How Punar's Priya Ravindra Is Weaving Feminism & Sustainability Into Her Business By Employing Women Artisans In India

The Melbourne-based entrepreneur founded the handcrafted gifts business in 2022 that hires female workers "who are making a new start in life despite their socioeconomic background".

Priya Ravindra the founder of Punar with female weavers

Image Source: Supplied/Punar

Today we chat to Priya Ravindra, a Melbourne-based entrepreneur who founded Punar, a business that employs women artisans in India to handcraft sustainable luxury gifts, branded merchandise and homewares.

Given the UN's theme for 2024 International Women's Day is 'Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress', we thought chatting to a female-founded business that invests in the careers of other women was extremely fitting.

Here Priya speaks about Punar, IWD and the highlights of running her own business.

When did you start Punar and what made you decide to start it?

My purpose is to help women rise. I believe that gender equality, diversity and inclusion will create a better world. Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey was just a seed in my mind while I was a teenage engineering student in Adelaide. But the concept of Punar came to life in 2022. 

Punar means "Again" in the ancient Sanskrit language in India. Often used in the context of 'rejuvenation' and 'rebirth', we couldn't think of a better name to honour our women who are making a new start in life despite their socioeconomic background.

It is my absolute privilege to bring my purpose to fruition through Punar.

What were you doing before running Punar?

I am a project manager and an accredited company director, GAICD. I have over 20 years of experience delivering technology and business transformation projects within public and private sectors. I had the privilege of serving on two boards for over five years in the past. I have been driving initiatives to improve gender diversity, equality, and career opportunities for women in ICT since 2001.

Punar founder Priya Ravindra

Punar founder Priya Ravindra. Image Source: Supplied/Punar

How would you describe Punar's purpose? 

At Punar, our purpose is to enrich the lives of women artisans and their communities while solving the problem of landfill textile waste. We are reviving handloom, which is a handwoven, zero emission fabric making technique with innovation. Punar is creating the best, durable and luxurious products that are great for people and the planet.  

In the $242 billion gifting industry where 40% ends up back in the landfill, we are positively disrupting and infusing it with impact. Every product we make is a symbol of hope, resilience, and environmental stewardship. 

What sorts of products and gifts are produced?

We have spent over two-and-a-half years researching and developing the best quality handloom fabrics so that we can handcraft premium quality products. We create anything from towels to tote bags, throw rugs, picnic rugs, scarves, wall art and homewares in preferred brand colours.

The most popular products are throw rugs and tea towels. We recently handcrafted 150 tote bags for a client who used them as welcome back gifts for all staff.

How many women artisans in India do you work with?

We are building an ethical business, and it underpins everything that we do. Handloom is an unregulated industry in India, often challenging for governments to ensure ethical treatment of workers and fair compensation. As a social enterprise we are changing this landscape, and to date we have given jobs paying fair wages to nine women artisans.

One of our artisans, Shobha, is a single mother with kids. For the past four years Shobha has been working in a thriving, safe and supportive work environment. She is working in the handloom textile industry, getting paid fair wages, and providing her children a better quality of life.

The IWD theme is 'Count Her In: Invest In Women'. What does this mean to you?

At Punar, we invest in women every day, not just on International Women’s Day – and subsequently our customers do too when they purchase the products made by our artisans.

My call to everyone is to invest in our women and source sustainable and impactful products when gift shopping.


Image Source: Supplied/Punar

What has been the highlight of running this business? 

Punar has won the 2023 She-Com Editor’s Choice award in the sustainable and eco-friendly product category. It has also been listed in holiday gift guides and attracted editorial coverage in other media publications. We are only getting started and incredibly grateful all these accolades.

But the biggest highlight is that we are creating an impact by giving a voice to our women artisans. 

Where do you see the business in five years' time?

Punar has big dreams! Our 5-year plan is to establish handloom production hubs across the world employing 10,000 women while keeping circularity at the heart of our creation.

As a first step, we want to establish a handloom hub in Australia and employ migrant and Indigenous women. We hope to shift the narrative by using Australian textile waste to create sustainable gifts and change the landscape of the gifting industry.

We are also continually working on aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Achieve gender equality and empower women (Goal 5), No poverty (Goal 1), Sustainable Production and Consumption patterns (Goal 12), Take urgent action to combat Climate Change (Goal 13).

We would also love to work with like-minded organisations and brands that are genuinely focused on gender equality, diversity and building sustainable communities.

Products from Punar

Image Source: Supplied/Punar

You can also follow Punar on Instagram here and Facebook here.