India should opt for Assam’s Eri Silk to avoid murdering baby worms for status symbol

Maneka Gandhi Jul, 11 2017

Many people who object to wearing leather because it is made by killing and skinning animals, don’t think twice about wearing silk. Even religious people who would faint at the sight of meat being offered to God, don’t consider the offering or wearing of silk as violent. But it is. Silk worms wrap themselves up in cocoons made of layers of thread to protect themselves from predators, while they mature into butterflies and moths. It is these butterfly babies that are boiled alive and their thread used for silk.

It takes the life of 15 of these little creatures to produce a single gramme of woven silk, 15 silk moths are either boiled or steamed alive in their cocoons. To produce one hundred grams of pure silk, approximately fifteen hundred chrysalis have to die. One sari uses upto 50,000 dead creatures. If life is the same in all, then how much more frightening to wear the skins of 50,000 murdered animals than one.

Those of us who revel in the rustle, colour, shimmer and splendour of silk should know how it is produced. Here is the life cycle of the little creature sacrificed for each strand. Silk manufacturing begins by mating full grown sexually active moths. After mating, the live male moths are dumped into a basket and along with waste pupae, used as animal feed.

The eggs hatch in four to five days to produce tiny larvae which feed on mulberry leaves. These little larvae grow gently into caterpillars in about a month’s time. The fully grown caterpillar wraps itself in layers of a filament made of saliva emitted from its mouth to form a cocoon to protect itself during its transition from caterpillar to chrysalis to moth. But far from protecting the tiny creature, it is this cocoon that causes its death. For man has discovered that this protein shell is actually made up of fine silk threads.

To emerge, the brand new butterfly has to cut through its cocoon, ruining the filament. This is prevented in the most savage manner. When the cocoon is ready and the pupa is full grown inside it and just seven days away from the final metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly, the gruesome process of silk extraction begins. The cocoons are collected and put inside heat chambers to stifle the pupa inside under temperatures ranging from 70° to 90° C for three to four hours.

During this time, the pupa slowly suffocates, crumples and roasts to death. Its dying screams are muffled in the sheath it had so diligently built for its own protection, its cocoon turned into its own death shroud. After this tortuous process, the cocoons are further boiled with the dead pupa still inside to extract the silk thread.

Nor is this the only cruelty involved. Only half of the moths reared in silk centres are silk producing. The others are pupas which are allowed to grow into moths which are used to produce the eggs. In an obsession to obtain finer silk, the wings of these moths are cut off during copulation to prevent contact and contamination. After they lay eggs, these too are killed since they can produce only once in their lifetime.

The method of identifying and isolating diseased moths is equally crude, it consists of cutting off the moth’s tail for microscopic examination.

Silk oil and silk powder made of dead silk moths are used by the cosmetic industry in products for moisturising and conditioning the skin and hair, in hair styling mousses and in some face powders and eye shadows. They are also used in the making of certain soaps.

Nor is it just cruelty that is involved here. The massive wiping out of these tiny insects adversely affects the ecological balance. Butterflies pollinate many tubular flowers and orchids cannot grow without them. They devour plant pests like aphids, and destroy weeds. In Australia, for example, the cactus moth has been used to clear 60 million acres of prickly pear cactus for farming. Moths are in turn eaten by lizards, spiders, bats and monkeys. So every yard of silk has wrapped up in it the lives of all these creatures and of the earth.

I myself would not want to be part of this torture and haven’t worn silk for almost thirty years now. However, I realise that asking people to give up silk is difficult since society has made it into such a status symbol that it is worn for occasions even when the temperature is above 30°C. So I have looked around for an alternative to recommend. Eri Silk is the same silk minus the killing. Its production process does not involve murdering helpless creatures.

So if you like the luxury of silk, you can still make sure you are not paying for another’s pain. Eri Silk is being produced in Assam but it needs to be aggressively marketed all over India, adopted by designers, flaunted by celebrities, stocked by up market stores. We can turn Ahimsa into a fashion statement.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

Developing Fabric Plus Team In Assam 30 MAY 2016 BY WOW – WOMEN ON WINGS

A group of twenty-five team leaders of Women on Wings’ business partner Fabric Plus are eager to contribute to the growth of the silk producing company. This second line management is young, ambitious and loyal to the company. Recently a team of Women on Wings worked with the team leaders on a management development program to support them in their personal growth.

