Strong points :
“If only five percent of Indian villages become solar charkha clusters, it can produce 180 Cr kg of cotton yarn, which is nearly 50% of India’s current cotton yarn capacity and generate of subsistence for 1.2 Cr people without migrating from their villages. ‘
“If the government can support purchasing for each state, it will be very encouraging for companies working on sustainable fashion, in addition to delivering great results for the environment.”
âOur goal is to partner with at least 10 major national and international brands in the next two years. We also expect a presence in over 20 major Indian cities during this time. ”
According to the UN, globally, from materials sourcing to supply chains to washing and waste, the fashion industry produces about 10% of all carbon emissions. It is also the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply and pollutes the oceans with microplastics. However, these facts are little known. Greenwear Fashion is one of the few players trying to soften the impact of fashion with what he calls solar powered clothing. Greenwear follows and promotes the traditional Indian concept of Khadi powered by renewable energy resources. Based in Lucknow, Greenwear sells cotton yarns, cotton fabrics, cotton blends – silk, linen and wool as both fabrics and garments. Greenwear CEO and Founder Mr. Abhishek Pathak talks about their journey so far and other market plans.
Q. 1 What is the concept and idea behind ‘Solar Vastra‘? How are the fabric and clothing of this brand marketed?
Solar vast, is essentially a natural fabric woven using solar powered looms using threads spun on solar charkhas, which are compact spinning machines. The idea behind solar energy-vast was to increase the income of Khadi artisans and the productivity of the decentralized textile value chain.
We market our products as a âsustainableâ fashion brand, where a decentralized value chain is fueled by renewable energy resources. Solar Vastra the look and feel is a lot like Khadi, but there is a lot of difference. To weave Khadi, women weave for eight hours to produce the yarn, and the production is uneven. So you don’t find many spinners on the ground. What we did was install the premagnetic direct current in the motor which is powered by a 120 watt solar panel on the same charkha. With that, the women would only have to watch out for the breakage of the thread. We expect solar-vastra to emerge as a new avatar of Khadi. But at the same time, we need targeted marketing campaigns to make people understand that solar energy vast does not look like a khadi even though it looks and feels the same. Customers should be educated so that they are not misled. For this reason, we are also working on setting up QR codes that would give information such as when and where the yarn was produced, how it was produced and tested, among other important details about the yarn. We are also working on setting up an internal testing laboratory by 2022 with the help of which we will categorize to differentiate the different yarns produced.
Q. 2 Can you tell us about your retail network and global presence in India?
We have a head office based in Lucknow and our manufacturing unit is in Safedabad (Barabanki district). We have two retail stores in Lucknow. Till this day, we have established our presence in various locations across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. We are launching our e-commerce site in January 2022.
We plan to have a presence in all capitals across the country and have a well-defined network in Tier 2 cities. We have partnered with big brands like Amazon, Flipkart and Karigari to reach the potential consumer base. By the fourth quarter of next fiscal year, we are targeting a commercial presence in other cities, including Delhi, Patna, Ranchi and Surat.
Q. 3 The fashion industry has major negative effects on the environment. What steps are you taking to mitigate the impact here?
Both globally and in India, the fashion industry has negative effects. Pollution is added at all levels, starting with the massive use of pesticides in the cotton value chain, air pollution by factories, polyester dumped in the oceans, huge water consumption by industry, among others. The textile and fashion industries need urgent reforms to reduce the pollution of the earth.
We are moving step by step and are currently very small in the face of the problem. However, we believe that the Vastra Solar value chain, if added to natural fibers and organic processes, will have an immense impact on reducing the carbon footprint of the textile industry. If only 5% of Indian villages become solar charkha clusters (around 30,000), this can produce 180 Cr kg of cotton yarn, which is almost 50% of India’s current cotton yarn capacity and generate livelihoods for 1.2 Cr people without migrating from their villages.
