Eclectic Northeast July 18, 2017 By Meeta Borah 

Fabric Plus has one of the most fascinating stories behind its birth, none more fascinating and endearing than the man who started the company, Dilip Barooah. Hailing from Margherita, he possibly never thought about textiles when he was young. Instead, his primary goal was to become self dependent because he grew up with 5 siblings and he saw how it took a toll on his father to provide for the family. After one failed attempt to run away to Chandigarh to pick up skills at a Swiss Watch Repairing Training Centre, three failed attempts to join the NDA, he finally made his way to Guwahati to complete his pre-degree at Arya Vidyapeeth. Even that took a turn when he had to skip a year because there were strikes by the lecturers. Around that time, when he had no place to stay in Guwahati, he chanced upon the Assam Textile Institute in Ambari. The lure of hostel facilities and scholarships was enough to get him interested, but what helped him get really hooked were, in fact, the textiles. ‘The dots connected,’ he said reminiscing about the past.

He passed with flying colours and moved to Mumbai. ‘My first interview was with a big company, this gentleman named Kapoor asked only one question. After I answered, he told me that they will let me know. I was happy, I came back to the bachelors pad and told my friends. They said that “we’ll call you later” is Bombay language for when they are not giving you the job. I was furious. I went back and charged him. I asked him, “What was the question you asked me?” He repeated the question. I asked, “Did I answer correctly?” He said yes and then I told him about what my friends had said. He laughed and asked when I could start working. That is how my career started.’ After that, he worked in many different companies in Mumbai, Germany, South Africa, and even came to Assam to complete a project during the early days of his career but he didn’t stay back then because he felt that Assam wasn’t ready for a workaholic like him.

After many years working outside the region, he heard a call to come back and start something of his own. ‘I frequently used to come to Assam to ask for loans, nobody would give me any. Finally, the former CMD of NEDFI Mr Hazarika and the then DONER minister saw the fire in my belly. They discussed and gave me a chance.’ Fabric Plus started from Mumbai. The first factory was a small one but they worked their way to the Soigaon factory which expanded from 20 thousand sq feet to about 50 thousand sq ft. Presently, Fabric Plus has 500 employees and about 46,000 people indirectly associated with the company.

Their flagship product is Eri. ‘Traditionally, eri was confided to hand spinning and eri shawls. My exposure and experience made me unhappy about that. I knew it had a lot of potential and we wanted to add much more value to the fabric.’ Before they introduced technology to the cycle, weavers were not getting value for the eri and the output was less. ‘1 kg of raw material would turn into .8 kilogram silk which would then be turned into 2 metres of fabric. The impact would be, at most, one weaver and one spinner, many times it was same person who would do both. After Fabric Plus, the equation changed, ‘1 kg gives us the same .8 kg of silk but we could use that to make 40 metres of fabric. We use more raw material and we affect more lives. The weavers are getting better value, they are more motivated, and production is going up which means that the whole value chain is becoming richer.’ Their factories employ 100% local weavers and machine workers. Out of which, 85% are women.

Fabric Plus doesn’t only sell silk simply in terms of a mekhela chador or a saree, they make buttons, scarves, stoles, shawls, curtain, drapes, and much more. ‘We work with companies like Hermes. In fact, we received a big order from them recently. We are doing business with a big company in Geneva. We are also doing a lot of R&D with our business partners in Europe, we are also creating a new product which was never been attempted before. There is a long way to go, but we are expanding.’

 

They ensure product satisfaction by interacting with the customers. ‘We have a close monitoring system. The design team consisting of trained designers brainstorm about designs based on fashion forecasting. We make samplings and send them to our buyers, they do market testing and give us feedback.’

When we asked him why there are no other companies trying to do what he has been doing for the past couple of years, he said that it is challenging to say the very least. ‘It is very tough to set up and manage a company like this which is labour intensive. You would need to be a workoholic, but luckily for me, I thrive on challenges.’ If you think he over exaggerates the challenges bit, you are wrong. He works 365 days a year, almost 24 hours, with no holidays. You may stop to wonder if he does anything apart for work but then again maybe that is the need of the hour.

 

The Economic Times By Tasmayee Laha Roy Nov 26, 2016

Amid a whirlwind of retrospectives and tributes to ‘Make in India,’ the fashion circuit is evaluating the potential of indigenous silk portfolios. Bringing in a mix of old and new designs and textures, designers are experimenting with the aesthetics of regional silks across the country as they seek to strike a balance between the avant-garde and the traditional.

Indian silks are no longer restricted to the traditional nine yard saree – they are used in everything from dresses to tie ..
Not just that, regional silks are making a place for themselves on the global fashion radar. Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh are among the states that are unlocking the potential to make their indigenous silk speak for themselves. States in the northeast, known more for political conflicts and turmoil, are trying to showcase their artistic side. Pitching their handloom fabrics to top fashion fraternities in India and abroad, they are making all efforts to promote muga and eri silks.