Ellen Tacoma, co-founder of Women on Wings, and Ronald van het Hof, joint managing director at Women on Wings, worked with the group on various topics to support them in becoming better managers. Ellen Tacoma: “Most team leaders concluded that sometimes they might be asking too much from their staff. We discussed how they could change their approach and still be ambitious and loyal. Each of the team leaders determined personal communication and growth targets. The team was very open and thus vulnerable. But they realized that by sharing one can gain so much from the others.”

Ellen and Ronald also worked with Dilip Barooah, managing founder at Fabric Plus. They looked at the business and the macro-economic influence on the company’s results. They discussed the company’s plans for the current fiscal year and evaluated the improvement plans with the different departments.

Fabric Plus is a company socially committed to nourish rural craftsmanship. It offers a wide range of silk products from yarns to fabric. The ambition of Fabric Plus is to become the leading authentic silk manufacturer and exporter in India. The mission of the company is to be a vehicle for significant socio-economic improvement and specifically to empower women.

Mumbai Samachar : Northeast states pitch indigenous local silks to top fashion brands

November 25, 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 ties. 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. 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.

 

Silk Industry benefiting Assam locals Submitted by Mohit Joshi on Tue, 09/22/2009

Guwahati, Sep. 22 : A fillip has been given to the sericulture industry in Assam with the State Government setting up a composite silk unit at the Chaygaon Industrial Growth Centre.

‘Fabric Plus’ has been set up at ‘Chaygaon’ in South Kamrup district of Assam.

For the establishment of the unit, the Central Silk Board (CSB), under the Ministry of Textiles, and the State Government of Assam has provided financial support to the promoter of the unit, “Fabric Plus Pvt. Ltd.”, for installation of machineries and equipment.

Fabric Plus has contributed rupees 2.25 million to the State exchequer. The Central and State governments have provided a subsidy of Rs. 155.30 lakh (Rs. 15.53 million) and Rs. 48.10 lakh (Rs. 4.81 million) respectively.

Over 4,000 farmers of the State are likely to be benefited by the silk industry that will also help in offering employment to people in the State.

“The handlooms in our factory are again upgraded from the traditional handloom. We produce designer fabrics, customized goods and others. Our products are exclusive in the markets. Our customers appreciate our products very much,” said Dilip Bora, Managing Director of ‘Fabric Plus’.

“About 200 workers are employed in the factory and can earn a living and sustain their families. I hope the unemployment problem in the area shall also be reduced up to a certain level,” said Sudip Pal, a worker.

The total raw silk production in Assam during 2008-09 was 1261 metric tonnes, which includes 1141 metric tonnes of Eri silk, 105 metric tonnes of Muga and 15 metric tonnes of Mulberry silk.

The growth of silk industry in the State has created avenues of employment and encouraged a large number of people to take to sericulture as a means of livelihood.

‘Chaygaon’ was once a hotbed of militant activities, the coming up of “Fabric Plus” silk industry is anticipated to motivate the local youth to take up a job and lead a normal life. (ANI)

One India – Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guwahati, Sep.22 (ANI): A fillip has been given to the sericulture industry in Assam with the State Government setting up a composite silk unit at the Chaygaon Industrial Growth Centre. ‘Fabric Plus’ has been set up at ‘Chaygaon’ in South Kamrup district of Assam. For the establishment of the unit, the Central Silk Board (CSB), under the Ministry of Textiles, and the State Government of Assam has provided financial support to the promoter of the unit, “Fabric Plus Pvt. Ltd.”, for installation of machineries and equipment.

Fabric Plus has contributed rupees 2.25 million to the State exchequer. The Central and State governments have provided a subsidy of Rs.155.30 lakh (Rs.15.53 million) and Rs.48.10 lakh (Rs.4.81 million) respectively. Over 4,000 farmers of the State are likely to be benefited by the silk industry that will also help in offering employment to people in the State.”The handlooms in our factory are again upgraded from the traditional handloom. We produce designer fabrics, customized goods and others. Our products are exclusive in the markets. Our customers appreciate our products very much,” said Dilip Barooah, Managing Director of ‘Fabric Plus’. “About 200 workers are employed in the factory and can earn a living and sustain their families. I hope the unemployment problem in the area shall also be reduced up to a certain level,” said Sudip Pal, a worker. The total raw silk production in Assam during 2008-09 was 1261 metric tonnes, which includes 1141 metric tonnes of Eri silk, 105 metric tonnes of Muga and 15 metric tonnes of Mulberry silk.

