Sri Kumaran Stores: A Study in Silk
The legendary Sri Kumaran Stores had humble beginnings during the 1950s. The seeds of this Chennai landmark were sown when Kanjipuram’s P.C Chengalvaraya Chettiyar moved to Madras (modern day Chennai) looking for work. Kanjipuram has always been renowned for its highly skilled weavers and P.C. Chengalvaraya Chettiyar decided to use his skills to get some work in the big city. Post Independence India wasn’t really a bustling economy like the one we have today. Times were tough. Business loans weren’t easy to come by and VC funding was not even a concept. But it’s during times like these when legends are made. P.C. Chengalvaraya Chettiyar didn’t want to give up his family tradition of weaving or saree business. The skill ran in his blood and blood always runs thicker than water. He stuck to his guns and established the Shri Kumaran Stores as a partnership firm in 1955. It was nothing like the magnificent and massive house of sarees that you see in T Nagar these days. It was a small shop which only covered 100 square feet.
The shop might have been small, but Chengalvarya Chettiyar’s skills and dreams were big. Slowly but steadily, Sri Kumaran Stores started gaining momentum. During the 50s, people would buy silk sarees in other shops and visit Sri Kumaran Stores for blouses. Sales and reputation picked up and so did customer satisfaction. Buoyed by this growing phenomenon, P.C. Chengalvaraya Chettiyar decided to start a brand new line of masterfully woven silk sarees as well. The ground floor of the shop was dedicated to sarees while the first floor dealt with blouses. He introduced his sons to the saree business as well. P.C. Jayaraman and his brother started off by selling sarees on cycles. The sons also put in their blood, sweat and tears towards the growth of Sri Kumaran Stores, working in other shops, eating only once a day and putting all the saved money back into the fledgling business. They went the extra mile to nourish the business. They even walked and carried stock on their backs to save money for the business.
During the 1978 Chennai floods, disaster struck Sri Kumaran Stores. The raging torrents swallowed up most of their stock, setting them back by many years. All the years of persistent hard work had been washed away instantaneously. However, persistence and perseverance runs in the family’s blood. They didn’t just close up shop and submitted to being withered away by the winds of time. They started working for someone else, saved up enough money to buy new stock and brought Sri Kumaran Stores back on its feet again.
An Institution is Born
The modern silk saree institution that is Sri Kumaran Store at T Nagar, didn’t just pop up out of nothing and sprawled over 60,000 square feet. It’s the result of the incredible amount of hard work. Every single step taken, every single gram of stock carried on the back and every single second of hard work has led to the birth of the Chennai icon.
Sri Kumaran Stores: Today
Sri Kumaran Stores at T Nagar isn’t just a giant showroom that curates sarees from different manufacturers and sells them. The company has its own production line and that keeps the shelves full in T Nagar, as well as at the branches in Kanchipuram, Arani and Kumbakonam.
Each saree sold at Sri Kumaran Stores is more than just a few yards of silk. It’s a work of art which is created by generationally skilled hands putting in hours of painstaking effort. The most obvious testament to the quality of work are the five twists present in each layer of thread. That’s a truly high level of workmanship and a complete dedication towards producing sarees of the highest quality only. The quality of the sarees is so high that they not only retain their value, they actually become more valuable with time. A loyal Sri Kumaran Stores customer purchased a saree for ₹20,000 over twenty years ago. It was recently valued to be worth twice as much. The skill and reputation of Sri Kumaran Stores can be felt in every single thread of every piece of fabric, and that is why the sarees remain valuable to this day.
Sri Kumaran Stores also pride themselves on the level of innovation that they have introduced in their work.
Some of the incredibly innovative products are:
- Pocket Saree – Sri Kumaran Stores were the first to introduce pocket sarees in Chennai.
- Denim Silk – The master weavers worked to change the silk texture to create a denim like feel.
- Ullae Veliyae – The designs on the sarees change colours based on the light falling on them.
- Jodi Pattu – Embroidered silk sarees with matching embroidered silk shirts and dhoti.
- 3D Pattu – Incredibly innovative and incredibly fun, put on a pair of 3D glasses and watch the intricate designs come to life.
- Gold Pattu (Zari-Gold) – These sarees eliminate the need of wearing gold ornaments separately. All these sarees have a gold design with small elements of embroidery supported by a steel wire. The design sits beautifully on the bust.
- Glow Silk – As the name suggests, these silk sarees glow in the dark.
- Magic Pattu – The designs on these sarees are visible from certain angles only.
Giving Back to the Community
As Sri Kumaran Stores rose in prominence, P.C. Jayaraman didn’t forget about his roots and wanted to give back to the community. To help the old and the needy, The P. C Jayaram – Old Age Home, Health Centre and Anna Thanam were established. The old age home property covers around 4-5 acres of land. The old and needy are provided care for as little as just ₹2,000 per head. The Anna Thanam also provides meals to over 200 people every day. The Health Centre provides healthcare consultation for a fee of just ₹10 and the prescribed medicines are sold at highly subsidised prices.
Aside from these, Sri Kumaran Stores also funded the construction of a water tank in Kanjipuram to help fulfill the daily water needs of the residents.