Smooth as Silk
It has been a memorable journey of 47 years and Indian Silk House Agencies still grabs centre stage in every home where silk is the indispensable attire. We interacted with Pratibha Dudhoria, the executive director of Indian Silk House Agencies, to get an insight into the brand’s remarkable journey.
the Dudhorias moved from Rajaldesar in Rajasthan to Murshidabad (more precisely, Azimganj) in the early 1700s. Their family was considered one of the most historically significant families of the region, with Pratibha Dudhoria’s great grandfathers having earned various titles/recognitions for their contributions to society.
The Dudhorias, who are now based in Kolkata, however, have not forgotten Azimganj and have been trying to reconnect with their roots over the last few years. “We are once again moving our focus, time and resources to develop Murshidabad as a region, which has stood frozen in time for the last 100 years. As a first step, we are restoring our 250-year-old family palace, Bari Kothi, into a rustic, luxury boutique hotel, with the intent of boosting international tourism in the region. This project will be significant for the local community and economy and will be the first of its kind in the region,” says Pratibha Dudhoria.
Start of the journey
The Dudhorias’ foray into silk sarees, however, goes back to Pratibha Dudhoria’s father, Sri Sumati Chand Samsukha, who had set up a saree showroom in North Kolkata. A diligent entrepreneur, with sheer hard work and determination he went on to turn this saree outlet into a leading household name across India. In the year 1971, his sons Dilip Kumar Samsukha and Tarun Kumar Samsukha, amongst others, set up another showroom at Rashbehari Avenue of Kolkata with the intent of catering to the growing urban population of South Kolkata, adding the suffix ‘Agencies’ to the name Indian Silk House.
“My father strongly believed that with strict quality control and the right pricing, every woman in India would be able to wear a saree purchased from Indian Silk House Agencies,” says Pratibha Dudhoria, who used to intently observe how her father ran his business with the perfect mix of zeal and entrepreneurial acumen, day-in and day-out. Keen to follow in her father’s footstep, she joined the business in 1998. As luck would have it, the opportunity to carry forward her father’s legacy did indeed present itself soon after with her elder brother saying that she could take over Indian Silk House Agencies. “It was a dream come true moment and I started my journey of creating a brand which catered to every woman who dreams of wearing a beautiful silk saree,” Dudhoria reminisces.
Threads of wonder
Indian Silk House Agencies specialises in all kinds of traditional sarees such as Kanjivarams, Oparas, Tussars, Matka Silk and other regional hand-work sarees such as Kantha Stitch and Baluchari. Also available is a large range of regional sarees such as Bengal Tant Cotton Sarees, Chanderi, Garad from Murshidabad, Matka Silk, Gadwal Silk, Pochampally, Mangalagiri Cotton, Jamdani Cotton Sarees, etc. Non-traditional sarees include georgettes, chiffons, crepes and nets. Amongst the most popular categories are bridal Benarasi sarees, pure silk sarees, handloom sarees and pure cotton sarees. The price range varies from R1,000 for cotton, Jamdani and Tant sarees to R1,00,000 for pure gold zari Opara sarees.
“We have access to hundreds of looms across India, giving us the ability to create any design, on any fabric, with any specialised craftsmanship. All our sarees are woven by highly skilled karigars and weavers,” Dudhoria elaborates.
The USP of the brand is its pricing vis-à-vis the quality offered, and Indian Silk House Agencies continues to thrive on its laudable customer service and customer-friendly policies that in turn have created goodwill for the brand globally.
“When I took over the Rashbehari showroom in the year 1998, we were a small team of 10 people selling only traditional sarees. Now we are a team of 150 people and sell a variety of womenswear like salwar suits, traditional as well as non-traditional sarees and fashion jewellery. We have gradually opened showrooms in several other places in Kolkata such as Barasat in 2010, New Market and Gorabazar in 2014 and Kanchrapara in 2015. With the success of the five showrooms across Kolkata and having one of the largest e-commerce portals selling traditional sarees, we are now set to open more stores pan-India.”
The next generation
If Pratibha Dudhoria has followed in her father’s shoes, her children, Darshan and Lipika, are no different. Drawing inspiration from their mother, they too are contributing to the growth of Indian Silk House Agencies. Darshan is a corporate lawyer by profession and Lipika is a business management graduate, who has a background in designing and retailing sarees. Darshan heads the e-commerce platform, which now is one of the largest websites in the traditional saree space, and Lipika takes care of the ‘V-Cut’ blouse division, which offers bespoke designer blouses in 72 hours flat.
“V-Cut actually refers to ‘we cut’, which is our signature neckline design ‘V-Cut’, and thus we are ‘V-Cut’,” explains Dudhoria. We customise every piece according to clients’ needs and tastes. Apart from the unique concept of creating ‘your-own-blouse’, we also have over 500 unique designs of ready-to-wear blouses available at all times. We also have season/theme-based collections that we launch once every couple of months.”
V-Cut, since its inception in 2013 has been receiving overwhelming response, and Dudhoria plans to set up more studios and expand to other cities through placements in various ethnic wear designer stores, retail chains and shop-in-shop setups. Their ultimate aim is to be the largest e-commerce designer blouse destination in India.
Online shopping is a larger market compared to brick-and-mortar clientele today. The client base for Indian Silk House Agencies living beyond borders loves browsing and shopping from the brand’s expansive collection, and that includes customers from as far off places as USA. “One of our customers from New York called in to order a few blouses and she told the team to make her pure silk fabric designer blouses in rainbow colours. When our team rechecked what she meant, she said, ‘I don’t get good tailors here to stitch my blouses, and the ones that are good charge minimum $40.’ Hence, she wanted us to make her an entire range of blouses which she could mix and match with her sarees,” Pratibha Dudhoria narrates.
Talking about trends, Dudhoria says, “Silk and handloom sarees are back in fashion, and every second celebrity is flaunting them. The grace of a silk six-yard saree cannot be replaced by any other genre of saree. Also, the longevity of handloom silk products is far more than the newly created powerloom silk. Handloom production, however, is dipping, and we as a team take it as our responsibility to both support artisans and save the dying textile,” Pratibha Dudhoria signs off.
Nothing can be more wondrous than a fancy drape, and Indian Silk House Agencies weaves the right blend of beauty and style in every saree on their shelves. So, adorn your wardrobe with a heritage steal and be sure to pass it on to the next generation, as silk is timeless!