The growth of silk industry in the State has created avenues of employment and encouraged a large number of people to take to sericulture as a means of livelihood. ‘Chaygaon’ was once a hotbed of militant activities, the coming up of “Fabric Plus” silk industry is anticipated to motivate the local youth to take up a job and lead a normal life. By Peter Alex Todd (ANI)

REFORMING ASSAM

Industry takes over insurgency

Once a Ulfa hotbed, the N-E state is now buzzing with business activity

Sutanuka Ghosal & Bikash Singh
KOLKATA & GUWAHATI
Times of India

ARCHANA Kalita, all of 10 years, was returning home with her two friends, Mimi and Kalpita, from a makeshift village school 4.5 km away in the neighbouring hamlet. They were barefoot, tired and hungry, and were desperate to reach home. The sun was nearly on the horizon as the friends hurried along. Boom!

Archana found herself lifted and flung into the rice field below. When she came around, she found people hunched over her. She looked around. Her clothes were tattered and blackened; she was bleeding and couldn’t move her right leg. Little Mimi’s body lay on either side of the road. Kalpita, too, was dead; the shrapnel had passed through her head. Archana was rushed to the nearest healthcare centre. That evening, the only words she cried over and over were “moi ma-ar usoroloi jabo bisarisu” (I want to go to ma).

That was 2000, when Archana’s village Chaygaon, located 70 km from Guwahati, was a hotbed of Ulfa (United Liberation Front of Assam) insurgency. Back then, when Assam bolted its doors with the sunset, only fear stalked the streets. Daylight didn’t bring any respite, as residents waited for the next blast.

Ten years on, some things haven’t changed, some things have. Archana still lives in Chaygaon. But she now lives more under a promise of prosperity and less under a shadow of violence. She is now a confident, 20-year-old woman. “I work there, at Fabric Plus,” she says, with a twinkle in her eye and a finger pointing to a textile unit that was set up in August 2009. Fabric Plus manufactures and exports silk yarn, fabrics, designer fashion and homefashion accessories. The 9-crore company, which began operations in 2003 and sells its products under the brand Silk Country, has two manufacturing facilities and two showrooms in Assam. Job opportunities increase 
FABRIC Plus is symbolic of the change happening in Chaygaon, and in other parts of the state that was once torn by violence and is still reminded off its bloody past every now and then.

In 2008, Chaygaon got an industrial centre. Spread over 133 acres, it currently has six tenants. Besides Fabric Plus, there is CG Foods (manufacturer of Wai Wai noodles), Sona Vets (animal-food products), Rausheena Udyog (engineering), Prag Electrical (electrical gear) and GM Ispat (steel).

“The insurgency fear is gradually fading away,” says Dilip Barooah, managing director of Fabric Plus, who moved to Mumbai after completing his studies in Assam and is now finding a reason to come back. “An investor-friendly climate is being created. This prompted me to set up a unit in Chaygaon last year, where about 140 women work.” One of those 140 women is Archana. Her life has completely changed. “This job is God-sent, it’s a great opportunity. I’ve been able to buy gold jewellery also,” she laughs, the violence of the past tucked away in the recesses of her mind.

The industrial centre has created 3,000 direct jobs and 2,000 indirect jobs. The minimum salary here is 3,000 a month. Not surprisingly, land prices have increased from Rs 80,000 per bigha in 2009 to 2.1 lakh per bigha in 2010. Television sets, refrigerators and mobiles are essentials. About 4,500 families in and around Chaygaon, in the formerly terror centres of Udalguri, Karbi Anglong and Kokrajhar, are now supplying eri silk cocoons to Mr Barooah’s unit, among others. Each family earns about 5,000 a month from supplying cocoons.

Chaygaon is an illustration of how industrial activity is picking up miles away from Guwahati, the state’s commercial capital. Within a 100-km radius of Guwahati, the change is most pronounced. Jobs are being created in the infrastructure, banking, insurance, agriculture, real estate and retail sectors. Says state industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi: “About 23,000 local youth have landed jobs in industries set up in the greater Guwahati area in the last two to three years. This number is projected to increase to 50,000 in the next three years.”

Government schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) have significantly increased employment opportunities in Assam. In rural areas, including some of the most backward districts of Assam, there has been a drop in the number of people migrating to towns. Plus, the PMGSY has improved connectivity in rural areas.

