“Who will buy my hand-knitted sweaters?!” is how Delhi-based Asha Puri dismissed her granddaughter, Kritika Sondhi, when she suggested starting their venture, ‘With Love From Granny’ (WLFG) in 2017.
Although 75-year-old Asha has been knitting sweaters, muffler, scarfs and more for the last 50 years, she was unsure about her skills. She didn’t believe people would purchase the disappearing art of hand-knitted items in a world full of machine-made mass-produced goods.
That was three years ago, and today the company bags at least 100 orders every month. Not just that, the duo is generating employment for 16 people, half of whom are seniors, just like Asha.
“Though the venture was materialised in 2017 it picked up only after the nationwide lockdown. At this age, I had certainly not anticipated that my hobby would turn into a full-fledged startup, that too, during an unprecedented time like this. Kritika is the force behind bringing back knitted clothes in vogue,” Asha tells The Better India.
Kritika started the company after she found solace in knitting a few years ago. This was around the same time when the 28-year-old was going through a rough patch, and as a means to cope up, she learnt knitting from Asha.
“My naani (maternal grandmother) unstoppably knitting colourful threads to make sweaters and keep me warm is one of my most treasured childhood memories. When I started knitting, I did not have any end goal, but somewhere in the process of casting stitches and tussling needles I realised like me, there must be several people who would prefer their grandma’s hand-crafted winter wear. That’s how WLFG was born,” Kritika tells The Better India.
From the very beginning, the duo has focussed on marketing strategies charged with emotions. Each product is advertised thoughtfully by explaining the story behind the process on their social media pages.
They started with 1-2 customers, and within a month, Asha had to change her daily routine to meet the mounting demands. However, Kritika soon got a job, and Asha moved to the US for a while. So, they took only a few orders, and things took a back seat.
But destiny had other plans. Kritika’s job contract came to an end in March this year, and Asha had returned to India.
This allowed the duo to revive their venture aggressively.
Meet The Team
To scale their business, they roped in two other senior citizens from their social circle. Within a month, the team expanded with women from underprivileged families as well.
“We got elderly for their exceptional expertise in knitting and also to recognise their labour and time-intensive work. Meanwhile, my naani trained women from lower-income groups for some time before hiring them full-time,” says Kritika.
For 62-year-old Rekha Gupta, WLFG is the perfect platform to showcase her knitting and crocheting skills. Like Asha, she has also knitted baby sets, socks, etc. for her children and relatives in the past.
“Working with WLFG has been a noteworthy and joyful experience as I get to showcase my skills and earn money. The company has given so many artists like me the opportunity to work and to create a community,” says Rekha.
Echoing her words, 70-year-old Chanchal Arora, another senior employee, says, “My children have always loved wearing sweaters and gloves that I made. When Asha and Kritika got in touch with me, I was more than happy to come on board.”
The company is also breaking gender stereotypes by getting a male crochet maker on board. He is a dentist by profession who learnt the skill from his grandmother.
A majority of team members work from home and all the raw materials and are delivered at their doorstep. This not only saves their commute time but also makes it feasible for the elderly and professionals to work at their own time and pace.
Along with scaling their team, the company also introduced new products like fingerless gloves, long scarves with tassels, bohemian bralettes, crochet hairbands and phone covers.
Each product is detailed to perfection, says Kritika, “Our only USP is to make quality products. We send back pieces to the members even if there is a thread slightly off the pattern or loosely knitted.”
The old-school strategy of maintaining the quality along with contemporary marketing style has bagged customers from all over India. And the majority of them are recurring ones.
With steady orders, the company is growing by 20 per cent every month at a time when most businesses are suffering losses. Asha, Kritika and their team aim to clock a growth rate of 50 per cent in their revenues in the coming months with the onset of winters.
WLFG hopes to expand its operations in the coming months and is currently training 10 new women for the same. They are also looking to collaborate with NGOs in Delhi who can help connect them with needy artisans who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Another interesting project of creating a B2B platform is in the pipeline, and Kritika hopes to launch it by the end of this year.
“The overwhelming response has given us the much-needed validation that people are willing to buy hand-knitted pieces even today, and thus we have decided to work harder and scale our activities. It is the nostalgia factor that is drawing them to us. For each piece, we all put our heart and soul that reminds our customers of their grandmothers and childhood. I never thought I’d be able to do this. But now that I am doing it, my only thought is – I should have started this much earlier,” adds Asha, who is now more confident than ever of her knitting skills.
Get in touch with WLFG here
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)