Implications of Indian Handloom Integrity: Examining Shark Tank India’s Stance on Power Loom Sarees

“Shark Tank India…the Indian version of an American reality show where businesses come and pitch for investment, and a panel of investors judges the pitch and then invests in that business or doesn’t.

This year, in 2024, Shark Tank India Season 4 was broadcasted on a national television channel named Sony TV and also on their OTT platform.

The YouTube link of a founder’s pitch is provided below. Please view that before continuing.

In this episode, a startup seeks investment, and the business primarily involves selling power loom-made sarees online. In that episode, the founder of that particular startup proudly stated that he wants to spread Indian culture to the whole world. He proudly calls those machine-made pieces of textiles ‘Paithani,’ ‘Banarasi,’ ‘Kanjivaram,’ etc. The most important part is that the founder admitted he is selling power loom sarees when a shark asked him about it. Otherwise, he is using those glorious craft names to sell his machine-woven textiles like any other unscrupulous power loom saree sellers.

Firstly, neither Sony television network, the sharks (people who are there to invest), nor the individual participating founder seem to be concerned about the craft and its history, nor are they bothered about the health issues of artificial fibers used in those sarees. On the contrary, in another episode, if a food startup uses refined sugar, then most of them give a big lecture about the health hazards. I am sure the production team also doesn’t care about the fact that if something is qualified to be called ‘Paithani,’ ‘Banarasi,’ ‘Kanjivaram,’ etc., then it needs to be handcrafted using a particular technique.

In that particular episode, the following sharks are present:

  • Aman Gupta (Co-Founder of Boat)
  • Peyush Bansal (Co-Founder of Lenskart)
  • Vineeta Singh (Co-Founder of Sugar Cosmetics)
  • Ritesh Bansal (Founder of OYO)
  • Radhika Gupta (CEO of Edelweiss Mutual Fund)

We must understand that all of them are successful people, as far as we can see from their media coverage. But sadly, they are not responsible.

According to THE HANDLOOMS (RESERVATION OF ARTICLES FOR PRODUCTION) ACT, 1985, other than a few specific saree manufacturing, selling, and marketing of any sarees made on power loom is a criminal offence. ‘Paithani,’ ‘Banarasi,’ ‘Kanjivaram,’ etc. are not exempted from that. So, at the end of the day, neither the sharks nor the broadcasters (let’s not talk about the sellers, as there are hundreds of them) are concerned about whether what they are showing (and marketing, in a way) is legal in India or not. Through the Indian Handloom Brand scheme, the Government of India has specified all the products mentioned in that pitch. There are quality parameters, and those should be handwoven to be called ‘Paithani,’ ‘Banarasi,’ or ‘Kanjivaram.’

Despite the long lectures (for other startups) from many of them, the sharks are not concerned about whether the textile is healthy or not.

I have never seen any episode of the original American Shark Tank series, but I expect that such a show should provide content that is legally and morally correct. I also want to tell the present and past ‘sharks’ who were not absent in that particular episode that you all give several lectures about several moral and legal grounds, and taking advantage of your participation in the Shark Tank show through your PR machinery. Are you ready to criticize such illegal and immoral acts?

All those long-lecturing sharks who talk about social impact are promoting an illegal business that is a direct threat to 4-5 million artisan families in India.

After everything, Mr. Aman Gupta, Ms. Radhika Gupta, and Mr. Ritesh Bansal invested in that business.

Selling fake products in the name of glorious handloom craft is not a new thing in India, and no doubt, till date, state governments or central governments having any kind of political belief were reluctant to stop such illegal activities. But this is the first occasion when such immoral and illegal activities got showcased on national television.

What are the self-claimed Handloom Evangelists doing now?

They are generally busy discussing big things like how Indian handloom can reclaim its old glory, how to revive a handloom cluster, etc., in a chilled air-conditioned seminar in a top-notch hotel. Yes, they get good grants to afford good cars and homes…because selling poverty is the easy task.

See the YouTube video given below to learn about THE HANDLOOMS (RESERVATION OF ARTICLES FOR PRODUCTION) ACT, 1985.”

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