We invited Srikumar and Nigel from Khadi Papers in India for a tour of the Lush factory in Poole, Dorset. Khadi produces the cotton rag paper that we use to wrap many of our gifts
Where is Khadi Papers based? Could you describe what it’s like to work there?
In India, Karnadaka, outside the city of Hubli where the population is about 200,000 – which is considered small in India. The factory is in a rural area just outside of the town. We needed somewhere with electricity, which was also accessible by road as all our workers come from nearby villages; Tarihal, Rodihal, Kanavhihahihonappur.
It’s a great place to work, with a real mix of communities, Muslim, Hindu and Daalit. At Khadi, there’s no oppression of the lower castes, which often happens in Indian society.
How does Khadi Paper help the local community?
Mainly employment: the main intention of industry in India is to generate employment. Economy is the key, and it’s not just a handout, it provides regular, sustainable income day after day, year after year. It means that families can send their children to school. We employ a mixture of about 60/40 men and women. If women are paid, they have a higher status and then are given more respect within the community. We try and offer work to those who want it, though the work requires a lot of skill and training. We provide the training, but most of the time, they learn on their own by seeing and by doing, and if someone likes a particular aspect of the work they can concentrate on that. It’s a really lovely place to work.
We also employ many physically challenged workers, including some who are deaf and dumb. Almost everyone in the factory has learned sign language for these people’s benefit.
When did Lush first become involved with Khadi?
We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Lush. We started with Constantine and Weir [Lush founders Mark Constantine and Liz Bennett’s first venture], and then supplied Nepalese tissue paper to Cosmetics To Go. Lush then came to us at a paper fair in Frankfurt, and we re-established the connection.
How is the cotton rag paper made?
First, we take the cotton off-cuts, cut them into small sizes, then make the pulp, which is crushed cotton waste. It’s mixed with rainwater which is nice and soft, and becomes very fine. It flows through an oval shaped trough to make the liquid pulp, and the paper is then made from the pulp.
What is special about Khadi paper?
All the cotton we use to make the paper is recycled offcuts from local tailors. So red paper is from red cotton cuttings, black paper from black cuttings and so on. We also use offcuts from the denim factory, in Bangalore.
We only use harvested rainwater to make the pulp. The process is completely organic, without chemicals so we are able to use this same water for irrigation; we grow banana and coconut trees, organic leafy vegetables like tomatoes, beans, aubergines, mangoes. It’s all grown for consumption, and for our employees to take home.
What does the future hold for Khadi Papers?
India is moving at 100 miles per hour – we’re almost like a moment of calm, in a frantic, ever-expanding economy where everything is constantly changing. The rate of change is phenomenal, urbanisation is common and lots of people move from villages to large cities. Our aim is to sustain our business, making good quality paper in higher quantities, and never compromising on quality.