Manasa Godavarthy is the founder of MudraMagik – an online handloom clothing brand. Manasa is a chemical engineer by profession whose heart lied on arts & crafts. With a passion to do something from her part to support the handloom industry, she joined with her mom KanyaKumari who had the same passion. This mom and daughter started their own online handloom clothing brand that supports weavers and artisans across Andhra and Telangana states in India. Manasa shares more about her business story with WOI- Womenpreneursofindia.
For anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur, ‘Just jump into the sea, you will learn swimming yourself!’ And, be aware that – just because you are being sincere and honest, you can’t expect the same in return. You do your part right; things will fall in place. If not now, a bit later!
I am Manasa Godavarthy and my mom is Kanya Kumari. I grew up in a middle class family in Andhra Pradesh. I was always interested in arts and crafts but due to various reasons in life I could not pursue arts, design or fashion. I made chemical engineering as my profession and have been in the field for over 10 years. As a kid, I have seen my mom work with the weavers in the early 90s and was impacted hearing their struggles due to no demand for handloom. Since then, the passion and fire within me to do my bit for the handloom industry had been brewing. My mom and dad brought me up as an independent thinker and I am so humbly proud to say that I am a self made person.
KanyaKumari: I have been a teacher all my life and I am a very strong value oriented person and I teach that to my kids too. When Manasa told me that she wants to rekindle the work with handloom which I could not continue due to financial reasons, I was so proud to teach her what I know and work along with her for the good of this industry. Currently, due to health reasons, I have retired from teaching but I am a social activist spreading awareness on organ donation and girl child education apart from building up MudraMagik.
Manasa: My mom was going to school, enjoying her work with children, and I was in the USA pursuing higher studies and a job. I had to return to India for a job opportunity, that is when I realized it is time to act upon my long lost passion – working with handloom weavers. That’s how I started looking for a name, mom’s weaver sources and her notes from 1995 and started imagining in my head; how we wanted to start, but well I was clueless! I had a demanding full time job and no business experience, but well one thing we have in our family is determination and grit! So, I started blindly to just believe my drive and made my first visit to meet weavers in Mangalagiri, Andhra Pradesh along with the seed amount being my salary.
Our brand intent is to focus on bringing the best handloom from in and around Andhra & Telangana states and keep things simple, affordable, organic and real. We focus on making unique sarees by customizing them with hand block prints and screen prints and we call this series #theMagikTouch. The second thing we are really proud of is we discover small villages in the state where weaving is still prevalent but almost nearing end. We popularize those weaves on our brand, naming the series – #discoverweaveswithMM.
The most difficult thing for us was to understand how an online business works and how to build a follower base. Also, another thing was that we got lots of unwanted advices, which was very distracting at times from sticking to our unique selling point of the custom making. Our first year was very hard because I was located in Mumbai for work, Amma was in vizag, weavers were all over Andhra and our block print artisan were in vizag. We had to procure, design the print, get them done, click pictures and then put them up for sale. So, managing all these steps from different geographical locations was the biggest challenge. But, love and passion made us do everything. Every alternate weekend, I used to travel from Mumbai to Hyderabad by a late night flight, get an overnight bus to vijayawada, reach early morning and head to mangalagiri for picking the sarees. It was mighty hectic. But, we did it!
Me being a calculated risk taker growing up with less financial freedom, I started small. Our first batch of sarees was a batch of 19. Quite a few of our first batch got sold within friends and family, as they all loved the designs and colour choices. Our first sale was to a friend who lives in the USA. Gradually we hit 1000 folowers on Instagram which I consider as a biggest milestone. Somehow it was a very remarkable moment for me which gave me the confidence that my brand is going to be valued for the principles we operate on. We have highly affordable prices; we don’t give discounts as we don’t mark up our shares very high. We are simple people and we keep everything about us simple and honest! Looking at the increase of the following within 2-3 months, it gave me immense happiness and it felt like my hard work of bus travels will pay off.
My support system is my co-founder – my mom! I haven’t seen anyone as strong as my mom, she and dad had more than their share of ups and downs but, they were relentless always and their hope never dies. Whenever I face any disappointment, my mom is the one who shows me the positive side of that situation. I would like to tell about an incident where we shipped out a package of 3 sarees to a lady who claimed it to be a gift for her teacher’s birthday and said it needs to be shipped immediately. Though we didn’t receive the order money, we shipped out the products based on a transaction ID she shared with us. But, we never received the money! That order worth was almost our profits after selling 7-8 sarees. We tried a lot to connect with her and her teacher but none turned back. I was devastated to know how people can do such things. My mom was the one who talked to me and brought me out of the worst experience. If not for her, this would have been a very difficult journey. I also believe we learn as we grow. You have to trust your gut is the only thing I have learnt, in different ways. We can’t be too naive, but we have to trust that as long as we are being honest, we are going to be good!
As an entrepreneur, it feels great, great to be able to even call ourselves, entrepreneurs! That is ‘because, we dared to take the leap! But well, the journey is too long ahead. Currently, we are dealing with numbers in 10s and 100s, we wish to make it to 1000s each batch. Also, with that demand soar, the next generation weavers will show more interest in mastering the skill they naturally develop watching their parents weave. In India, we are highly skilled and the abundance of art and culture we possess. With MudraMagik’s growth, we wish to proudly showcase the same to the world.
We believe in #letsgrowtogether.We also work with women and brands that are contributing to the handloom industry their own way. Lastly I would say, ‘Remember! When we pay for a hand loomed, hand block printed saree, we will be paying for a family of the weaver, and the family of the printing artisan!’
Thankyou Manasa and Kanya. We hope your business mission to support handloom weavers and artisans, reach much more audience! We are glad to feature your business story on WOI. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours. Keep Inspiring!