Article by the Lockdown Economy volunteer Surya Abhishek
Recently, a video shared on the internet by a food blogger about a roadside food vendor in New Delhi, India went viral, leading to a huge upsurge in the sales for the octogenarian couple. In a similar way, what if small-sized businesses can help each other! If there is a platform on which stories like this can be shared, this would help in lifting many small businesses that experienced a blow due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is what Shayonti Chatterji of Urban Medley felt while looking for the right platform to showcase her initiative, which helps traditional weavers of India.
The idea of Urban Medley is to encourage traditional and sustainable fabric produce by educating the farming and weaving communities about organic practices and opportunities. This is a transparent business that caters traditional fabric craft from the rural artisans to the urban households who look for fresh fashion. At the same time, Urban Medley’s aim is to reduce the carbon footprint to make the planet healthier and happier. The great initiative then met Lockdown Economy, an initiative to promote businesses exactly like this — businesses that would make an impact but are affected by the lockdown in the fight against the pandemic we are facing.
Shayonti started her Urban Medley business just as the pandemic and subsequent lockdown was setting in. However, on the positive note, this could actually be great news for the artisans who would have suffered worse, if not for Urban Medley. Artisans, “mainly out of India for now, who are working only with sustainable fabrics and who are following a sustainable ethical mode of production”, says Shayonti. One cannot but appreciate and the designs based on weaving and printing techniques that are hundreds of years old. These techniques could be lost to time without such a platform where customers can try and procure them. Even though the business started almost during the lockdown, Shayonti claims there was a lot of traction, thanks to social media and platforms like Lockdown Economy. Even though sales were low thanks to the lockdown, the brand promotion was quite possible and people showed interested and there were a lot of inquiries. This could be converted into more sales once things return to normalcy and people think of buying luxury and fashion items more prominently.
During the lockdown, Shayonti got herself busy in promoting the Urban Medley brand through various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The key according to her, is the audience-specific storytelling. This helped her get in touch with other small-sized businesses and they all stuck a rapport in order to help each other. Now Shayonti and Urban Medley have the attention of many customers who support sustainable and traditional fabric fashion. In addition, she could connect and pass notes with similar entrepreneurs across the globe, forming a little community helping and learning from each other. With the lifting of the lockdown, however, the screen times reduced and so the traffic. But if people are now going on holiday, they are going to buy fashion items next.
Urban Medley’s fashion items are special. By catering to fashion needs of the urban households such as scarves, capes, shawls, bags and belts, they help lift the poor artisans in India out of trouble so that they do not need to migrate to cities for menial jobs or pull out their kids from school. It is understandable from the worsening of the pandemic situation and the economy in India, that people would be scared to spend. That is why Shayonti is on her toes every moment. She wants to share through her story, the stories of the artisans that Urban Medley supports. Entrepreneurs like her are the need of the hour and she hopes that logistics economy will recover from the pandemic situation soon enough.
As of now, Shayonti is focusing on connecting with as many customers as possible through initiatives like Lockdown Economy and other social platforms. She is readying for the Christmas and New Year season, which is when Urban Medley’s scarves to capes to belts are most sought after. Urban Medley’s story is worth spreading and her full interview can be seen here.
The Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.