It is time to redefine the way clothes exchange hands. Stepping away from the traditional relationship between artisans and the company, Okhai is setting a new benchmark when it comes to giving back.
Okhai’s name comes from Okhamandal, a small province in Jamnagar district where Tata Chemicals first set up their business operations in 1939. Okhai is a social development arm of the company and was registered as a trust in 2002 under Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD).
Okhai’s handcrafted apparels and lifestyle products are made by rural artisans from across the country. These exquisite designs and styles give a glimpse of rural heritage while keeping the millennials in mind. These artisans, earlier neglected, have now found a voice and a promising means of earning livelihood using their skills and confidence, thus finding a new social holding.
These artisans are empowered in a way that they are given the right tools to make the journey from design, production and delivery to customer accessibility a possibility. Okhai’s back-end and front-end has improved drastically. The turnaround time for a garment to get ready and get delivered to the customer has been reduced by 25 hours. This has also resulted in a steep surge in their revenue since they launched their website.
Investments & Marshaling Resources
Okhai has invested in bringing a tailor-master and a designer on their payroll to ensure upbeat prints and wider product range to appeal to larger audience. Regular training about new processes, embroidery techniques, patch work, tailoring techniques, etc. at the Mithapur center help develop skills of the artisans. By doing so, Okhai experienced a surge in the quality of products and increased production time. Okhai also has ongoing fruitful engagements from the National Institute of Design (NID) and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). Field trips to industrial stitching units are also regularly organised to broaden their perspective.
Kirti Poonia, Head, Okhai,
The organization has been set up for the development of the artisans. All proceeds from sales are only used for artisan benefit.”
According to her, the brand is more like a community where artisans work for their own betterment. Keeping the artisans’ benefit in mind, Okhai’s material procurement process does not involve middlemen. It is directly sourced from the manufacturers.
Okhai’s marketing initiatives have played a crucial role in making it a household name. There are 13 outlets across India selling handcrafted apparels and lifestyle products. Tata offices and employees actively organize sales cum exhibitions in corporate offices or at shopping centers and malls. Okhai’s apparel and lifestyle products are also given as corporate gifts, thus contributing to brand recall.
Hence, these steps help artisans sell their product directly to the customer without any hassle.
All these efforts have resulted in more than 500 women becoming socially and financially independent. Ramiben Nangesh, a skilled and seasoned artisan, is on the board of trustees, thus cementing Okhai’s initiative to empower rural women. Their online campaign is all about “working women for working women.”
Connecting Artisans With The Customers
Millennials have now started asking questions about ethical treatment of artisans and want to know more about the artisan who made their clothes. Okhai strives to bridge the gap between the artisans and customers by making them more aware of who made the clothes they just bought.
Millennials are hungry for unconventional, individual style. So, for a brand like Okhai, it’s a great match. We love thinking out of the box, we love making kurtas that millennials will feel proud of wearing, both for the style and for the impact.” explains Kirti.
An interesting feature on the portal is that the customers can not only view the product information but also a brief description of the maker alongside, thus creating an instant connect.
The website also publishes empowerment tales informing the customer about the difference their purchases are making to the lives of hundreds of rural women. However, this is far from their vision.
We have a vision of creating 100,000 happy hands, which means making a difference in the lives of 50,000 women, and we’re geared up for that,”
says Alka Talwar, Chief Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Officer at Tata Chemicals.
How Funding Works
TCSRD, whose primary aim is to assist women to work their way into employment, lends significant financial support through sponsorship and funding in more ways than one. With the backend and front-end operations handled efficiently by Okhai, TCSRD frequently trains artisans on fund management, division of work, team work, entrepreneurship, motivation, etc. Apart from the overall funding of the organisation, women artisans are independently paid on the basis of the work that they do.
Just like TCSRD, there are many organisations doing good work for the widespread growth of sustainable fashion. The following funding partners have helped many weavers and artisans realize their dreams.
Sustainable fashion is powerful, not only for the environment but also for the people involved with it. It is due to companies like Okhai that artisans are finally able to get the credit that they deserved all along.