“What else will you do if not this?” a cousin asked entrepreneur Venu Rachakonda, MD of Sri Krishna Silks in Hyderabad, when he contemplated closing an outlet of his store. Indeed, entrepreneurship runs in his blood, the 37-year-old who started a business barely out of his teens.
In 2008, Venu started the first store of Sri Krishna Silks in the traditional business hub of Hyderabad, General Bazaar, along with his cousins Gautam, Murali, and Gopi Manepally. Today, the brand has grown over six stores across the city, employing over 125 people and dealing with thousands of weavers nationwide.
From Ikat to Banaras, Patan Patola to Kanchivaram, Balucharis to Pochampally – the range of silks available at the store remains staggering and sourced from the length and breadth of the country. This range remains their USP and the reason customers, old and new, flock to their premises.
A LEARNING CURVE
It was in 2008 that Venu launched the business, and it took another five years for him to start their second outlet in the city. “We made a lot of mistakes initially but soon learned from them. From stock management to empowering our store managers and using technology, we learned these skills on the go. They helped us in being recognized as a pioneering brand,” he shares.
In a sea of saree stores in Hyderabad, their attention to detail made Sri Krishna Silks a brand to watch out for. Venu works with the weavers from ideation to technical information and shares inputs for designs and colour combinations while understanding the market as a whole.
The young entrepreneur smiles, “We look at both micro and macro scenarios. We take cues from what is working at a national level and the latest trends and incorporate them. However, our success stems from being affordable and delivering quality without costing a leg and an arm.”
Venu faces many challenges in his work and works at solving them assiduously. “Working with the weavers can be challenging as they prefer traditional modes of design and workflow. But then, once you communicate with them clearly, the results begin to show.”
Covid was a challenge that enabled Venu to pivot. He recalls, “Of course, it was challenging, and we were shut down for the initial months, and restrictions on gatherings made shopping a non-essential chore. People were slow to get back to public spaces, too.”
During the trying times, the store started building up its social media presence (today, they have over one lakh followers) and started reaching out to clients in the US via WhatsApp appointments. “We are a one-stop solution to our NRI clients. From customizing saris, blouses, and lehengas to making bespoke ethnic wear for men, we provide all wedding/celebratory services,” he shares.
TOP OF THE GAME
Today, their brand stays ahead of the competition with its innovation and inventiveness. “Theme dressing is big in weddings these days. Be it colour-themed or themed around textiles, like Patola for the mehendi ceremony for the entire family or Ikat for the Sangeet, we started customizing these options much before others,” Venu explains.
Another aspect that helped them was the onus on quality. Even in their earliest days, when stores balked to stock saris over Rs 15,000, they stocked premium saris over a lakh. Today, as their website is taking shape, they are reaching across the globe thanks to the Indian diaspora.
Will Indians continue to favor the sarees? “Yes, without a doubt,” the entrepreneur asserts and adds, “While saris might not be used for daily wear, they will never go out of style for festive/wedding wear. No other garment matches the opulence.”
With his wife Parinika in charge of customization (of bespoke wear for men and women) and Venu in charge of translating the most challenging ideas of a client to reality (“thoughts to motifs,” he says), the store is going from strength to strength. Today, they even customize a single sari (for example, a single garment with animal motifs for a birthday party) at a reasonable cost or even a loved one’s face on a sari pallu.
Ask about their plans, and Venu rattles off, “We want to open branches across many cities of South India soon and to extend our customized services further.” Along with his one-month-old son Viraj Krishna, the entrepreneur likes to travel (the family’s recent trips were to Jaipur and Bali) and is looking forward to expanding his store’s footprints.
A weave that always shines: Kanjeevarams
Life goals: To live contently and grow as a brand.
In five years: To extend our online presence and reach more customers.