The corporate discourse around the profit-making node of the circular economy, and its capacity for scale has diminished its value as a coherent model that can direct businesses to include the social by definition into a notion of business. In this interview with Ram Sellalu, textile design and co-founder Khaloom, researcher Disha Singh talks about how Khaloom uses the resource of older skills and technologies in danger and ‘produces’ more than sustainable fabric from recycled textiles.
You can read more about Khaloom in the printed Æffect Journal of Innovation Management which will be ready to purchase after the 18th June.
DS – Your organisation is based in a weaver’s colony in Bangalore. Could you please share how the colony came together?
RS – Every rural setup in India as you know would have some weavers in it. It’s the second-largest employment generator for India – the first being agriculture. There are a lot of communities around Bangalore that were into handloom weaving, predominantly of silk. They slowly shifted to power loom set-ups because of better pay and there wasn’t enough demand for hand-loom products. So, this particular weaver community is a settlement of traditional weavers who have moved away from handloom weaving and are now into power loom weaving.
DS – How many weavers are part of Khaloom?
RS – We have around ten looms and are swiftly planning to expand to fifty. At the moment, we have around 18 people employed with Khaloom as weavers and preparatory process workers. That is one weaver per loom and eight people for prep processes, supervision and quality control.
DS – How would you say the weavers are taken care of at Khaloom?
RS – Khaloom is an impact-driven company and taking care is a part of the core values. In that sense, the product and the brand storytelling are essentially the same and no different from the impact itself. Ethical practices are of high importance to Khaloom. So, when we started we made sure that the weavers are not exploited for their skill and that they are paid living wages.
DS – What are the living wage structures in India?
RS – There is not really a structure for living wages as every state government has a different minimum wage. In order to have a living wage we will have to formulate what exactly contributes to the weaver’s daily expenses, their savings and what they plan to do with that money for the future. At the moment, what we’ve started with is providing them a considerably higher percentage of a salary as opposed to what they would arrive at as a minimum wage. Khaloom is too small to get into insurances, pensions and other benefits, but ideally when we expand, these things are something that we would be taking care of as well. We have had a couple of sessions with another company that educates people about savings, financial inclusion and financial management and going forward we will be taking care of the insurance and PFs.
DS – What about the day-to-day care?
RS – We follow a strict eight-hour work shift from morning 9:30am to 5:30pm. They have one-hour lunch break in between and two fifteen-minute tea breaks. We follow the strict measures that a company should follow for the space plan. The looms are set up in a way that is not exhausting for the person working. We have provided a fan on every loom, there is enough lighting, there is enough ventilation. These are some of the things in which we are taking care of the weavers.
DS – Sounds like a caring community?
RS – At Khaloom, it’s such a close-knit environment that the weavers feel very connected to each other, have lunch together and because all of them are from the Weavers Colony, they’re able to take some time off during their lunch period. Since most of them are women, during the lunch break they are able to go back and talk to their children or arrange for it, most of the time the children walk in and spend time with their mothers when they’re doing the weaving, making the environment informal.
To find out more about Khaloom, visit http://khaloom.com.