How difficult was it to start and sustain Biodye? How did the initial funds come in to set up the company?
I set up BioDye India in 2008. It is easy to start a company, but difficult and expensive to sustain. Linkages have to be established with authentic raw material and equipment suppliers, methods that work at scale for all types of substrates (cotton, linen, viscose, jute, hemp, silks, and wool in yarn, fabric or apparel form) had to be developed, and workers had to be trained. My colleague, the late Ann Shankar, provided the initial funding, and later I dipped into my savings.
How has the demand for your products changed since then? Please elaborate.
We had a number of prominent brands who dyed with us in the early years, in order to give their brand a green perception. We also had a few committed clients and organisations like Sally Holkar’s WomenWeave that supported us, and that enabled us to pull through the initial years. Subsequently, buyers at large began getting converted to the sustainability concept, which led to an increase in demand.
As opposed to the general perception of natural dyes (colours bleed, fade, are dull and in a limited range of shades), our colours are fast, deep, bright and span the entire spectrum of hues, tints and shades. Many suspected that we were palming off synthetic dyes as natural. All our present long-term clients have spent days with us, observing our dyeing, getting their hands coloured, and videographing our process. This self-certification has enabled the building of confidence in the industry.
What is the range of colours that you started with and what is it now? Do you cater only to the textile industry?
Initially, we subscribed to the paradigm that for different colours you need to use different dye sources and mordants. Since we use only permitted and safe aluminum and iron mordants, we could not shift the hues towards the reddish (with chromium), the bluish (with copper) or the brighter (with tin) direction. We, therefore, developed methods to blend and clarify the colours to achieve the diversity now on offer.
Many of our old clients still want the muddy colours in yellow and red and the greyish blues. These were normal tones in the early day. Since our colours are now clearer, we need to make a special effort to obtain these old shades. Our main business is in the textiles sector. However, we do make a small batch of pigments to be used as paints for select clients.