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Start-up company to find new markets for handloom weavers

KOCHI: Aiming to infuse new life into Kerala's ailing handloom sector, where over 50,000 traditional weavers are struggling to survive, a company in the start-up village here has won a contract from the state government to support the sector by various measures, including finding new markets.

A key element of the project is to create a platform to connect the existing infrastructure and industry with the vast number of new generation fashion designing and arts graduates who are also looking for jobs, Raqib, one of the co-founders of the start-up, said.

Connecting traditional handloom weavers and young fashion graduates is a great concept. The government will extend all support for such innovative ventures, according to 
Principal Secretary (Industries) P H Kurien.

Shunning multinational jobs, youngsters-- Raqib Rasheed, Ashik Salim, Syamkrishnan P A, Anto D Akkara, Shehaz V B and 
Muhammad Junaid, started their start-up venture 'The Peoples Company' even before passing out of the College of Engineering in the state capital, which has now won the two-year contract, effective from July this year.

Under the contract, the start-up will integrate all weavers' societies into a single production system and create linkage between new generation fashion designers passing out of national institutes, and traditional weavers, with the larger goal of breathing fresh life into the industry.

"We were very actively involved in social causes even while at college. In May, towards the end of our course, we approached 
Additional Chief Secretary (Industries and Commerce) V Somasundaran with our blueprint for the revival of sick PSUs," Raqib said.

Impressed by the proposal, the Government gave the youngsters the two-year contract with the target of helping revitalise the handloom industry, keeping the weaver community as the major beneficiary, he said.

According to the plan, all products will be commissioned as per approved designs and market viability. Besides redoing and renovating the showrooms, the programme will also try to expand the market for handloom products.

"These youngsters could have had dream jobs in multi-national companies through campus placements, but they chose to attach themselves to a social cause. It signals a new revolution piloted by our enterprising youths," said 
Sanjay Vijayakumar, Chairman of the Start-up Village Board of Governors.

One of the most important initiatives of the government that has made ventures such as those of Raqib and his team possible is the landmark Student 
Entrepreneurship Policy (SEP) announced at the Emerging Kerala Global Connect in September last year.

A month after Startup Village was inaugurated as India's first telecom technology business incubator in April last year, four engineering graduates set up their data analytics company, Profoundis, at the new facility.

Fifteen months on, 
Profoundis has become the first Indian company to be chosen for Blackbox Connect, a unique accelerator programme designed to help non-US startups access the resources of Silicon Valley in the US and scale globally.

CEO Arjun R Pillai and COO Jofin Joseph will travel to the US in the first week of October for a two-week immersion programme consisting of training workshops, seminars, networking opportunities and visits to major IT firms to familiarise themselves with the successful entrepreneurial and work culture of Silicon Valley.

"As a software products and services company, a chance to experience the world's biggest IT hub first hand is invaluable for us," said Arjun.

Profoundis' core product is a testimonial management system called iTestifyIt designed primarily for e-commerce website and other online selling portals.

Still in beta stage, it already has notched up more than 260 sign-ups. Clients for Profoundis' other web services range from telecom major Vodafone to a Finland-based NGO.

"We were the third company to be incubated at Start-up Village. Besides the obvious gains of infrastructure facilities, being here has given helped us connect to mentors, investors and customers," said Jofin.