‘We wanted to show Martha Stewart a slice and dice of India’s culture’ | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

‘We wanted to show Martha Stewart a slice and dice of India’s culture’

ByEkta Mohta
Nov 12, 2023 07:08 AM IST

Welspun Living, an Indian textile manufacturer, hosted American businesswoman Martha Stewart during her visit to India. Welspun Living exclusively produces towels and bed linen under Stewart's name for the North American market. The company showcased its manufacturing facilities and sustainable practices to Stewart during her visit, which included meetings with artists, culinary experts, and entrepreneurs. Welspun Living plans to increase its presence in the Indian market from 7% to 11% by 2026.

MUMBAI “We make every fifth towel in America,” says Dipali Goenka, CEO and MD, Welspun Living. In a white top, denims and statement gold earrings, Goenka meets us in her corner office in Kamala Mills. Two weeks ago, she played host to American businesswoman and television personality Martha Stewart, who was in India for a factory visit. Since 2019, every towel and bed linen under Stewart’s name has been exclusively made by Welspun Living for the North American market.

“Martha Stewart is a very important partnership, and another opportunity for us to create different kinds of products,” says Dipali Goenka, CEO and MD, Welspun Living.
“Martha Stewart is a very important partnership, and another opportunity for us to create different kinds of products,” says Dipali Goenka, CEO and MD, Welspun Living.

Over four days, Stewart met the who’s who in Mumbai’s culinary, design and business worlds. While enjoying dosa breakfasts at the Taj Mahal Palace, she was also treated to a gourmet meal at the hotel’s Chef Studio. “Martha’s India visit was long, long overdue,” says Goenka. “We had been talking about it even before COVID. She said this time, ‘I’ll just come.’ She personally saw how the consumption in India is evolving.” Along with a private gathering at The Table, with restaurateurs Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf, hotelier Yeshwant Holkar, interior designer Sarah Sham, tableware entrepreneur Janaki Kirloskar, chef Vanika Choudhary and others, and a private lunch at Noon in BKC, Goenka also hosted dos for her at her outhouse in Alibag and her home.

“We arranged for meetings with people from different walks of life,” says Goenka. “At my Alibag party, artist Paresh Maity painted her portrait in one hour. We took her to a gathering of the Young Presidents’ Organization, where she met many young entrepreneurs. For the party at my house, guests included chef Ritu Dalmia and designer Monica Shah from Jade. I wanted to show her how we live in India.” This included a trip to the Sabyasachi store, where the designer personally showed her around. On Instagram, Stewart had posted about witnessing the early-morning newspaper segregation operation in Mumbai, along with visits to the flower market, the fish market and the BMC headquarters. About Mukherjee’s store, she said, “The multi-storey extraordinary fashion atelier composed of room after room of antiques, mirrors, paintings and porcelain.”

Goenka says, “She is fond of living spaces that have different flavours. We wanted to show her a slice and dice of India’s culture. So, along with the factory and the manufacturing world, we introduced her to the artists and the culinary experts.”

Factory to home

Welspun Living’s plants in Anjar and Vapi, which employ 17,000 people, have a combined capacity to produce 1mn towels a day. “Martha does not only look at a company, but also the prowess of the company,” says Goenka. On her India visit, Stewart said, “It’s important for us to be with partners we admire, and this is really an amazing company. What’s been manufactured for us in the last few years is excellent.”

Goenka adds, “We showed her our machines and technology, and the magnitude of our operations. You simply don’t see this kind of scale in this part of the world. ESG is the bedrock of everything we do. In Anjar, we don’t use a drop of fresh water. We have a brand called Spun, in which women upcycle our textile waste to make cushions, rugs and carpets on pit looms. They earn around 20,000 a month, because we know that if a woman gets financially independent, the child definitely goes to school. So, we are focused on creating empowerment and community development.”

With a presence in 50 countries for towels, sheets, bedding, rugs, carpets, flooring and advanced textiles, Welspun Living’s annual revenue crossed 9300cr last year. While migrating from B2B to B2C, it has two homegrown labels: Spaces and Welspun. “We are the highest distributor brand in India, with a presence in 15,500 stores and 600 districts in the country for Welspun,” says Goenka. “We have more than 35 patents for home textiles. Our Hygrocotton patent has earned $3bn in top-line revenues since 2008. Every shelf space across the globe has either a Hygro towel or sheet.”

While the US forms 61% of their market, India occupies 7% currently, with plans to take it to 11% by 2026. “Everything we’ve done here is because of consumer feedback,” she says. “In Spaces, we have a towel that dries fast and 2-in-1 sheets. Washing machines are easily accessible in America, but in smaller cities in India, there’s sometimes no power supply or water. In Mumbai, it rains for five months. So, how do you dry a towel? These are the things we are taking into cognisance across the country.”

With licenses for Scott Living and Disney, Welspun Living also acquired Christy in 2006, which makes the Wimbledon towels and made the first towels for the Queen of England. Powered through with Goenka’s hectic work life, in which she travels to all the three factories in Anjar, Vapi and Telangana every month, Goenka has aggressive expansion and sustainable plans going all the way up to 2030. As she says, “I love what I do.”

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