For example, in India around 360 crore KW of energy can be saved per year by using solar charkhas. Add to this, an amount of one lakh crore can be injected into the rural economy as a payment for wages.
Q. 4 What level of acceptance and penetration do you see for âsustainable fashionâ in India? Is there a plan to target mass audience and focus on volumes?
The Indian fashion market is becoming aware of sustainable fashion. After the closures and other factors, people are increasingly aware of the impacts on the environment. During Lakme Fashion Week, 16 major brands expressed their wish to be in the sustainable fashion market. Today, many brands are bringing their take on the story of sustainability to consumers.
However, it is still a niche category. To bring this closer to the masses, government intervention is needed. For example, in the past two years, the UP government has hijacked some Khadi organizations to produce school uniforms. The government of Bihar is also working on the same line.
Q. 5 What kind of political and regulatory support do you expect from the government?
Solar chakras are an extremely viable option for mass production. We did a pilot project in UP, where we provided school uniforms in a block of a district. It was an extremely successful project with excellent results and responses. If the government can support public procurement for each state, it will be very encouraging for companies working on sustainable fashion, in addition to giving excellent results for the environment.
It will also help reduce reliance on Chinese yarn. We are in talks with the government of Bihar, where they will use Jeevika women for sewing and local weavers for weaving the fabric. Also, there must be a change in perception about working only with Khadi institutions. Social enterprises should also be encouraged.
Q. 6 India has a rich history of clothing and fabric manufacturing. How do you build on that?
Greenwear uses natural fibers. Thus, it does not add to long term discharges like polyester fabrics do. Along with the usual solar-vastra value chain, Greenwear is also working to revive certain languishing businesses in India. To begin with, the Bawan Boota Hand Looms Cluster was explored. It is the only group in Bihar where intricate patterns are woven. The first President of India Shri Rajendra Prasad took a personal interest in this fabric and some bawan boota curtains at Rastrapati Bhawan are still proudly on display.
It is based in the Nepura and Baswan Bigha villages of Nalanda in Bihar and is originally characterized by 52 miniature patterns woven with additional wefts (usually with tassar silk threads) made up of Hindu or Buddhist symbols. The genesis of the word “Bawan Boota” lies in the realm of mythology, folklore and tradition. This ancient art from Bihar is as old as Nalanda University and mainly produced saris and dresses as gifts to girls at the time of her marriage among Buddhist families.
Q.7 What are some of the challenges you have encountered while training rural women on solar charkha spinning for Mission Solar Charkha?
Training rural women in solar charkha spinning is not at all a challenge. However, training them on how to care for solar assemblies requires a different focus and approach. Moreover, in decentralized production, quality control becomes a huge problem.
Question 8 What types of synergies and partnerships do you envision to broaden your base?
We are currently working with the biggest Indian brands of women’s clothing – W for Women and Aurelia. To expand our base, we need to have partnerships with brands like Fabindia for fabric consumption. We are also in talks with other big fashion brands. Greenwear is also one of six cohort businesses supported by Powering Livelihoods – a CEEW-Villgro initiative that aims to boost India’s rural economy by increasing the penetration of clean energy devices for livelihoods. In addition to providing us with financial support, the Powering Livelihoods program has helped us in various ways, including providing significant contributions to streamline our business model, exploring more efficient processes to run the business, testing new products, by planning the market and many more. With the continued help and support of the Powering Livelihoods initiative, we were also able to overcome challenges transparently during the time of Covid-19.
Q. 9 Who are your competitors in this space? What are your extension projects?
We have the benefit of the first-in-the-solar-vastra space. We don’t see companies emerging in sustainable fashion brands as competitors, but we see them as potential collaborators. Our USP is an internal / internal value chain, which gives us the advantage of being cost competitive. We aspire to be a market for all organizations working under the Solari Charkha Mission. Our goal is to partner with at least 10 major national and international brands in the next two years. We also expect a presence in over 20 major Indian cities during this time.