27 Feb 2019 19:57 IST

Forge a long-lasting relationship with the artisans

Here is a three-pronged approach to building a sustainable business

The silk market is poised to grow at 8 per cent for the next five years, and is estimated to become a $17-billion industry by 2023. This projection makes silk one of the most sought-after fabrics in the world. Here, we try to help 7Weave ride this wave, with inclusive growth of the artisan community.

Marketing strategy — ethical and sustainable fashion

69 per cent of global consumers are willing to pay more for products made from organic ingredients in a sustainable manner. The brand focus should be to create a USP of organically-produced, green products. Our focus is on ‘Green marketing’. We will market 7Weaves as a green product. The natural process of producing Eri silk, without harming the silkworms, plays a pivotal role in pushing it as a green product.

People: Potential customers are mostly from the upper strata of society and have high disposable income. They look for quality product and are eco-conscious. Since the demand is higher in European countries, we need to assess customers in these countries, typically on behavioural and psychographic scales.

Place: Indian habitat centre trade fairs, international airports, places with high tourist influx such as Jaipur and Udaipur. The placement is important — making the European consumer in India aware of 7Weaves’ global presence is essential. When it comes to selling to a global customer in the local market, we need to create a feedback channel (like a discount on a hotel or meal if they fill a feedback form). Obtaining the contact id of the customer and using email marketing and word-of-mouth advertising are important.

Product: This is placed as a green product and marketed as ethical and sustainable fashion due to the integration and upliftment of the artisan community in the process. The USP is ‘The peaceful clothing made from peaceful silk’; this will intrigue the consumer.

Price: Demanding a premium over other products is essential as 7Weaves’ business model is high margin, low volume. The ‘green product’ always demands a premium with a higher willingness to pay.

Educating customers: Blogs on slow fashion and how 7Weaves work has impacted the community at a grass root level. A fundamental step needs to be taken to create awareness among people and bring them on board. With the help of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, 7Weaves can create an awareness programme to boost consumption of the product.

The most important part of the marketing strategy is to create a robust channel for distribution, where all channel partners must be aligned with the goal of the company. We propose placing the product in high tourist footfall areas, channel partners must be given fair share of margins and they should be motivated to help 7Weaves in direct marketing. The green product strategy enables 7Weaves to demand premium, which can be passed on to the community.

Growing the community

Focus on forging a long-lasting relationship with local artisans.

The approach is three-pronged: focus on upskilling, financial independence and infrastructural development. Upskilling of the workers in the form of skill development centres. As an integrated facility with the weaving centres, these development centres help can create captive human resource development centres where the graduates are directly taken into the workforce. Developing a cooperative society for the empowerment of the community, creating an ecosystem where the resources can be pooled and utilised when a member of the community is in need, and creche facility for the woman are some options.

The focus of infrastructural development will be to make the latest equipment and technology available to the worker partners. This community growth programme is holistically sustainable, where all stakeholders have equity, creating a self-sustained ecosystem that will not only act as a platform to excel but also a support system for the development of the community.

7Weaves will be responsible for managing funds of the cooperative society while subsidising the upskilling and upgrading the infrastructure. 7Weaves will play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between the community and external stakeholders, while preserving the ecosystem in which they operate. While this creates a robust ecosystem, 7Weaves can diversify and expand its portfolio by empowering women and teaching. Opening up a skill centre for development of in-house talent and building a self-sustainable ecosystem by helping them learn different handicrafts creation can be done. In the long run, this will help the company create a more significant portfolio, while creating a more independent workforce. The green products under the umbrella of 7Weaves will help them increase profits, which can be reinvested in building more integrated ecosystems such as this.

The above steps will enable the growth of 7Weaves and the artisan community, which will be mutually exclusive and sustainable. As the demand rises so will the employability of the whole programme.

 

(The third runners-up are second-year students at IIM Shillong.)

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