At 65, Saraswati Deka can now heave a sigh of relief after so many months of not being able to see and attend to her ailing mother who lives in another town. But this became a thing of the past after an auspicious encounter with Porisoi that changed her story for good. Today, she can visit her mother and buy her the needed medicines to help her get better.

50-year-old Konbala Deka, too, has been able to grow her revenues from a paltry Rs. 3,000 a year to about Rs. 70,000. This came about as a result of an association she’s had with Porisoi for the past two years. Indeed, the exponential growth that her weaving business has witnessed in recent times is testament to the fruitful support and collaboration she has enjoyed from an organisation that truly cares.

Saraswati Deka, Konbala Deka and Anu Deka (left to right)

In a similar vein, Anu Deka, is one of Porisoi’s first partner weavers and is one whose story is both heart-warming and inspiring. With her husband plagued by illness, Anu had to take up some responsibilities due to a partnership she has formed with Porisoi. For many years, getting basic necessities like an LPG gas cylinder was elusive because of a lack of income. However, Anu has been able to purchase the cylinder and do so much for her family without depending on her husband.

The three examples are only a few of the so many other individuals whose lives have changed for the better due to their association with Porisoi. Largely regarded as a social startup, Porisoi is an upcoming clothing brand that seeks to revive the age-long handloom tradition by collaborating with underprivileged rural women engaged in hand weaving, in a bid to reestablish the identity of the handwoven cloth industry.

The faces behind the impact stories

Porisoi was established in Guwahati in 2021 by a couple – Jesmine Kalita, who serves as the chief executive officer and Kaushik Goswami, the chief financial officer. The pilot experiment which began in a village in Nalbari district of Assam with two weavers, has now grown into a regional phenomenon, covering five villages and supporting about 40 weavers. According to Jesmine, the goal is to flood the ecommerce segment of the textile industry with quality hand-woven attires and home decors.

“We want to ensure that when you think about hand-woven products, Porisoi is what comes to mind. This is not just because we provide home-made quality, but also because we’re socially conscious and responsible. Our venture is unique in a way that we don’t just sell products but we share the experience of how our customers are impacting the lives of our weavers. We are working on a 2-way model wherein equal emphasis is given to our customers as well as weavers,” says Jesmine.

Jesmine Kalita (CEO) and Kaushik Goswami (CFO)

Industry outlook, activities, future plans

The handloom industry in India is currently valued at Rs. 30,000 crore and Porisoi seeks to capture about Rs. 400 crore of the market size. Most times, the handlooms are made by poor rural weavers who are often exploited and have very little or no benefits for their efforts. This is one of the issues Porisoi is addressing through its interventionist collaboration with weavers.

“We’re basically the bridge between the weavers and the market, which helps to free these women from total economic dependence and also to not feel overburdened,” says Kaushik

“We’re also solving the problem of quality. Consumers who need quality handlooms and woven products can rely on us for quality products, rather than settle for mass-produced alternatives or cheap imports which offer no value,” adds Kaushik.

The products are marketed mostly on social media but the brand hopes meaningful collaborations can be established to create more markets for the products. There are also plans to explore fairs and exhibitions in the future.

weavers of Porisoi

With a master’s degree in sociology and years of experience in organisations like UNICEF, Save the Children, and SIRD, Jesmine found the perfect partner in Kaushik, a management expert with great knowledge of finance and financial management. Bootstrapping to the tune of Rs. 40,000, the duo has been able to build a business with current monthly sales of Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 35,000, and making close to Rs. 3.5 lakh already in the current year.

The brand, which started out with one product, the gamusa, is now the trusted source for 10 different types of gamusas, more than five different designs of raw fabric and other items like single saador, seleng saador, and handkerchiefs, over 25 designs of hand-woven mekhela saador, hand-woven cotton sarees, dresses, kurti for women and Nehru jackets for men, along with anakata gamusa and anakata saador.

“We have successfully delivered to over 500 happy unique customers till date with 40%
repeat orders from them. We have received orders from Assamese people living across
the country and have shipped successfully to cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai,
Pune, Gurgaon, Bangalore and so on,” notes Jesmine.

The duo is now working on their plan to move into the home décor segment.

“We also want to expand in the entire Northeast in the next 5 years and present our handwoven and native regional products to the global audience. Today we are working with 35-40 weavers, but in next 5 years’ time we plan to work with 5000-6000 weavers throughout the 8 states of the Northeast,” she adds.

Porisoi also teams up with other NGOS for assisting the weaver community in having an overall better life, with clean water, sanitation and hygiene practices.

“Due to lack of proper infrastructure, we occasionally face problems mostly during the monsoon season. This is where our supply chain gets disturbed. Most weavers also frequently fall sick due to improper sanitation. As responsible entrepreneurs, we feel it’s our duty to help them with social support, education, good sanitation and hygiene services, and access to period products,” explains Kaushik.

They are currently in talks with a few other startups and organisations to collaborate on health and eye checkups.

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