Aparna Thyagrajan was only 12 when she first sewed a dress for her sister Ambika on her second birthday from an old sari. Ambika was inspired by her aunt who used to bring a lot of hand-painted and hand-painted fabrics and make dresses out of them.
As Aparna grew, her love for crafts and designs deepened. Ambika also sparked interest and the pair of sisters connected directly with many artisans and weavers to purchase sarees for themselves. It was Aparna’s first stint with Indian ethnic fashion.
After getting married, Aparna moved to Seattle, but what she missed most was buying authentic Indian ethnic clothes.
âShopping for ethnic Indian clothes in the United States has not been a very satisfying experience. I have always felt short of variety and quality. On one of my visits to India in 2018, I was working with a Zardosi artist on saris that Ambika and I were designing for ourselves for an event. The karigar suggested that we open a shop and that he would work with us, âsays Aparna SMBShistory.
This got Aparna thinking and she realized that just like her, many Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) across the world would find it difficult to access a wide variety of Indian weavings in one place.
During one of the family dinners, Aparna came up with the idea of ââcreating an Indian ethnic fashion brand that would meet emerging demands from outside India. Their enthusiasm and belief in the idea made Aparna more confident, and she started Shobitam in March 2019 with his sister Ambika.
Aparna started out by selling 15 saris, and in just two years, Shobitam has shipped products to over 30 countries. The brand has witnessed more 300 percent annual growth over the past two years and achieved an annual turnover of Rs 9 crore in FY 21. It has over 1,000 products listed on its website and is touted as one of the best stores on, says Aparna.
Serving ethnic fashion around the world
Shobitam’s journey began with listing on Etsy, an American e-commerce company specializing in handmade and vintage items and craft supplies.
Aparna says she started with 15 sarees, and within three days of setting up the online store, she received her first order in France.
âOur first batch of products sold out much earlier than expected, and we had people coming back for more. Our first clients referred us to their circles. Since then, we’ve never had to look back, âshe recalls.
The ethnic artisanal fashion market is highly fragmented as many small and medium vendors sell products through social media, but Aparna says she didn’t want to go that route.
âCreating a group on social media to sell the product is a great idea at a micro level, but it doesn’t create a loyal following. Often times we have seen people drop a PP (Price Please) in the comment section of product photos and walk away. There is a lot of chaos and making yourself visible in the crowd is extremely difficult, âshe said.
Aparna and Ambika wearing Shobitam sarees
Coming from a technological background, Aparna and Ambika knew that offering a direct experience to customers would be beneficial. So they launched the Shobitam website in less than a year to enter the D2C market.
Shobitam competes with Suta, The Indian Ethnic Co, and more, but Aparna says what sets the brand apart is the wide variety of art forms on offer to customers.
To have an impact
Sharing a moment of pride, Aparna says the current Miss Connecticut winner has Indian roots and she approached Shobitam for a dress that showcased Indian craftsmanship for an event leading up to the Miss America pageant.
âIt was a great opportunity for us. However, she could not wear any ethnic attire. But we didn’t let her go. Instead, we made an elegant silk dress using the Banarasi silk saree fabric that she wore at the event, âAparna said. SMBShistory.
This episode further boosted Aparna and Ambika’s confidence in their journey to promote Indian arts and crafts.
Shobitam has two offices based in Seattle, USA and Bengaluru, India. Aparna works from Seattle and Ambika coordinates with artisans from all over India.
Shobitam empowers the community of artisans across India – from Sozni in Kashmir in Chikankari in Uttar Pradesh, Dabu in Rajasthan, Ikkat in Odisha, Moiran Phee in Manipur, Pen Kalamkari in Kerala, etc. – he partnered with more than 340 weavers and artisans in 16 cities in India.
âOur main goal is to take advantage of traditional Indian designs and spread them around the world. We want to convey to the world that India has a plethora of art that is still unexplored, âAparna said.
In the midst of the pandemic, when the whole world came to a standstill, Aparna says Shobitam never stopped working and every craftsman associated with the brand worked.
âWe also started a program called ‘Shobitam Gig’ where 50 percent of all company profits went in dry rations to around 600 weavers,â she says.
Facilitate customer needs
The customer’s journey to shopping for ethnic clothes, especially sarees, is not that simple because it involves several steps, explains Aparna. According to Statista, the size of the ethnic women’s clothing market in India in fiscal year 2020 was around $ 17 billion and is expected to grow to over $ 24 billion by 2025.
The range of saris from Shobitam
âThe absence of the quintessential Indian-style sewing network generally multiplies the challenge. The arduous task of sewing blouses and researching matching ethnic clothing for the family often complicates the purchase, resulting in delays and customer dissatisfaction for the global Indian diaspora. Shobitam solves problems at every level with solutions focused on fashion technology, âsaid Aparna. SMBShistory.
In addition to helping customers with the saree selection process, says Aparna, the brand takes custom orders for sewing blouses and has introduced categories such as XL sarees for plus size women, vegan silks for customer’s choice, and also provides several value-added products. stop services in the ethnic clothing segment.
The path to follow
Aparna attributes Shobitam’s rapid growth to its digital-first e-commerce-driven approach
since the first day. Leveraging technology to evolve and laser focus on the best selection are two main ingredients, according to Aparna, which are behind the growth of Shobitam, and she wants to continue to grow the business by integrating technology into the consumer shopping experience.
The brand also plans to expand its product lines and further strengthen its vision to empower India’s looms and arts.