The Prodigal Son
Born in 1978 to a family of ace ikat dyers and weavers, Bhaskar Badugu set out to chart a different life for himself. After completing his education, Bhaskar was thriving in a corporate job away from his native village of Koyyalgudem located in Yadadri district of present-day Telangana. It was only seven years ago that Bhaskar realised his true calling lay in following his ancestors’ footsteps. The third-generation weaver, who resides in Hyderabad, has since taken over the responsibility of steering the family vocation to greater heights.
Armed with his professional experience and being well versed with the intricacies of ikat dyeing and hand-weaving techniques, Bhaskar was quick to identify key challenges faced by the ikat handloom weavers.
Limited access to the markets and a supply chain burdened with multiple middle-men would often leave the weavers with insufficient remuneration for all their toil. Bhaskar has been working to bridge the gap between a wider network of buyers and the weavers to ensure the latter gain higher returns for the beautiful textiles handwoven by them with painstaking effort.
Apart from facilitating orders which ensure fair compensation to the weavers, Bhaskar invests in the top-quality raw material such as yarns and dyes. This helps the weavers deliver exquisite handwoven textiles of desired quality, earn better rewards for their skill and avoid any financial risks.
Currently more than 40 weaver families are associated with Bhaskar and he endeavours to support more in the near future by expanding the operations.
Challenges and GI Tagging
The ikat handloom industry faces tough competition from power looms and mills. Reiterating the weavers' concern, Bhaskar shares that regular fabrics with machine-printed Ikat patterns, mass produced in mills and sold at cheap prices are hugely detrimental for ikat’s brand value. He adds that this shall ultimately have negative repercussions on the ikat dyers and weavers’ community. Yet, with all his grit and wit, he is determined to play his part to help preserve the traditional ways. He believes hand-woven ikat textiles shall enjoy patronage among discerning customers who appreciate the complex process behind the weave and would not mind paying a premium for it. He thus strives to improve operational efficiency and maintain strict quality control.
His other grievance is with market entities that are not genuine in their disclaimer and/or don’t proactively disclose if the product being sold is made using a powerloom woven fabric or a mill-produced textile donning ikat prints. He feels these entities are unethically encashing on ikat’s revered status, established in part by generations of hard-working weaver families like his own.
Bhaskar adds that the GI Tag granted to Pochampally Ikat is indeed an important step in favour of ikat handloom weavers, but there is a need to spread awareness about it and use it effectively to help customers make a clear distinction and an informed purchase.