Beena Kannan. The very name conjures up images of glamour, opulence and daring. Well, all of course true, but only half the story of the empress of Kerala’s fashion world. Beena’s entrepreneurial success is also the journey of a great creative genius from the head of a modest textile store to a sprawling business empire, which has branches all over the state.
But Seematti’s success was rather spontaneous and not planned, says Beena. “As a teenager, I have never imagined that I would someday head a fashion industry,” she says with a loud cheerful laugh. “At 20, I used to think I would be leading the quiet life of a housewife in another 10 years.” But fate definitely had better plans for her.
However, the journey up the ladder was tedious, hectic and indeed tiresome. An only daughter, Beena grew up along with her family’s silk textile business. Back then, 'Seematti' was just another paltry textile shop in Alappuzha. Young Beena married her cousin and childhood bestie Kannan in 1985. The couple worked together to take Seematti to heights. Blessed with three children, Kannan left the world in 2000. It was too early for Beena to take over the entire responsibilities of the family business. But she turned the face of resilience by pioneering the silk saree brand, which soon spread across south India. In no time, Seematti was the most sought after couture brand.
“I am so much settled now,” she says, “I know what I am doing, my customers are happy, the world is happy. I can see an increased amount of customer satisfaction, which I have been working for, all these years. I never thought I would be here. All I wanted was to take Seematti to heights.”
According to Beena, Indians are 'wedding people.' “We have that basic love for the ethnic and it is a festive culture we debit. We have even adopted the ethnic wear of other cultures. People travel from all over the world to India to fix their wedding wear,” she says, “we have it in any range of cost. It's all fashion and ethnicity mixed in here. We are all imprinted with that ancient behavior when it comes to the textile trade.”
Having served as a platform for several budding new generation boutiques as reference point, Seematti has never looked back in its journey to the apex. “Fashion is not easy, it's a tough job. Everything is genuine and countable in it,” she says. “It is not that easy to fly high like an eagle. Earning is quite tough in this industry. We have grown to be a reference point for designs, materials and fabrics. I happily support budding designers if they want to thrive,” she adds.
Sensing a major gap between the international fashion and Kerala fashion, she opines that things will be easier, faster, quickly replaceable and recyclable if we start growing with the international fashion. “Kerala sticks on to a given trend for a 15 to 20 year at a stretch. I would have announced casual wears like palazzos or erratic cut tops three to four years back. Now they are in here. We are three years slower than the rest of India. We should work up really fast in catching up with the change,” she says.
When asked about her future plans, Beena smiles and says that she has no other plan than taking Seematti to the zenith. “I study, improvise and learn every day. I want my customers to find everything comfortable in here – be it price point or the selection part. Let's watch."