In Guwahati, on both sides of the Guwahati-Shillong Road, malls and branded stores have sprung up. Malls like HUB, Sohum Shoppe, The Cube and Dona Planet are now landmarks. Vishal Megamart has a store. As do Pantaloon, Big Bazaar, Bazaar Kolkata and Salasar. Reebok, Adidas, Levi Strauss, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Onida and almost all automobile companies have more than one outlet in this area.

According to industry sources, in the last four to five years, mobile companies have provided jobs to about 1.2 million in the North-East, with 75% of these being in Assam. About 25,000 TV sets are sold every month and 85,000 refrigerators annually in the North-East, with Assam accounting for 45% of them.

Guwahati is seeing a retail boom. Says Damodar Mall, director, food strategy, Future Group: “Our overall sales are strong, especially those of snacks, drinks and impulse products. The people here are inclined towards fashion and are brand-focused.” Where shops shut at sunset, they now remain open till 9.30 pm. Says Ramesh Malhotra, a Panasonic dealer in the city: “The purchasing power of people has increased manifold. A trainee today earns around 4,000-5,000 a month, which was unheard of a few years ago.”

Levis Strauss has seven exclusive stores in the North-East, four of which are in Assam, all in Guwahati. Says Vishal Bhalla, senior manager, consumer marketing, Levi Strauss: “We are strongly committed to continuing our focus on the North-East region over the next one year.” Levi Strauss recently said it will open stores in Jorhat, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, North Lakhimpur, Duliajan and towns in lower Assam like Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon.
Café Coffee Day (CCD), which has six cafes in Guwahati, is thinking along the same lines. Says K Ramakrishnan, president marketing, Café Coffee Day: “The east and the North-East are currently showing the highest growth in value terms. We are looking to expand more.” So are Vishal Megamart and Pantaloon Retail.

Naturally, land prices have zoomed. Says Rajesh Himatsingka, a well-known local businessman: “The price of one cottah (720 sq ft) of land in Beltola, a residential area in south Guwahati, has increased from 15 lakh a year ago to 55 lakh now.” Such appreciation has drawn Mr Himatsingka to real estate. He is setting up a 246-apartment complex in Guwahati in collaboration with the Kolkata-based Eden Group. Elsewhere, Infinity Group is partnering BH Group for its Signature Estates at Ulubari and Infinity Heights at Kalapahar. Says Mr Himatsingka: “The real estate revolution has taken off in Guwahati. It’s now spreading to adjoining areas.”

However, big projects are still few and far between. There’s the Brahmaputra gas cracker plant in Dibrugarh, a 5,500-crore joint venture between GAIL, Assam and two other PSUs. There’s NTPC’s 700 mw power plant in Bongaigaon. In the next five to six years, the infrastructure sector in the state is projected to draw an investment of 50,000 crore under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North-East. This should create opportunities for locals to become suppliers and contractors.

Ravi Capoor, Assam industries and commerce commissioner & secretary, says the stage is being set for big-ticket investments. “There’s a lot of activity taking place in the small- and medium-scale sector,” he says. “Between May 24 and July 8, 799 industrial enterpreneurs memorandum (IEM) for an investment of 165 crore have been filed. Two breweries with an investment of Rs 400 crore each have also submitted proposals.” One of those is NB Distilleries & Breweries.

RJ Corp, PepsiCo India’s largest bottler, has said it will invest 100 crore in the state on a new bottling plant over the next three to five years. “There are many such (investments) in the pipeline,” says Mr Capoor.
Even upper Assam, which was the worst hit by insurgency, is on the radar. The region comprises key districts like Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Shivsagar and Jorhat. It has oil refineries, quality tea plantations, and rich deposits of coal, oil & natural gas.

Assam seems to have learnt from West Bengal. It has consciously stayed away from land acquisition. “Singur was an eye opener,” says Mr Capoor. “We, therefore, decided to buy land from farmers at the market rate. We also asked promoters to negotiate directly with farmers.”

Educational institutes are also springing up. Institutes in the works include the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology in Jorhat, National Institute of Design in Jorhat, National Institute of Packaging in Guwahati, National Institute of Fashion Technology in Guwahati, Tata Hotel Management Institute in Guwahati and Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Guwahati. Pradyumna Vyas, director, NID, says Assam and the entire North-East is rich in culture. “We are setting up the NID in Jorhat as part of the National Design Policy. It will emerge as the design hub for eastern India,” he says.

