She Gave New Identity To India’s Woolen Fashion Industry

When opportunities fell in my lap, I grabbed them. It has made me who I am today.” What started as a handloom-based enterprise for making shawls in Ludhiana around four decades ago, is now a leading manufacturer and brand in the country for scarves, shawls, and stoles.

She says, “The idea immediately hit me. I was not happy with the shawls I used to wear. I realised the design patterns in shawls were just limited to two or three.” Mridula felt the shawl market could pick up pace if shawls are made more fashionable by introducing new designs.

She shared the idea with her husband and he was immediately on board to help her in her new journey. Mridula says, “My husband brought me eight handlooms from one of his acquaintances so that I could start making my own shawls.” Mridula began making shawls with design patterns called phulkari, an art technique specific to Punjab. She says, “My design patterns were new and immediately caught every buyer’s attention.” She recalls how the first order she received was of Rs 10 lakh.

Over the years, as Mridula continued running her business, she also played a key role in establishing Shawl Club and Wool Association in Ludhiana. She was also sponsored by the government to travel to Europe to study the wool industry and bring best practices home. She says, “I realised that keeping textiles production reserved to handlooms was hindering our growth. The only way we could grow was by producing in bulk, which was possible only on power looms.” However, the laws in India then restricted the use of power looms for making textiles.

After five-six years of negotiations with the government, Mridula, along with representatives from the Wool Association and Shawl Club, was able to bring a change in the law which permitted the import and use of power looms.

She says, “The idea immediately hit me. I was not happy with the shawls I used to wear. I realised the design patterns in shawls were just limited to two or three.”

Mridula felt the shawl market could pick up pace if shawls are made more fashionable by introducing new designs. She shared the idea with her husband and he was immediately on board to help her in her new journey. Mridula says, “My husband brought me eight handlooms from one of his acquaintances so that I could start making my own shawls.”

Mridula began making shawls with design patterns called phulkari, an art technique specific to Punjab. She says, “My design patterns were new and immediately caught every buyer’s attention.” She recalls how the first order she received was of Rs 10 lakh. Over the years, as Mridula continued running her business, she also played a key role in establishing Shawl Club and Wool Association in Ludhiana.

However, the laws in India then restricted the use of power looms for making textiles. After five-six years of negotiations with the government, Mridula, along with representatives from the Wool Association and Shawl Club, was able to bring a change in the law which permitted the import and use of power looms.

She says, “From that time, not only our business grew but the entire wool industry flourished in India.” Around 1995-96, Mridula recalls how everything fell into place for her business. The law enabling the use of power looms had been enacted, access to global markets was open, and her son Amit had returned from the US after studying textiles.

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Getting Into Technology:

Amit joined his mother in 1996 and was keen on incorporating the latest technology into the business. He says, “I suggested my mother import two machines, each costing Rs 50 lakh, from Germany. I also proposed to buy a $30,000 textile designing software.” While everyone in the business fraternity, including experts from the government, termed Amit’s suggestions as bizarre, Mridula decided to believe her son and financed his proposals.

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Since then, the growth trajectory for Shingora has been a J-curve, says Amit. According to Amit, a successful brand is built only if it controls its manufacturing entirely. Shingora’s 15-acre state-of-the-art manufacturing unit in Ludhiana, which controls manufacturing entirely for its brand as well as export division, is Amit’s prodigy and has been instrumental in maintaining its top quality. Building a successful brand Amit says, “You cannot be fixated on metro cities.

It is important to understand that there is India, and then, there is Bharat. When Bharat’s manufacturing capability is combined with India’s marketing ability, a strong Indian brand comes into the picture, which not only would be a hit in the domestic market but would also be unbeatable in the global market.” Shingora would not have become a fashion behemoth today had Mridula been risk-averse and refrained from investing in technological advancements.

It is important for an entrepreneur to foresee opportunities in challenges and make tough calls when nobody else believes in what you’re doing. Mridula has already set a precedent for that.

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