Craft Category: Handmade Textile

Craft Location: Maheshwar

Specialization: Maheshwari Silk & cotton handloom textile with dobby design

Name of Artisan: Arjun Chouhan

Contact No: 9425334105


Address: Fort road, Maheshwar

Arjun is the second generation to continue the family handloom business. And now his two sons, the third generation is also involved in taking forward the family business. Currently both the sons are responsible to manage handloom saree shop MAHIMA at fort road.

His father used to work as the construction labour at master-weaver’s house. At that time in 1960, there were only a few weavers in Maheshwar and the industry did not pick up much. So when Arjun finished his schooling, in 1977 he moved to Indore to work as a tailor at a garment manufacturing. Meanwhile, the handloom business in Maheshwar rose up. So, his father started to weave from home for the master-weavers.

In 1982, Arjun came back to Maheshwar and learned how to weave. He then joined his father and they both started weaving for master-weavers and as well as alongside ran their own production to sell. With time, the business started growing and five years down the line Arjun expanded to 7 looms. Apart from local Maheshwar market, he also started selling in Indore market. In 1986, he participated in the first exhibition conducted in Haryana. Motivated by the excellent response from the market and establishing business relations with various clients, he expanded business even further. And later participated in more exhibitions in Indore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Delhi etc. Exhibitions have been a great source for Arjun to reach the market and get more and more business. He has been in business for 35 years now. He currently employs 40 weavers and serves the market pan-India.

There are always struggles behind the sweet success stories. Arjun had to face quite a few as well and is still rising from them. He says, “fluctuations are a part of business and the wise thing is to identify those and respond accordingly”. He identified various reasons for the downfall of the market, like, not many people want to wear saris, powerloom duplication, increased supply by new entrants in market leading to fall in price, open online market etc.

Arjun is very much against the online market. He believes that, it does increase the volume of business but it leads to the overall downfall of market. Especially in the context of Maheshwari handloom textiles, the case has been of loss in the value of heritage textile as various new entrants are coming into the market and selling sarees, dupattas, stoles at a very low price to just cover their wages. Low prices results in loss of market share of those who are providing original product and higher quality. There aren’t any other jobs available in the market for these people so they are falling back upon handloom weaving and practicing the craft without any skill or knowledge. They end up using duplicate yarn as well. This leaves bad impression on customers of the Maheshwari textile as a whole. This practice isn’t sustainable in the long run as people would buy once and then never buy again. Quality is not guaranteed in the businesses run at such individual level. Arjun says, “When customer isn’t asking for cheap products, then why are we giving them. If the customer has to buy an original high quality product then he will buy. One has to have priorities set right in handloom business. It is not a regular market. It is a luxury market”. He suggests that, only bigger companies should be doing online business. Smaller companies should be working for them by selling them the production. This would give them enough business opportunities and also keep the prices stabilised in the market.
Arjun prefers to do business only through exhibitions and directly reaching the clients via personal network. He feels that, online market is soon expected to be facing a downfall.

Arjun’s dream is to see the designers coming forward and experimenting with the traditional Maheshwari fabric texture to create modern silhouette garments which are in demand in the market. He says, “not enough people are interested in wearing sarees these days, so this is the only way to continue the legacy of this world-class craft”.