A Keralite youngster, an engineering grad, living the Gandhian way of life and running a Khadi-only online store. Sounds a bit unreal.
'Desitude,' Siddharth Nair’s four-month old venture, combines market savvy with a cause. It sells denim khadi jeans and shorts, a break from the traditional handloom offerings and a genre of clothes that is more appealing to youngsters.
The brand name comes from 'Des(h)' (nation), and is about promoting the use of khadi, which Nair has been wearing for four years now. The venture has not come too soon. Prime minister Narendra Modi recently, in his first Townhall address called for the wider use of handloom as a way to help the Indian hand-woven textile industry that employs lakhs of people. A news report last year said some 11 lakh people are employed in the sector.
But Nair, an engineering graduate from Palakkad and now a law student, thinks the handspun and hand-woven cloth has the power to resist all invasions from outside – much like what the Father of the Nation said when he promoted the cloth during the freedom struggle.
"While working in Delhi, I was attracted to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement,” says Nair. “I also worked with Kiran Bedi's office where I learned about the need to be self-sustainable. Though I have been using khadi for four years, I found it difficult to persuade youngsters to use khadi because it often does not go in sync with their fashion concepts. Then I came across khadi denim which I found to be more attractive to youngsters.”
Desitude sources Khadi from Sarvodaya Sangh and gets it stitched in Mumbai. One can place an order via Desitude's Facebook page or WhatsApp. The customer has to make the payment in advance and provide the measurements. The product is usually delivered within 10 days. The clothes are couriered only through India Post.
Desitude's social commitment doesn't end with the promotion of khadi. Having a high sense of the need for conservation, Nair plants one tree for each jeans sold. Explaining the nature of the selvedge Khadi Denim, the variety his company uses, Nair says, "Before stitching, we wash the material three-four times. Otherwise, chances are high that it may shrink while washing. Selvedge Khadi Denim is made manually using a shuttle loom. The ends of the cloth are again stitched to avoid the threads coming out."
Nair makes it clear that his is not a venture aiming at profits. "After coming to know of our product, some people had come up with proposals to invest in it,” he says. “But I don't aim to tread the profit-ridden corporate line. We have to do more to promote the stuff. A website is being designed for the purpose." He is also in talks with a Dubai-based designer group which shares his views.
For Nair, social service is the means and Desitude is only one way to do it. He wants to be a committed civil servant to further the cause.