HYDERABAD: For those who watched Bollywood Baadshah Shahrukh starrer Swades, this story might strike a chord with you... The story points out that to be an entrepreneur, one need not always think out of the box, but be observant of one’s surroundings.
Such is the prosperous story of the natives of Narsapur in West Godavari. They stepped out of their sleepy town for higher studies in Hyderabad only to go back and become successful businessmen –by promoting an art form that would have otherwise died a slow death.
Rajiv Kalavakolanu, who grew up watching his grandfather and father propel the lace material of Narsapur to a global platform and make their village proud, did not leave any stone unturned to go back to his native from Hyderabad to continue the legacy.
“I was raised in Hyderabad, far away from my home. I used to visit Narsapur during holidays, but my father Tulasi Kalavakolanu always surprised me with his passion for his business. He introduced crochet to most of the countries in the world, including a few countries that I had never heard of. He is the first entrepreneur in the history of crochet business who won the best exporter award continuously for 23 years from Government of India in the crochet sector,” shares Rajiv. He was inspired by his father who was keen about giving back to the society and always appreciated handmade crochet artisans.
“This slowly diverted my mind towards crochet and to follow in my father’s footsteps and to socially support these artisans,” Rajiv, an alumnus of Hyderabad Public School and Muffakham Jha College of Engineering, tells us.
Rajiv had expressed his interest to join his dad and started assisting him when he was only 17. Within no time, his interest turned into a passion, for that runs in his blood. By the time, he was in his final year engineering, he immersed himself completely in the business. “Noticing the speed at which technology and management techniques are changing, I felt the need to pursue higher education in management and to get international work exposure. So, I pursued masters in management from George Washington University. I have learned a lot about life and business during my stint there. Even during at period, I actively participated in the marketing of our business, which is Ramakrishna Paramahamsa & Co (RKPH), attending trade fairs in many European and south American countries,” he beams.
Rajiv also had the golden opportunity to work with a few big names like British Petroleum and Delta Airlines as business analyst and manager. “After working for four years, I felt decided to go back to my company as there was need for assistance,” he reminisces. Today Rajiv is a proud managing director of RKPH.
With new generation comes new technology and also new marketing ideas. Rajiv too started applying all that he learnt in Hyderabad and America. “I kickstarted an e-commerce route to sell crochet products. We tasted success with our domestic online market. We are soon going to tie up with top online platforms across India. In this process, I discovered the need to have a common platform for all the handicraft artists in India to display their talent to rest of the world. To make put my thoughts into action, I founded KSK Online last year, which is extensively working to create such a platform.”
Rajiv shares, “It is a disoriented industry, where 95 per cent of the people involved are uneducated or disconnected from the social world. One major challenge was to bridge that gap. Decrease in the artisan count is another major challenge. But thanks to Export Promotion Council. It conducted skill development classes for the artisans that helped artisans educate themselves about the industry and management process. This gives an opportunity for them to be a productive part of the chain and also better their lively hood.”
The woman’s touch
Rajiv’s sister, Grandhi Bhuvi Sree, became the marketing and design development head and was the game changer. She too came to the city of pearls, only to go back to the land of laces and create history. “With my father’s inspiration and love for handmade crochet drove me to join my family business. More than love, it was the immense respect towards crochet, that I gathered as I grew up. It involves tremendous hard work of hundreds of artisans from remote villages,” shares Bhuvi Sree. She too played a major role in promoting the work of artisans and making them appealing to the international market. “I was 20 years old, when my dad first took me to an international trade fair. I had a passion for design and so I joined the designing team to create patterns that can be accepted internationally. I also had attended trade fairs in Germany, France, Turkey and Hong Kong, where the response was overwhelming,” she recalls with a smile. Meeting buyers across the globe was a knowledgeable experience for Bhuvi Sree.“Soon after my wedding, I had to leave to Narsapur and move to Pune. Though I have moved out of Narsapur, my heart still remains there and I still assist them with new designs from wherever I am. I know the legacy would continue because we wouldn’t let it die,” she smiles.