The USP of the brand is its pric­ing visà-vis the qual­ity of­fered, and In­dian Silk House Agen­cies con­tin­ues to thrive on its laud­able cus­tomer ser­vice and cus­tomer­friendly poli­cies that in turn have cre­ated good­will for the brand glob­ally.

“When I took over the Rash­be­hari show­room in the year 1998, we were a small team of 10 peo­ple sell­ing only tra­di­tional sa­rees. Now we are a team of 150 peo­ple and sell a va­ri­ety of wom­enswear like sal­war suits, tra­di­tional as well as non-tra­di­tional sa­rees and fash­ion jew­ellery. We have grad­u­ally opened show­rooms in sev­eral other places in Kolkata such as Barasat in 2010, New Mar­ket and Gorabazar in 2014 and Kanchra­para in 2015. With the suc­cess of the five show­rooms across Kolkata and hav­ing one of the largest e-com­merce por­tals sell­ing tra­di­tional sa­rees, we are now set to open more stores pan-In­dia.”

The next gen­er­a­tion

If Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria has fol­lowed in her fa­ther’s shoes, her chil­dren, Dar­shan and Lipika, are no dif­fer­ent. Draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from their mother, they too are con­tribut­ing to the growth of In­dian Silk House Agen­cies. Dar­shan is a cor­po­rate lawyer by pro­fes­sion and Lipika is a busi­ness man­age­ment grad­u­ate, who has a back­ground in de­sign­ing and re­tail­ing sa­rees. Dar­shan heads the e-com­merce plat­form, which now is one of the largest web­sites in the tra­di­tional sa­ree space, and Lipika takes care of the ‘V-Cut’ blouse divi­sion, which of­fers be­spoke de­signer blouses in 72 hours flat.

“V-Cut ac­tu­ally refers to ‘we cut’, which is our sig­na­ture neck­line de­sign ‘V-Cut’, and thus we are ‘V-Cut’,” ex­plains Dud­ho­ria. We cus­tomise ev­ery piece ac­cord­ing to clients’ needs and tastes. Apart from the unique con­cept of cre­at­ing ‘your-own-blouse’, we also have over 500 unique de­signs of ready-to-wear blouses avail­able at all times. We also have sea­son/theme-based col­lec­tions that we launch once ev­ery cou­ple of months.”

V-Cut, since its in­cep­tion in 2013 has been re­ceiv­ing over­whelm­ing re­sponse, and Dud­ho­ria plans to set up more stu­dios and ex­pand to other cities through place­ments in var­i­ous eth­nic wear de­signer stores, re­tail chains and shop-in-shop set­ups. Their ul­ti­mate aim is to be the largest e-com­merce de­signer blouse des­ti­na­tion in In­dia.

Cus­tomer story

On­line shop­ping is a larger mar­ket com­pared to brick-and-mor­tar clien­tele to­day. The client base for In­dian Silk House Agen­cies liv­ing beyond bor­ders loves brows­ing and shop­ping from the brand’s ex­pan­sive col­lec­tion, and that in­cludes cus­tomers from as far off places as USA. “One of our cus­tomers from New York called in to or­der a few blouses and she told the team to make her pure silk fab­ric de­signer blouses in rain­bow colours. When our team rechecked what she meant, she said, ‘I don’t get good tai­lors here to stitch my blouses, and the ones that are good charge min­i­mum $40.' Hence, she wanted us to make her an en­tire range of blouses which she could mix and match with her sa­rees,” Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria nar­rates.

Talk­ing about trends, Dud­ho­ria says, “Silk and hand­loom sa­rees are back in fash­ion, and ev­ery sec­ond celebrity is flaunt­ing them. The grace of a silk six-yard sa­ree can­not be re­placed by any other genre of sa­ree. Also, the longevity of hand­loom silk prod­ucts is far more than the newly cre­ated pow­er­loom silk. Hand­loom pro­duc­tion, how­ever, is dip­ping, and we as a team take it as our re­spon­si­bil­ity to both sup­port ar­ti­sans and save the dy­ing tex­tile,” Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria signs off.

Noth­ing can be more won­drous than a fancy drape, and In­dian Silk House Agen­cies weaves the right blend of beauty and style in ev­ery sa­ree on their shelves. So, adorn your wardrobe with a her­itage steal and be sure to pass it on to the next gen­er­a­tion, as silk is time­less!

Top: Prat­i­bha Dud­ho­ria Fac­ing page: Mod­els show­cas­ing wed­ding sa­rees from In­dian Silk House Agen­cies

From top: The V-Cut stu­dio; In­dian Silk House Agen­cies' Rash­be­hari show­room in Kolkata

Clock­wise from top left: A Paithani sa­reefrom In­dian Silk House Agen­cies; Dar­shan Dud­ho­ria; Lipika Dud­ho­ria; a Katan Silk sa­ree

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