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Palam Silks - The Saree Brand of Cool

Anjali Anand

New member
"Pattu Pudavai" - it is not just a saree, it is an emotion. In our Brahmin community, pattu embodies love and purity. It also evokes loyalty to certain brands, some of which are iconic and whose names are synonymous with Pattu. Yet, in the recent years, we have seen a name that has grown out from under the banyan & created its own niche, especially in the millennial market today. In our exclusive interview, we bring in hitherto unknown facets of this achiever whose has made our younger generation fall in love with the evergreen Kanjivaram pattu!.

Palam Silks embodies everything a young brand is supposed to – vibrant, energetic, and always mindful of quality. Their tremendous success over the last fifteen years can be attributed to their enthusiastic founder, Jeyasree Ravi.

The always smiling, always positive attitude of Palam Silks’ founder, Jeyasree Ravi, is infectious. Palam’s rise as one of the new, superstar brands in the silk saree space, is thanks largely to their enthusiastic founder. But Jeyasree's entry into this familiar world of pattu sarees and silks was almost by accident. We would think that for a prominent member of the famous Nalli household, who got married into the Kumaran family, the progression into the business, would have been natural. But that was far from the case.

Jeyasree Ravi.jpg
Speaking about those early years, Jeyasree Ravi, Founder, Palam Silks, says, I got married in 1987. When I had touched my mid-thirties, like most people in that age group, I began to wonder if I’d done enough with my life. I was looking to work actively in computers at the turn of the millennium, and put my degree in Systems Management at NIIT to good use. At the time, a friend got in touch, and requested me to supply pattu sarees to a couple of websites. I assumed I was asked because I was part of the Kumaran family. I was not entirely sure about entering the business as I couldn’t see myself adding much value to the existing market. So, I took baby steps, and vowed to start off small. Palam was born out of Pondy Bazaar in 2003.” Jeyasree tells us that her mother used to help a great deal in those early days. Friends used to drop by the store, and place orders regularly too.

One big lesson learned during the time (something that would hold Jeyasree and Palam Silks in good stead) was that customers enjoyed the one-on-one attention and the personal touch they received from the boutique saree store. Another aspect of Palam’s service that appealed to clients was its homely environment. Jeyasree goes on to tell us that she stumbled upon gaps that existed in the saree space during that period. Customised service has been a staple of the brand ever since. It was during this crucial period, while Jeyasree Ravi was attending to her customers one-on-one, did she begin falling in love with the fabric being marketed. It was during 2007-08 that Jeyasree made a significant inclusion of Silk-Cottons into their folds.

On the all-important subject of challenges, Jeyasree says, “During the course of our experience, we found that young people were wearing our pattu sarees only for the Muhurthams. We had to do something to get more youngsters to wear pattu. I could easily understand why the younger generation were reluctant to wear these pattu sarees – they were grand and heavy. This gap made us change the texture of the saree. We did this by cutting the starch from the garment completely, thereby making it softer, and easier to drape. This also led to a reduction in weight of the attire. Younger women could now wear our sarees without difficulty and with a higher level of comfort. Our biggest challenge here was to ensure that young women willingly wore such pattu sarees without the help and insistence of the elders in the family.”

In a series of firsts, Palam became the first brand to feature in a fashion show for Kanjeevaram sarees, all the way back in 2009. Their big break, back to back, came in the years 2013 & 14 when they were chosen as official partners to drape the beautiful Deepika Padukone, in the Bollywood movies, Chennai Express and Happy New Year. 2019, for Palam, began with the magnetic Vidya Balan gracing the screens in the biopic, N.T.R. Kathanayakudu, clad in their creations.

