Weaving the love for making a difference in lives with their knowledge of sarees, into their business – ‘The Pallu Shop,’ Gayathri and Bhavana share their entrepreneurial journey in conversation with Sruthi Bhat for the #VoLocals Initiative.
“We roamed about weaving villages in Tamil Nadu as and when we got some break during weekends. We understood various dynamics involved in how handlooms and power looms work. We analyzed and selected the looms that worked best for us in terms of the variety in designs, logistics, and cost,” they recollect the beginning of their journey.
Started in April 2018, The Pallu Shop is the brainchild of these women who put their thoughts and soul into carving a niche for themselves amongst peer sellers in social media.
From Breezy cotton weaves to dazzling six-yard Kanjeevarams, their page is a one-stop paradise for every saree loving Indian woman.
“The fact that we offered great sarees at reasonable prices differentiated us from other shops on Instagram. In an industry where many sellers cheat customers with the type and quality of the saree material, we have always been true to our conscience and ensured we gave only true information to customers. Many customers held on to us because of our personalized way of customer service,” they say.
With a Masters in Business Administration and Food Technology, respectively, Gayathri and Bhavana had no prior business expertise to rely on neither did they have any back-up option to fall back. As a result, they started with less inventory investing personal savings into the venture. “We were extremely scared. We did not have big hopes that this venture would work. When we started, we did not have much inventory. That was the only consoling factor – that we could always shut things up without much loss,” they said.
Their fear did not deter them from taking things further, consistently working on their plans; they ensured they thought about every expectation of a potential customer and took the leap.
“We brainstormed together on what should be the systems we need to put in place to start our store. This involved deciding the name of our store, putting down our business plan, struggling to connect with remote weavers, forecast what our potential customers would like, how we were going to present the sarees on Instagram to make it a good experience for customers, and finally dividing various activities among the two of us,” they recollect.
But, no amount of relentless hard work could put off the countless challenges tossed their way. From delay in receipt of new stock to coordinating with delivery partners for timely deliveries and capturing their products with perfection, they have braved it all.
“From our initial days, when we would make one sale a day and go without even one the next few days, we have become consistent with our sales, thanks to brainstorming and refining our strategy every now and then. What started as a culmination of passions of two young girls has become a serious business now,” they say.
Initially braving the scepticism from the weavers, it took a while to earn their trust “they started trusting us more once we conveyed our intentions and started giving them continuous orders. Now, we are one big happy family, our weavers and us!” they exclaim.
However, the pandemic had other plans for their business. Their weavers had no access to looms for creating new designs, and fulfilling orders had posed a different challenge altogether. The setback induced by the lockdown has had a blow on their business, but the duo have taken it upon themselves to keep the show running.
“While it may take some time for the aftereffects to settle down completely, we are making use of this time to engage with our customers and getting to know how we can bring about more varieties of sarees,” they say.
Their weavers were also affected by the lockdown and had piled up non-moving inventory. That is when the two decided to go the extra mile and help them in selling the stock. “Most of the weavers are not tech-savvy, and they are not comfortable taking pictures and sending us on WhatsApp. We had to speak with some of their family members, like their sons or daughters, to take pictures of the sarees and send us so that we could sell it for them,” they describe the process.
Their success story doesn’t end here; they plan to expand their business further and be able to touch the lives of as many weavers as possible.
“We plan to touch as many weavers’ lives as possible and bring our customers more varieties at affordable prices. We are also contemplating diversifying to salwar materials and dresses,” they add.
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