In rural areas, self-help groups are slowly changing the face of the rural economy,” says Abhijit Barooah, an IITDelhi alumnus and managing director of Premier Cryogenics, a 25-crore company that started making industrial gas in 1988 in Upper Assam’s Sivsagar district.

Professor Sanjib Kakoty of IIM-Shillong feels Assam’s economic development is closely linked to that of West Bengal. Bengal is the gateway to the northeastern states. Units in Bengal find a ready market in the North-East. If investors sense there is a market in the North-East, they venture there. Says Mr Kakoty: “There should be a holistic approach by all north-eastern states, along with West Bengal, to develop this part of the country.” If the peace holds in Assam, that might happen.

 

The Weekend Leader, by KavitaKanan Chandra, Mumbai

 

Caption – At Fabric Plus, workers are appreciated for what they do and not given designations for their jobs

 

G Thakuria lost a decade in his life. He will not tell you what he was up to and it is anybody’s guess, given the fact that he is in Assam’s Chhaygaon, which was once a hotbed of insurgency. But today, Thakuria has found his calling – at the Fabric Plus factory. Chhaygaon, 70 km away from Guwahati, has transformed over the years with the Assam Government developing it as an industrial growth centre.
Fabric Plus, on its part, has touched the lives of many like Thakuria. Founded by DilipBarooah, who was the first to cash in on the changing scenario, the industrial unit is a symbol of the new emerging industrial Assam.
One day he chucked them all, even leaving behind the wealth he earned due to some legal tangle and was back in Mumbai. However he had 27 years of textile experience, contacts and lot of goodwill. “I was back to square one. From driving BMW to riding Bus Number  11,” says Barooah philosophically. But there was a burning desire to establish a company that deals with weaving and exporting of pure silk products made of exquisite Eri, Muga and Mulberry/Pat silk exclusive to the Northeast.
It was a passion for Assam silk, the immense potential it had offshore by value addition and innovation that has seen Fabric Plus catering to fashion giants like Armani, Hugo Boss, Just Cavalli, Chopard and Moschino among other brands.
Barooah started from scratch in 2003 in a 100 sqft garage space with three members and almost zero investment. They started with R & D and sampling of pure silk product and soon became a registered silk exporting company.  Within a year their turnover was Rs 14 lakh and there has been no turning back since then. The projected turnover in 2010 is Rs 700 lakh, almost double of the previous year’s.
As a social entrepreneur for Chhaygaon,  Barooah has helped the region’s growth. The Eri silk spinning mill alone has impacted the lives of 350 spinners and weavers and benefitted 4500 people engaged in silk/cocoon rearing and marketing. “Just two years ago there was absolutely nothing in this region, no source of income for the educated youths but with the Fabric Plus project an industrial atmosphere is building up,” says TrailokyaBurman, a team member at Fabric Plus.
Burman echoes Barooah’s dislike for titles and designations that stem from the exploitation and everyday human rights violation he saw in the Mumbai mills as a young manager.  “We are all part of a family, everyone cooperates and there is no designation whatsoever,” says G Thakuria. Adds Barooah:  “The workers were paid peanuts, worked in unhygienic conditions, forced to do overtime and when I was the general manager my work was not to run the textile mill but find ways to retrench labour.” This pained him and he vowed to treat his workers as team members with due respect and dignity. He practises what he preaches and his visiting card is sans any designation. He feels a sense of déjà vu reading Robin Sharma’s international best seller ‘The Leader Who Had No Title’ for it echoes his thoughts in many ways.
“Once the people who feared bombs now see their women folk cycling to work, changing their lifestyle and heralding betterment in economy, health and work ethics,” says Barooah. Apart from Chhaygaon, Fabric Plus also has factories at Amingaon (Assam), Dhatrigram (West Bengal) and a unit for hand spinning of Eri silk yarns at Mirza (Assam).

 

Hailing from the non-descript town of Margarita at the tip of Assam, bordering Myanmar and Arunachal, Barooah studied textile technology in Guwahati. He joined a textile mills in Mumbai as a manager in the early eighties. He rose to the level of General Manager and became the highest paid technician in the metropolis. Later, he shifted to Germany and South Africa, enjoyed the high life, what with a six-figure monthly salary, a bungalow with swimming pool and a BMW to boot.