Genre Of Impact Social Enterprise & Sustainability

Indigenous practices across India have many a time been overrun and replaced by imported practices and cheaper but inappropriate alternatives. These have not only created an imbalance in society but also threatened the local ecosystem and environment. If sound economic models and sensible design are used, many of these sustainable practices can be revived, empowered and regenerated. This has enormous economic value for the local communities.


Indian cotton cultivation needs to revive its own indigenous traditions which not only is more true to the sustainable traditions of India but also has many economic linkages with local communities. The British introduced American cotton (G. hirsutum) into India in 1790 and soon after independence, its cultivation rose up to 97%. Only a marginalised percentage of these farmers procure Indian desi seeds and cultivate desi cotton. Farmers are now searching for indigenous cotton because it is more suitable for the country’s rainfed region.


If the art of desi cotton is revived right, and a suitable enterprise is designed around it, it can create a sustainable value chain and demonstrate mindful commerce through fabric that is guilt-free, timeless and natural.

Desi cotton (G.herbaceum), unlike American cotton, is resilient to drought and pests. It can be cultivated organically, providing a safe and sustainable livelihood for farmers. The agriculture of cotton has been interlaced into the fabric of India and its independence. Cotton farming employs about 25 million people in India while its industries develop some of the finest cotton fabric in the world. The importance of cotton in both agriculture and industry is unrivalled.


Swaminathan, biotechnologist and researcher by training, entrepreneur by practice and partner at the Better Earth Coalition, took it upon himself to revive the indigenous (desi) 5,000-year-old cotton growing practice. He founded Kaskom, a social enterprise collective that works from farm to fabric. Kaskom is a model that showed farmers how they could cultivate desi cotton organically and conduct intercropping that would ensure a safe and sustainable livelihood. Swami has been involved in developing the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for all the activities of the seed to fabric, from Indian short stapled indigenous cotton, along with Ghandhigram Khadi, Dindugal & Gram Seva Mandal, Wardha. He works with local communities to regenerate this practice. At Kaskom, artisans are involved in creating fabric that is free from chemicals right from the time of cultivation to textile processing, and they use natural colours that are truly skin-friendly. A significant focus of the brand is to revive other textile-based crafts in South India.

As part of his market education efforts, Swaminathan also organises several national workshops and lectures at key forums in order to raise awareness and interest on desi cotton, sustainable agriculture and building social enterprise around it.


Social enterprises must be centred around people and purpose and with a sound economic model that sustains it. The right value chain interventions, design thinking and a collaborative mindset help in overcoming challenges that can range from the economic to policy interventions and social change.

Today, Kaskom has managed to create a farm to fibre, handwoven, handspun label and brand that works with a network of Khadi producers across the country, thereby participating in a movement to revive the ancient practice of desi cotton. In the early 2000s, Swaminathan successfully saved Karunganni cotton from the verge of extinction with the help of a few Perambur-based organic farmers.

Reach us

Let’s Make Impact Deliver With Design

Drop us a message or email to get the conversation started.