Hitesh Anand: How I changed the textile industry for the benefit of employees and for nature
Hitesh was still a child, growing up in a large family, as he watched his father and uncle discuss family business. Little did he know then, that one day he would be the one to turn a business into a healthy way of living. Today, he successfully runs a textile company that cares not only about the health of his employees, but also seeks to protect nature. Returning to old traditions, he has found a practical and ecological solution to the problem of textile dyeing. His passions and his life have changed since the pandemic including transferring his attention from the gym to the kitchen!
How was your childhood and how connected are you with those memories?
I was born in the small town of Ayodhya in India. Growing up I have watched my dad and my uncles’ build our family business and working very hard to expand it across the length and breadth of India. I never actually got involved in my family business but I have witnessed my uncles’ and my dad discussing their business like founders of most businesses would do, though I wasn’t even aware of the words‘founders’ or ‘start-ups’ then. For me, it was just a business run by my family. Those memories of living in a big family running a joint business – with far too many people around me and at home – always stayed with me.
When did you start preparing your self to be an entrepreneur?
I think it started during my school days. I used to see my dad sitting with piles of papers working on his investment portfolio and planning his next moves. I started taking an interest in what he was doing and eventually I took over his portfolio and then started managing myself in terms of making money for dad and also a bit for myself too. It was then that I started learning about companies and how they function and how to deal with valuations and finances, etc.
What were the first steps of the business and what were the first difficulties you encountered?
The first step is never easy. I started out as an engineer and then transformed my career into the textiles business. I had to read lots of research papers and books and I also spent time with the factory workers to learn all the basics about the textiles industry. It took me a couple of years before I had a good understanding of the industry that I had now jumped into. But I must say, it was a wise decision to learn about the industry first, so I could avoid getting my hands burned at the very beginning.
It seems that some of your work is quite revolutionary in terms of the people who work in factories. Can you tell us how you changed these old models of working?
While I was working in the textiles industry I learnt many new things almost every day – but I also witnessed the dark side of the industry. The textiles industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet and the working conditions of the staff are just terrible. Although there are many laws and certificates that were created to make sure that the manufacturing process is done ethically, the actual ground reality is not always the same.
I was especially concerned about the conditions of the workers in the dyeing industry where they have to work with toxic chemicals all day. You don’t even have to touch these chemicals to get sick, the gases are enough to cause harm and these workers’ hands were drenched in the chemicals all day whilst working. I saw many with severe skin problems and fatal conditions. So for this reason I didn’t want to be part of that industry anymore.
But running away from these types of problem would never bring a solution. So,instead, I thought I would try to do my bit to bring about a change in the industry. That’s when I started looking for alternative dyeing methods and came across ‘Ayurvedic dyeing’ which was the way India use to dye before chemicals started to be used instead.
Can we say that returning to this older tradition of dyeing was a way out that helped you in your business?
Returning to tradition was a very important aspect. Our old way of living, which we call ‘tradition’, was about being closer to nature and in many ways the traditions evolved or existed because of nature.The traditions of celebrating the harvesting of crops, the tradition of fasting in Indian culture and the tradition of eating certain foods at certain hours of the day are all derived from nature.
I also wanted to bring these traditions back to the masses just like with Yoga. Ayurvedic textile dyeing is part of a 5000-year-old science which can improve our wellness, elevate our mood and enhance our aural energy.For us, going back to tradition meant going back to nature – and yes it has certainly helped our business.But my goal was more than that as there is lot more to our business than just being eco-friendly.
How much have you changed this industry today?
Textiles is multi-trillion-dollar industry today. By creating just a small impact we will still be a billion-dollar company, but that is not the prime focus. We want the world to know that an alternative way exists and if consumers start demanding cleaner/greener/ethical products then more companies like ours will also start to change the industry. We have just started and there is still a lot that needs to be done. I can assure you that we won’t sit back and watch the devastation of our planet at the hands of those who lust for fashion and good looks. Thankfully the consumer choices are now beginning to change towards sustainability in almost every industry.
Tell us about your life away from work and business commitments?
There are two parts to this answer. Pre-Pandemic and Post-Pandemic. Pre-pandemic I liked going to the gym every evening and also taking a break to travel every six months.Post-pandemic I have developed a love for cooking which is very cathartic and helps me to unwind.More recently, ‘Vedic Astrology’ has grabbed my attention. It is fascinating to know how accurately the positions of the stars and planets were described by our ancestors more than 5000 years ago and what we can learn from them.