Hemp naturally has anti-bacterial and anti-odour properties besides its umpteen benefits. Hemp for decades has been used exclusively for industrial production and manufacturing purposes for ropes, paper and canvas. However, once it was realised that hemp can be used for clothing and its versatile properties were discovered, there was no looking back and the textile industry adapted the trend. Here is how the market for hemp is looking at present, especially from India’s POV.
The Indian market still has the stigma of comparing hemp with marijuana. However, hemp is an extremely durable and versatile fabric that uses 50 per cent less water as compared to cotton. In fact, there are two sides of the coin; on one side of it, there is ‘Marijuana’ that has so many medicinal uses and on the other side we have ‘Hemp’, which we can use to make more than 50,000 products. The entire hemp plant from seed to foliage can be used purposefully. “Hemp is versatile and biodegradable and this is one of the few plants whose by-products can either be eaten, sat on, written on, worn, slathered on your body, painted on a wall or squirted into a machine,” Vishal Singh, Founder, Hemploom mentions.
Vishal and his father being a Botanist had realised the potential of hemp way too early in their entrepreneurial journey, “In terms of scope of hemp in India, I think it’s huge because it will help our farmers produce something that requires less water and money compared to other natural fibres and the output will also be more as compared to other fibres. Also, hemp will help control a lot of pollution as it absorbs Co2 and leaves zero or very less carbon footprint. India is the biggest producer of cotton and it requires a lot of pesticides and water and the country is already out of groundwater in more than 21 states. Bio fuel and plastics can also be made from hemp and there is no other alternative for them as we speak; if there won’t be any natural resources for the future generation, there won’t be any future generation,” Vishal reinstates.
Creating an awareness
Bombay Hemp Company, incorporated in 2013, is an Agro-based enterprise reimagining the future of Indian agriculture and sustainable living with hemp as their lens. Their design fuses this very potential with the existing industries of agriculture, technology and medicine, to bring together Community, Impact and Value. Hemp Fabric Lab is a textile division under the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) specifically dealing with 100 per cent hemp fabric and fabric blends. Their vision is to become the foremost players in the hemp textile industry in India and create an ecosystem for designers, consumers and innovators to come together in a collaborative spirit and find interesting new ways to use hemp.
“Indian economy is heavily influenced by the textile and apparel industry. India has a noteworthy position as a major exporter of natural fibres like silk and cotton. India currently commands a share of about 4.5 per cent in the world exports of textiles. This is still a very nominal share despite the textile sector in India being one of the oldest sectors and has witnessed revolutionary changes in transforming the industrial and economic landscape of the country. Rigorous efforts have been made to establish the ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme that is wishing to make India as a ‘manufacturing’ and ‘sourcing hub’ in the coming times. Natural fibres are appealing to the classes, due to the rise in prices of natural fibres. This makes it challenging for us to offer competitive pricing in the market and reach a wider audience. Covid has taught us a lot indeed, we are more mindful of the current resources and capital for the future; the mindfulness towards sustainability is definitely increasing. With micro-plastic being one of the biggest issues right now, natural fibre seems to be the only answer to solve for. Brands are going through the process of realisation and do wish to be better,” Neha Rao, Head of Hemp Fabric Lab highlights.
Salendra Gupta, Owner, Ecentric explains that competitive pricing plays the biggest role for the industry at present and makes up for that one factor basis which the industry can grow, “We must give consumers a reason to switch and just by harping on the fact of natural fibre and fabric will not be enough to bring about a change. That is the reason we are offering our range on a competitive price tag and want more converts to try hemp and realise its potential.” He further adds that educating the industry and the consumers about hemp and its several benefits is essential and the faster brands/retailers are able to communicate and offer a good USP, the quicker India will grow within the hemp domain. Ecentric was conceptualised to contribute to the environment and ecology. The core philosophy of Ecentric is Svasmai Svalpam Samajay Sarvasvam (A little bit for yourself and everything for others!). The brand believes this could empower a sustainable future for all of us where we can contribute and be a part of the change, we all wish to see.
The power of nature
“Our motto is ‘educate, cultivate, elevate’. With every individual maker, creator, our journey starts with educating them about the crop! This crop has been around since 800 BC, but you will be surprised how little people know about hemp and its benefits. Customers see a brand differently when they take up sustainability. Pre-Covid, when we had pop-up, we used to entice people by asking them – ‘Have you heard about bhang clothes?’ This would catch the attention and then we would educate them about the cannabis plant and how we use it for making clothes,” Neha adds. She also highlights that India is still very price-sensitive and pricing for them also is a big challenge.
Vishal, on the other hand, mentions that Covid has made people more concerned about their health and personal hygiene. “I think the product which we are offering to the customers is something they need daily – first is bedsheet. Did you know? The average person spends about 26 years sleeping in their life which equates to 9,490 days or 2,27,760 hours. Surprisingly, we also spend 7 years trying to get to sleep. That’s 33 years or 12,045 days spent in bed!
Then we have towel, which again is something that people use daily and so these are the basic products which being anti-bacterial not only make you safe from viruses and germs but will be there with you for generations. Hemp, being the strongest natural fibre on the planet, makes these products more durable and comfortable as compared to conventional cotton. So, for us, pricing is not so much of a concern when compared to the benefits and we believe the customer will clearly weigh the pluses before thinking twice.”
“Price is not so much of a concern for us and we harp on the fact of style and we have understood that our target group gets lured by the whole idea of wearing hemp clothing more than anything else. But the big challenge is on the other side, as we have to source the fibre from outside India and that adds to the cost. This is one aspect that stops most of us manufacturers and brands from offering a good price on hemp clothing. In order for retail to accept the hemp products, I believe the concept needs to get more acceptable within India and just for us to create awareness or give washing guide is not enough,” Pranjal Dalal, Founder of Kaya Hempwear comments.
Pranjal also does private labelling for hemp clothing for international brands and sells an extremely stylish T-shirt range under his label within India.