Born and brought up in Varanasi (Banaras, India), Anupam was fully aware of his family heritage. He knew his family had moved from Pakistan over a century ago and set up a business of Banarasi silk sarees in the prime area of Banras. Originally, these sarees were inspired by the Mughal and Persian crafts men. In fact, Anupam has restored some traditional sarees that have Persian designs as thread work.
But, growing up Anupam wanted to move out of Varanasi and work elsewhere. He did pursue the aspiration of moving outside Banaras for better oppurtunities. But, even after he completed his higher education as an engineer, he couldn't last in a field of work that didn’t excite him.
Varanasi seemed chaotic but he knew he loved the trade of silk sarees and so he came back and joined the business. Only to open a new avenue for this historical set up. He started retail for their long existing wholesale business and that too on an online marketplace. He set up a Banarasi silk saree online store on Amazon and named it after his daughter, Asavari. Today, he manages the whole online set up while other members of his family continue to depend on him for direct customer feedback.
‘’Like they come to the Vishwanath Temple and take back Prasad, similarly, whoever visits Varanasi, also takes home a Banarasi saree like Prasad.
In the year 1875, my ancestors shifted from what is Pakistan now. I don’t know how they joined this business. Maybe in those days it was the mainstream business in Banaras. So, since 1875 we have been in this trade.
Would you like to have some Supari? As kids we had it from him with our palms out. We still do the same. At that time, we were only into wholesale. There was no brick and mortar retailing. That started with Amazon. The first thing that I noticed after switching on my system were two orders. I was like, wow! It was surprising to see something sell online.
These days within 15 days of the product launch we get an idea if the product is working or not catching on. If we should produce more of the same kind.
When we get orders on Amazon, they come from places we haven’t even heard of. Forget the name of the cities, we can’t even recognise the names of the people who order, surnames we have never come across. That was enjoyable as well.
This is Irshad, he has been with us for the past 25 years. He is looking after the dyeing and handwork in this area. Now, his son Imran has also joined us.
I thought, by bringing in some technology in an ancient industry like this one could benefit the people in it and us and all those connected to us.
It remains a mystery to me, how they manage to create such beautiful designs. To this day, every time I go see them, I am equally amazed and never quite understand and whenever I visit the looms, I enquire about every movement of the dharki. How one follows the other, about the punch cards and the designs they belong to.
This skill is being transferred through successive generations only through word of mouth. There are no training schools for this. Around 500 families are connected to us. Some in one form and some in others.
They are connected to us and to all those customers who are buying on Amazon.’’
Anupam Barman: Asavarai Sarees