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Despite the exigencies of modern life, the saree is the go-to garment for many women. Indians have been spoilt for choice when it comes to the large selection of sarees—both in terms of style and craftsmanship. But a few names stand apart as pioneers in this sector. Kankatala Textiles, originally from Andhra Pradesh, but now available through multiple stores in Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, is at the forefront since 1943. Anirudh Kankatala, Director of the brand joins the Daily Guardian for a chat about their latest collections and the brand’s digital makeover.

Anirudh Kankatala, Director, Kankatala Textiles

A Kankatala Weave

Sonika Kankatala styles Kankatala’s floral printed organza saree with a statement belt

Valentine’s special red collection

Excerpts:

Q. Tell us about the legacy of your brand and your role in its growth?

A. Kankatala has represented Indian handlooms for three generations. We take pride in the fact that we are doing our bit in keeping Indian handlooms alive and supporting artisans by being the bridge between them and the saree connoisseurs of the world. 

Established in 1943, Kankatala Sarees is a 78-year-old, three-generation strong legacy brand known for its authentic handwoven sarees. The brand was incepted by founder and first-generation entrepreneur Shri Kankatala Appalaraju as a modest store nestled in the old town of Visakhapatnam during the pre-independence period in India. Initially, the sarees were sold door to door on a bicycle, but Kankatala has come a long way since then!

Emerging from the heart of Andhra Pradesh, we have created an omnichannel presence with 13 stores and a strong e-commerce channel—kankatala.com, that caters to the Indian diaspora worldwide. We ship to over 18 countries.

I am a third-generation family member helming this brand. I am a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, USA and briefly worked with Price Waterhouse Cooper in USA before returning to India to join the family business.

Q. What is distinctive about Kankatala sarees?

 A. We bring authentic handloom marvels from more than 50 weaving clusters of India. Even after investing 78 years in the business, the way weavers evolve and innovate using age-old techniques continues to amaze us. While we also offer stoles and dhotis for our customers, recently we have noticed a fresh trend where weavers from various states collaborate to create fusion waves. This, I believe, is one of our unique offerings.

For these reasons, many celebrities, influencers, and women from all walks of life, favour our designs. Our patrons are called ‘Queens of Kankatala’ as they appreciate and adore our handpicked offerings. These include Karisma Kapoor, who recently launched our New Delhi store, Pooja Hegde, Tamanna Bhatia, Palak Tiwari, TV actresses Pooja Banerjee, Rashmi Desai, influencers Nisha Narayanan, COO, Director – RED FM, Masoom Minawala, Ms Coco Queen, Roshni Chopra and many more.

Q. Tell us about your latest collection?

A. We are constantly travelling the length and breadth of the country to handpick handloom marvels throughout the year which means we have fresh off the loom weaves to share with our patrons. We add around 200 exclusive sarees every week on our website and share our handpicked sarees on social media handles. In our stores, our inventory is constantly evolving and none of the designs is repeated. Every month, we introduce the weave of the month that is curated and handpicked by one of the family members and also introduce special collections like the Lehenga edition, a summer collection etc. Our fusion collection was our latest edition this year in January, followed by a Valentine’s Day collection called Prem Patra.

 Q. What are you working on next?

 A. We are curating fresh collections of handpicked sarees and working on expanding our retail presence while strengthening our online presence. Our next women’s day series is something I am particularly excited about. Stay tuned for updates on our Instagram handle @kankatala_

 Q. What have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far? 

 A. First and foremost, with a brand like Kankatala, there is a legacy to be maintained. Once you prove yourself in the market as well as in the organisation, you can start making improvisations. My first venture was to take the brand online. This required a lot of training to adapt to rapidly changing market dynamics. It was only after the pandemic that we enjoyed the fruits of these efforts, as our offline customers continued to make purchases online, which they never did before. We also saw a rise in sales as we revamped our digital strategy to approach the new normal. Further, we launched stores in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Delhi. This geographic expansion too came with challenges that we continue to overcome with fresh strategies specific to each channel and market.

 Q. What has been your biggest reward?

A. Our e-commerce division has been a huge success. During the lockdown, our e-commerce division sold at least one high-end saree every day. We also managed to sell a saree that was worth 7.5 lakh through our WhatsApp service. With 194k followers of our own and a very well-engaged community, we are well on the way to digital success.

 The interviewer pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on nooranand@gmail.com.




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