Weaving India's Traditional Sarees Since 1911

In 1980, Nalli became the first textile retailer to use barcodes and computerized billing systems. This revolutionary move paved way for ease of doing business and for serving the customers better

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By Aashika Jain

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Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti, a key textile industrialist from South of India inherited the Nalli Silks business from his grandfather Nalli Chinnasamy Chetti in 1958. An avid culture and education enthusiast, the 79-year old is the third-generation entrepreneur of the Nalli family business and has successfully trained the next two generations of the family business.

With humble roots, his education at Ramakrishna Mission School and business management from the University of Washington helped him bring western touch to the tradition saree business. His secret recipe to run a successful family business is very simple yet precious.

Quality Makes the Individual

The main thing is quality believes Chetti.

Chetti's grandfather used to weave sarees. In 1911, when King George V visited India, he stopped over at Madras. It was decided that a hand-crafted Kanchipuram Silk Saree would be gifted to him as a souvenir from Tamil Nadu, and Chinnasami Chetty was chosen for this prestigious occasion. As the occasion coincided with the King's coronation, Mr. Chetty wove a rich silk saree with a special border which he named 'Durbar Pet', or the 'Coronation Border' he also said that the branding of any business comes from to things first is the quality which no one should compromise with and next is the timely delivery of the product to the end user.

Since the beginning the company's number one formula is quality followed by timely delivery because the saree trade is dependent on festivals and a wedding says Chetti. He says in 90 years of the company's existence, there has not been a single complaint. The first lesson imparted to every Nalli salesman is to not lie even if a sale is lost – you will have to speak the truth.

Chetti joined the business in 1958. Keeping with the dedication towards quality and customer satisfaction, Kuppusami Chetty decided to do away with discounts. This was done as a measure to always offer goods at affordable prices for different economic groups, without compromising on quality.

By 1970, Nalli came to be known as the ultimate destination for wedding sarees. People traveled from smaller cities and towns to Chennai to buy silk sarees and dhotis for weddings and other important occasions. Nalli became a household name that customers trusted for high-quality silk sarees.

So many of my friends ask me how it is possible to run the show without lying chuckles Chetti.

Learning Through Generations

"In our family, Nalli the second generation was my father Nalli Narayanasami Chetti, I am the third generation and the fourth generation Ramnath Nalli and the fifth generation the granddaughter Lavanya Nalli, she has studied from Harvard University. At all the 5 stages, there is a difference in the management but the common ideology of quality and the time delivery has been the same throughout," says Chetti.

In 1980, Nalli became the first textile retailer to use barcodes and computerized billing systems. This revolutionary move paved way for ease of doing business and for serving the customers better.

The type of running the show may be different, the style changes but the core remains the same says Chetti.

Nalli has been synonymous with silk and Kanchipuram sarees. Chetti recalls that when he entered the business in 1956, there were no MBA classes and no computers. "We took the learning from our forefathers. Now, it's the same thing – we are teaching in MBA now computers came in, also adjusting to the new that comes in. We need to embrace what the new generation is bringing in," says Chetti.

He said that throughout generations, two things remains the same – first is the quality and the next is the timely delivery also accepting the change and keeping updated in technological advancement is also important.

After years of dominance, Nalli is set for global footing. Besides Singapore, Nalli is now present in California and looking to launch in New Jersey.

Aashika Jain

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Associate Editor, Entrepreneur India

Journalist in the making since 2006! My fastest fingers have worked for India's business news channel CNBC-TV18, global news wire Thomson Reuters, the digital arm of India’s biggest newspaper The Economic Times and Entrepreneur India as the Digital Head. 

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