When Kunal Vaid, who had been running his father’s garments business in Delhi for one-and-a-half decades, visited Jharkhand in 2011, he was moved by the plight of women using the painful ‘thigh-reeling’ method to produce yarns of the valuable Tussar silk.
Being an engineering graduate from the prestigious Delhi College of Engineering and holding a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree from MDI, Gurgaon, Vaid thought of making a machine to ease the suffering of women.
“I used to work as an exporter of garments. I once visited rural areas in Jharkhand for business and saw women using the ‘thigh-reeling’ method to make silk yarn. This was very disgusting to see,” recalls Vaid.
“Also, their earning was not much — only 30-50 rupees per day. They worked under the ‘master weavers’ or middlemen.”
Vaid said that thigh-reeling continues to this day.
But in 2011-12, he started working on a machine.
He would devote time to the machine at night when he would be free from his garments business.
“We did not have business in mind initially when we started working on the machine and only wanted to make things easy for them. We tried it for around one and half years. During this period in Delhi, we made different machines and went to try them at the Ranchi-based Central Tussar Research & Training Institute (CTRTI), who helped in the project,” explained Vaid.
After a couple of years, Vaid went to the rural areas with five machines and asked the women there to make a yarn with it.
He faced ridicule as the women laughed at the invention, calling it a toy.
“But when they started using it, they gave positive feedback and were very happy. That encouraged us to produce more such machines and we began to get demand from people. We got orders of 100 machines at the start from ‘Jharcraft’ (an initiative to promote sustainable livelihood opportunities in rural areas of Jharkhand).”
That gave his confidence a boost and he began ‘Resham Sutra’, a start-up involved in promoting sustainable silk production through renewable energy for better rural livelihoods in the forest areas of 16 states of the country including Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Assam and UP.
Taking it full-time
Vaid’s factory is in west Delhi’s Mundka Industrial Area where 25 people work.
“When demand increased, we thought of manufacturing the machines full-time [instead of spending time in garments’ business]. We also began manufacturing other items like loop machines for weaving,” he added.
Vaid gave the weavers hope by making them partners and involving them in the development of machine.
“We also started working on a new machine, which could be run by hand, pedal and solar energy. Productivity doubled and even tripled. This trial was done by a weaver from Jharkhand at the international trade fair in Pragati Maidan. The weavers also appreciated it because the cost of production and labour was reduced.”
He also received a positive response from Northeast and machines were installed there as well.
The machines can cost anywhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 40,000. ‘Resham Sutra’ also provides financial support through NGOs to those who are needy and unable to purchase the machines. Also, the company helps weavers in the purchase of raw materials and sales of goods.
“Our work is in areas where electricity is not available even today, like the forest areas of Jharkhand. Also, in some areas in the east in Meghalaya, where there is often no electricity for as long as a week.”
The 45-year-old said that the focus was to make a machine where people should not depend on electricity or fuel and use the cheaper option of solar energy.
“Today, we produce 300-400 machines a month. After Covid, we began a training centre in four villages to create awareness,” added Vaid.
Resham Sutra first did demonstrations in certain areas and created a group of interested women who were then given training.
Vaid was soon acknowledged abroad for his work. He participated in an international competition in Cambodia last year and his machine was selected among the top 10 innovations.
He is also working on ‘rural livelihood mission’ scheme with the governments of Jharkhand, Meghalaya and UP.
He has seen a big change in the society, especially in the dignity of women.
“In Chhattisgarh, a lady connected with us from the Bilaspur jail. After she was released from jail, the family refused to accept her. But now she is a trainer and is imparting training to the whole village. Thanks to her effort, almost all the women in her village are involved in this work,” said Vaid.
“There was a time when people didn’t want to talk to her, but now she is leading the village women. She has sent her daughter to study nursing.”
The entrepreneur narrates a few more examples, including that of a mentally-challenged person in Assam, whose life was changed thanks to this machine.
His aim is to create space for women to work in all rural areas and ensure that they don’t have to migrate to other states.
“We are seeing a big transformation in the society now. Earlier they didn’t prioritise educating children but now they do it because they easily earn with respect in their house,” concluded the founder & CEO of Resham Sutra.