Be it a designer jean with traditional ikat pattern on it, a palazzo or wrap around skirt made from the ‘Phhoda phuta’ textile of Mayurbhanj tribes or exclusively designed Odissi sarees, the Sabat sisters have been on a mission to take the authentic Odia handloom and fabric to a global platform.
And, that is precisely the reason why Anita Sabat and Amrita Sabat started ‘Sabat Exports Pvt. Ltd.’ two years back, with an objective to export Odisha handloom textile products and crafts, while spreading awareness about its rich art and culture within and outside India.
Amrita, the younger among both the sisters, is an engineer with an MBA from XIMB. But she left her well-paid job just to materialise her dream of popularising Odisha’s original and valuable handlooms worldwide along with her sister Anita, who recently picked up a doctorate in CSR from Utkal University.
Thanks to their efforts, their company, which has already taken the fashion world by storm, has been able to create an exclusive market for original and handwoven products from Odisha.
MCL caught up with Amrita Sabat to know more about the journey of Sabat Exports over the years.
Tell us a bit about ‘Sabat Exports Pvt. Ltd.’
Our startup commenced operations on the ‘Nabakalebara’ Rath Yatra. We basically offer typical and authentic Odisha made products under the brand name ‘Utkal Amrita’. We are linked to various market places and online platforms like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon. We also have exclusive market places for our pure Odia handloom fabric sarees. We also make custom made products including Pattachitra painted sarees and blouse pieces. That apart, we also offer various crafts including palm leaf designs and wood carvings to our customers for home decoration.
What drove you to start such a startup?
The unaccountable love for our state and its culture and a desire to spread it worldwide led us to start our business. The idea previously belonged to my elder sister Anita. She used to always question that why in Odisha, we don’t have shops that sell ‘Pipili applique designed’ lehengas and ghagras and other textile items like Gujarat has its famous ‘bandhani ghagra cholis’?
People from outside the state come and take our handloom and handicraft products and sell them at exorbitant prices to both domestic and foreign customers. And so nobody gets to know that they are made in Odisha and all the facts about them remain hidden. I think that was reason enough to start our own startup to promote our state’s rich and ancient heritage and culture.
How important has been the role of your elder sister Anita Sabat in the entire journey?
She has a major role to play in our journey. It was her thought initially to start such a business. She has been highly motivating and inspiring for me to move ahead in this field. The unique and innovative ideas to modify the existing designs of the age old handloom have all been given by her. I could not have thought of this business without her.
What major setbacks have you faced so far in your journey?
Difficulties and hurdles play an integral role in your success path. We have been cheated many a times by people. Then, finding an original ‘karigara’ (be it a weaver or a craftsperson) who values his work and maintains work ethics is even tougher.
You have taken part in many International exhibitions. How has been the experience?
Yes, I have been to many international fairs and exhibitions including those in Malaysia, Singapore, China, Australia and more. Through these fairs, we get a way to expand our sales. We also get new buyers who are interested in Odisha products along with finding some bulk buyers. When we went to Australia, there was a restaurant near the fair whose owner was an Indian. He was so impressed with our products that he purchased two ‘pipli work’ large umbrellas to decorate his restaurant.
What should be the government’s role in promoting the art and craft and textiles of Odisha?
Our state government has to play a proactive role in promoting Odisha’s art and culture on a worldwide forum. But it hasn’t done anything significant yet to get our state into global limelight. Despite the presence of government brands like Boyanika and Utkalika, our handlooms haven’t got the international status and popularity they deserve.
Recently, world’s largest consumer fair was held in China. As per rules, government should sponsor one of the exporters to represent Odisha in the fair. But the notification came only three days prior to the fair and by that time, we had already booked the tickets at our own expenses.