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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Modern India

An Unbreakable Bond
Marianne de Nazareth

Bangalore has a number of unsung women entrepreneurs who may not be celebrities running multinationals, but they are running successful home grown businesses. Chandra Rajendran and Neeta Dutt, a mother/ daughter duo have turned the sari into an art form, in their venture named Sakhi.

Fifteen years ago Chandra Rajendran began a home run boutique called Chandra’s Collection. The reason was simple, friends liked what she wore and began to ask her to sell them saris like hers. " It began with fifteen good friends and soon spread to over 350 customers.

Then it became too much for me to handle at home – being the designer, sales woman and cashier all rolled into one, the stress was getting to me. Plus keeping the sales timings from 12 to 2 in the house also became a problem," reveals Chandra. " It was only when my daughter Neeta showed an interest in joining me that we decided to open this store in 2005."

Neeta is a qualified Telecom Engineer. She worked in the field for two years and finding it unfulfilling threw up an excellent job to join her mother. " My Mum is the designer, she is a creative being who can’t get bogged down with the business angle and the figures of the business. So that was my role- turning around a home spun business into a larger, more professional one, leaving mum to do what she most enjoys – designing," revealed Neeta. "It really started with Dad who is a businessman, checking the figures over the weekend which I watched as a kid. He was just helping Mum to go the right way and saw in her business great potential to grow. So, I decided to band together with Mum and turn Sakhi into a brand."

The USP of Sakhi is that they have taken a traditional technique and given it a contemporary twist. On the red carpet their saris could compete with a John Galiano gown. " A few years ago young girls shunned wearing a sari. Today they have realised if a Hermes can promote Chikan and Ikkat work, there must be something in our traditional saris. In our designs we combine the older traditions which come from me, with Neeta’s ideas which are younger," says Chandra. "

The colours we plan for our Kanjeevaram saris are fresh, a combination of bright and sombre. These are not the traditional dark colours Kanjeevarams are known for. I work with a community of weavers who are based in Kanchipuram and work from my template, forging a fusion of heritage designs with a modern twist. The silk is sourced from Karnataka for the saris."
Imagine cut work which is a French style of embroidery worked on Kanjeevarams, georgettes, crepes and other fabric. The saris are very creative and both mother and daughter are particular that each piece goes with its matching blouse. They also sell accessories which could be anything from terracotta to jade. "Thick old gold traditional jewellery is not really needed for the holistic look we create," says Neeta.

Kalamkari, Ikkat, shadow work, Ari and appliqué are among the different embroideries used by the duo on the saris. Check out which is their online store. Indians based out of different countries in the globe log in to buy off the net. And by the response to their creativity and hard work, it seems like it’s an enterprise made in heaven, between a mother and a daughter.

Sakhi Enterprises, 305, 6th Main, HAL, 2nd stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore-38. Phone: 080 25252007.

© Marianne de Nazareth September 2009

Our Native Village
Marianne de Nazareth
We wanted a break desperately from the pollution and the stress of living in the heart of Bangalore, - we decided to take off to Our Native Village.

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