Palam’s product portfolio can be divided into four categories, namely – Concepts, Casual Pattu, Designer Pattu, and Muhurtham Pattu. “We started off our ‘Concepts’ by having small mobile bags. The pouch was made by the same matching material/fabric used to make the saree. We offer ready made pattu sarees that are also referred to as one-minute sarees. Others in this category include pre-pleated sarees, Golusu pattu, black-and-white pattu sarees, tattoo silk, slim-fit sarees, and the corporate pattu (targeted towards businesswomen). Our sales people are trained to advise clients/customers as to when and where each of our product categories can be worn; a right fit for the right occasion, so to speak,” Jeyasree says.

Store, Mylapore_2.jpg

Palam’s primary target audience through the years has always been the younger generation – those in the age group of 23 to 35. They have begun to market to college kids, of late, too. In 2015-16, the brand came up with the ‘First Year First Saree’ scheme. Up to a total purchase of Rs 10,000, first year college students were eligible for a discount of 10 per cent. Palam offered this in order to encourage young kids to build their own wardrobe.

Being associated with two iconic saree families, living up to the expectations was always going to be hard for Jeyasree. She says, “I’m wary and cautious so as to ensure that I keep the family name from being misrepresented in any way. Hence, the benchmark for Palam is set very high. In this field, creativity is key. And competition causes a great deal of stress. I would much rather gain inspiration from other places, and think out of the box, to better my brand. The best kind of competition is against oneself.” As for the Brahmin community, who she thinks are the brand's biggest ambassadors, Jeyasree says, “Traditionally, Tamil Brahmins have tended to wear pattu sarees the most. Since the pattu has an important connect with temples and religion, the community has, by default, become the brand ambassador of our product. The connection between the Tamil Brahmins and our sarees by the way of art and culture (like Bharatanatyam and the Madras music season) is huge. Their contribution of colours and designs have been incorporated in a big way as well.”

"The benchmark for Palam is set very high."
The countless awards and honours received by the organisation over the years include: the Inspiring Woman Icon Award 2017 (for Jeyasree Ravi) presented by SAIL; the Fifth Annual Women Achievers Awards 2107, presented to Jeyasree Ravi by Sathyabama University; and the Yuga Sakthi Puraskar bestowed upon Jeyasree Ravi by The International Association Of Lions Clubs, as part of their International Women’s Day celebration. As of today, Palam Silks has branches in Pondy Bazaar, Luz, and Anna Nagar - 2nd Avenue. Jeyasree tells us that each branch is uniquely designed. The brand has made a conscious effort to differentiate themselves with every successive store. While Pondy Bazaar has a homely atmosphere, Anna Nagar focuses more on browsing (with sarees on hangers, and so on). Their branch in Luz is known for its privacy.

Store, Mylapore.jpg

On the topic of the brand’s future plans, Jeyasree says, “My daughters joined me in the business recently. My older girl is a Chartered Accountant, but she enjoys designing sarees. My younger daughter focuses her energies on our online presence. So, it is them that will move the company forward as new generation trends take over." With a mission to drape every woman in pattu, Jeyasree has plans to conduct niche exhibitions abroad to expand the ever-growing interest in our very own Kanjeevaram Paatu.

At the Helm

Jeyasree Ravi, Proprietor, Palam Silks
Over the years, Brand Palam and Jeyasree have merged seamlessly where she does not consider herself independent of the iconic name she has created. Today, she spends much of her time thinking about how she can take her company forward. A versatile achiever, Jeyasree is also the author of several books on life skills, and appears on Radio One's Morning Mantra every weekday morning for a short time slot.

Watch our exclusive interview

Visit their store at these locations:

T.Nagar
115, Pondy Bazaar, Opp.Hotel Saravana Bhavan, T.Nagar.
Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600017, India
Ph: 044 - 2432 3334 / 73388-72222

Mylapore
Old no. 67, New no. 153, Luz Church Road, Mylapore.
Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600004, India
Ph: 044 - 2499 0259 / 73388-72222

Anna Nagar
Block 10, Number 336, 2nd Avenue, Anna Nagar.
Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600040, India
Ph: 044 - 2628 5555 / 73388-72222



- written for Tamil Brahmins by Mrinal Rajaram.
 
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