Dilip Barooah, founder of Assam-based silk industrial unit Fabric Plus, has just completed a sampling order for muga silk fabrics with Hermès, the French high fashion luxury goods manufacturer.
“It is generally fabrics like Benarasi that are most talked about when it comes to silk. We are trying to break through that and get silks from the northeast on the international fashion radar,” said Barooah. “We are working with several international brands like Hugo Boss and Marella and Max Mara from Europe who are using our muga, eri and blended silks for their collections.” Fabric Plus and the Ministry of Textiles are working together to promote the indigenous fabric. A Rs10 crore project called ‘Rudrasagar Silks’ to be carried out in upper Assam has been assigned to Fabric Plus, which will use technology to produce local silk spun yarn and help weavers to make value-added products.

Barooah’s company has also taken up an Rs18 crore project from the ministry for readymade garments to promote locally made products and employ artisans from across the northeast.
While mekhela chadars – a traditional outfit worn by Assamese women made mostly of silk – and sarees are typically part of the collection of every designer from the northeast, some of them are innovating to catch up with the times. Dhiraj Deka, who has run retail fashion brand Bibhusaa for eight years in Assam, is taking muga and eri silks beyond the traditional mekhelas.

“We are making muga silk gowns, dresses, palazzos and shirts to suit existing global tastes,” said Deka, who uses social media for promotional purposes in Europe, Dubai, South Africa and America. Deka is in talks with the New York Couture Fashion Week 2017 to showcase his collection.
“We are making muga silk gowns, dresses, palazzos and shirts to suit existing global tastes,” said Deka, who uses social media for promotional purposes in Europe, Dubai, South Africa and America. Deka is in talks with the New York Couture Fashion Week 2017 to showcase his collection.

Designer Chinmoyee Pujari has latched on to the go-green trend with eri silk. “We are promoting the fabric for its thermal properties, which is known to be warm in winter and cold in summer and sampling the fabric with various players in Dubai, London and Australia,” said Pujari, who runs her own brand called Aadrika in Assam’s Jorhat.
While high street designers including Ritu Kumar have taken every initiative to bring to life the flamboyant Benarasi silk by pitching it at every fashion event through new collections, those like Neeru Kumar have taken up less-hyped silks such as ikat and tussar. Defining her collection as ‘contemporary classics,’ she says they are a blend of modern designs and traditional inputs.
“The skills that our ikat weavers have are unparalleled and we try to use them to their full potential to come up with fabrics that cannot be replicated in any part of the world. These products, however, are not for any random buyer. Ostentatious that they are, they are valued by those who have the taste for it alongside buying aesthetics,” said Neeru Kumar.

The founder of the Neeru Kumar label and ‘Tulsi’ stores concentrates on hand-woven and hand-spun silks like tussar and mulberry. According to her, Korean tussar, which had started taking over the market, is slowly being replaced by hand-woven and handspun variants that designers are endorsing.

Some retail giants have also taken to regional silks. Allen Solly, the brand owned by Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail Ltd., has tied up with the Pochampally Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society in Andhra Pradesh to introduce ikat silk in its men’s work wear collection. The society is widely known for its Pochampally ikat sarees.
Another master of the couture circuit, Gaurang Shah, is bringing to the table sarees from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat, known respectively for their Kanjivaram, Paithanis and Patan Patolas.
“Since all these fabrics take a long time to be spun, we do not believe in bulk order of finished goods. Close to 350 of my weavers work on each of these silk ranges and some sarees also end up taking a year and half to be completed, making the finished product as exotic and rich as it could get,” said Shah, who has outfitted celebrities Vidya Balan and Kirron Kher in his traditional silk nine yards.
Gujarat’s Kutch district has unsung heroes weaving and blending strands of silk into contemporary fashion and accessories. Using the extra warp weaving technique, they create wonders of wool and silk that are used by designers across the country and brands all over the world.
“We are using silk from Bhagalpur and combining it with locally produced wool to make everything from readymade garments to bed covers, carpets and throws,” said Shamji Vankar of Vankar Vishram Valji Weaving, a weaving and dyeing business in Bhujodi, a small town 8 km southeast of Bhuj. Bhujodi is a major textile centre in Kutch, where the Vankar weaving family has lived for several generations.
Livingston Studios and The Cloth in London and Maiwa in Canada are regulars with the Vankars. Along with other clients in the US and Europe, they take fabrics from the Vankars for their collection. The products cost between Rs2,500 and Rs25,000, which some consider under-priced for their sheer quality and artistry.
Down south, too, there are initiatives to bring regional weaves to the forefront. The Andhra Pradesh Cooperative Society of Handloom Weavers is making promotion and sales easier for the weavers, who have little access to the market and buyers. “We are providing a marketing platform for close to 5,000 weavers,” said Jagdeeswara Rao, marketing officer at APCO. Following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana State Cooperative Society of Handloom Weavers is being formed for the new state, he said.

