How Katran Foundation is taking the sustainable route by upcycling fabric waste into clothes for underserved children

Today, while one section of society has the luxury of buying new clothes for every other occasion, another section manages with just two pairs of clothes, and for a few, owning the second pair is also probably a luxury.

But solving this problem with a unique and thoughtful initiative is 16-year-old Tanay Jain and his aunt Vandana Jain. The duo started Katran Foundation in 2018 to stitch clothes for underprivileged children using fabric waste.

Apart from upcycling and curbing the textile waste generated by factories, the Kolkata-based non-profit is also helping marginalised karigars by providing them with employment.

How it started

The idea to start an initiative came to Tanmay and his aunt when they were surveying Tanay’s father’s company, Onaya Fashions — a well-known store in Kolkata.

“Seeing scraps of clothes being wasted, we wanted to do something about it. The name ‘Katran’ was the brainchild of my aunt, which means scraps of clothes in Sanskrit,” says Tanay.

In the initial years, Katran worked in-house, making donations on birthdays, and for friends and family. In 2020, they decided to expand this to other people because they believed that this model of sustainable fashion was extremely scalable.

Last year, Tanay decided to rope in his friends — Raunak Seksaia, Pratham Madhogaria, and Raunak Sarawgi — to handle the social media page for Katran.

While Vandana takes care of the stitching and logistical aspect of the business, Tanay and his friends focus on social media and the expansion of the foundation to create more awareness.

Making clothes for underserved children

“The fabric for the products is currently sourced from Onaya Fashions. The scraps of clothes available there is sufficient for us to fulfill the incoming orders and the donations as well,” says Tanay.

While the fabrics are in place, Katran Foundation is also helping the karigars by getting them to stitch clothes to provide them with a livelihood. According to the foundation, its motive not only includes saving the environment or helping underprivileged children but also employing the underserved communities.

The NGO has distributed garments to various orphanages, day schools, and other cities. It has also shipped them for individual donations to Hyderabad and Mumbai. Some of these organisations to whom the garments are donated include the Hope Foundation and the Loreto Day Schools in Kolkata.

Since 2018, Katran Foundation claims to have reached about 5,500 children across India and has employed more than 100 marginalised karigars to upcycle more than 1,000 metres of cloth.

Speaking about the business, Tanay adds, “The costs involved is only the cost of stitching, packaging, and employment of karigars. We take monetary donations from people to cover these costs and provide the garments to them, or donate those garments on their behalf to an organisation or individual depending on the amount of donations.”

The cost of stitching one garment is Rs 200 and a mask is Rs 20. People can donate in bulk to an orphanage or institution, or they can order individually for someone in need. People can also donate through a Google form, says Tanay.

Impact of the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic impacted Katran’s work to some extent because physically going and donating is something that has become extremely difficult in the present situation.

“However, for people who donate through us, we have included the option of us donating on their behalf because of the scare of the coronavirus pandemic,” Tanay shares.

“We also upcycle masks which have become an absolute necessity today. The pandemic also acts as a hindrance for us to carry out projects and events physically, which restricts us to an online mode and limits the impact we can make,” he adds.

According to Tanay, one of the biggest challenges for them was having a social media presence and focusing on the growth of the foundation. Social media was a challenge because this was something completely new for them as high school students.

In addition to this, portraying such a complex idea as well as making people believe that they were completely serious and professional in their approach, despite being students, was one of the major challenges.

“Despite these challenges, the smiles on the children’s faces and the fact that we are being able to make a difference in our own small way is what keeps us going,” shares Tanay.

Talking about the road ahead, Tanay says they have envisioned a collaboration with more fashion houses to extinguish the textile waste generated in those houses and to upcycle them as well.

“We want to give back to the environment as much as we can as the fashion industry takes a lot from it. We also aim to help about one lakh children across the globe with our model of donations,” he signs off.

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