 

Although Bangladesh has taken the lead and registered jamdani as its first Geographical Indication (GI) product earlier this month, back in West Bengal, industry veterans and neophytes are reviving this ancient tradition. Jamdanis, the finest variety of muslin, are coming back to life on the tables of Agnimitra Paul and other designers with state initiatives like Biswa Bangla, a brainchild of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Valued for their handwork and rich quality, jamdanis are priced between Rs 5,000 and Rs 2 lakh.
 

Assam silk can capture international markets GUWAHATI, Nov 5, Assam Tribune

Assam silk has tremendous potential to make inroads into national and international markets, stated foreign and national experts at the Guwahati Press Club here today.

Dr Ole Zethner and Rie Koustrup from Denmark, who have jointly edited a book titled South Asian Ways of Silk, to which 12 writers and experts from India and abroad have contributed, said Assam silk has tremendous potential to become a major raw material for world class products.

Dr Ole Zethner is an entomologist, while Rie Koustrup is a language teacher. Their book, published by the city-based firm, Book Bell, will be released at a function at the Agriculture and Forestry University, Nepal, shortly.

They expressed the hope that eri would become a much sought-after item for manufacturing soft-cloth apparels, particularly for babies. It has also the potential to become a popular bed linen in cold-weather countries, they said.

On muga, they said that there should be a serious campaign to save this exotic silk unique to Assam. Campaigns like conservation initiatives launched to protect the tiger and the one-horned rhino, should be launched in this regard.

Bodoland Regional Apex Federation (BRAFED) Managing Director Rana Patgiri called for overcoming the challenges posed by multinational contenders, like Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer, IKEA, etc., to maintain the indigenous silk industry as a vibrant entity.

The Deputy Director of the Indian Institute of Handloom Technology, OP Kotnala praised the exotic nature of the indigenous fabric designs of the NE region and said that they have the potential to occupy the markets in developed countries.

Dhiraj Thakuria, Managing Director, Purbashree, suggested a methodical approach towards developing the indigenous silk industry of the NE region so that it can show a significant improvement in quality and become popular in foreign markets, where buyers are very sensitive.

Dilip Barooah of the city-based silk industrial unit, Fabric Plus, who has also contributed to the book edited by Dr Ole Zethner and Rie Koustrup, stressed the need of a collective move to expand the scope of the NE silk industry so that it can go for product diversification and make successful inroads into national and international markets.

The Telegraph – Textile firm targets 50000 jobs

Dilip Barooah at his office-cum-showroom in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos

 

Guwahati, Jan. 21: A Guwahati-based manufacturer of Assam silk is eyeing creation of at least 50,000 jobs in rural Northeast in the next five years.

Fabric Plus, a textile firm having 500 employees and 46,000 people indirectly associated with it, intends to create the jobs by associating with communities in the region and promoting Assam silk among them.

“We are promoting eri silk in Mizoram and Nagaland where we provide not just mentoring on entrepreneurship but also supply equipment. In Nagaland, we have associated with three groups. Besides, we are also doing the same in Meghalaya, Manipur and Sikkim. In Arunachal Pradesh, we have tied up with the sericulture department to revive old designs,” DilipBarooah, managing director of Fabric Plus Pvt. Ltd, told The Telegraph today.

The business model of the textile firm is rooted to tradition and creation of livelihoods by harnessing culture and technology. “We sustain our model on five Fs – farm, fibre, fabric, fashion and foreign. Then again technology induction among the weavers is a priority,” Barooah said.

“We are looking at creation of one lakh jobs by 2019. Women empowerment is a priority area, which we are working on in association with the Netherlands-based Women on Wings. Fifty-five per cent of our direct employees are women,” he said.

The firm started operations from Mumbai in 2003 and shifted its base to Guwahati in 2006, with a factory each at Amingaon set up in 2007 on the outskirts of the city and Chaygaon commissioned in 2009, about 46km from here. Fabric Plus also has an office in Calcutta.

The firm today shifted to a new office-cum-showroom in the Jonali area here.

“Currently, we are a Rs 23-crore turnover firm and export to as many as 23 countries, including China. But our focus is on the domestic market, which comprises about 80 per cent of our supply,” the textile technocrat said.

The company’s average sales have grown by 900 per cent over the past 11 years. Currently, it has 16 retail outlets across the region. “We are also working on a franchise model of operation,” Barooah said.

Since last year, the firm has switched focus to high-end brands, considering its demand overseas. “As it is Fabric Plus is an established brand by now. Now we look to appeal to both global and domestic markets with high-end brands such as Ereena, an eri silk brand launched last year,” he said.

The firm plans to come out with another high-end brand, Yes-North-East, shortly. “This brand (Yes-North-East) is about uniting a workforce comprising communities of the region. It is about diverse textiles, handlooms, cane and bamboo and organic food of all the northeastern states,” Barooah said.