Imphal: 28-year-old Bijiyashanti Tongbram, a young entrepreneur from Manipur, makes it to the headlines with her unique idea of 'Lotus Yarn'. Even the prime minister mentioned her in his 'Mann Ki Baat' speech on September 27th, 2020. Bijiyashanti makes fibres from lotus stem gathered from the famous Loktak Lake in Moirang, Manipur. Loktak lake is the largest freshwater lake in the North East and produces uncountable numbers of lotus in its water.
Bijiyashanti, a graduate in botany, is the daughter of Joykumar Tangram and Sanahal Tongbram, of Thanga Tongbram village, near Loktak.
In 2014, after graduating from GP Women's college Imphal, Bijiyashanti's initial plan was to establish agro-tourism in her area. However, due to a lack of resources, she couldn't pursue her dream. But her experiment with lotus and its medicinal value continued.
She had to continue her experiments for the next four years until she found a better idea to work on. In 2018, a family friend informed her about the possibilities of developing other products from Lotus fibre, Bijyashanti joined entrepreneurship training programmes on aromatic and medicinal plants organised by Micro Small and Medium Enterprises of the government of Manipur. She also continued her research work by reading journals and the internet.
By May 2019, she started spinning yarn from lotus stems and weaving neckties, mufflers, etc., with the help of a handful of women from her locality. Subsequently, she set up an enterprise, 'Sanajing Sana Thambal". Her farm employs dozens of women in lotus yarn production and provides training to many women who want to make a living out of lotus yarn extraction. Sanajing Sana Thambal has been selected as "Start-Up Manipur" by the industry department.
Clothes made from lotus stem are in high demand in foreign countries. There are only a few places in the world where this kind of work is done, like in China, Myanmar and Cambodia. Bijiyashanti now exports her products to different parts of the country, including Gujarat, Delhi, Banglore, etc. She got enquiries from foreign countries for export of her products too.
Bijiyashanti, along with a women's team at her enterprise, breaks the lotus stem at the length of a thumb and pulls and expands the fibre from the lotus stem. Using their palms and the wooden plank, the fibre is then hand-rolled at their desired size.
The young entrepreneur says it's a tedious process to extract the yarn from the lotus stem. But once it is done and you get the golden yarn in your hand, all your hard work gets paid. We are trying to make the lotus yarn from Manipur a brand.
Experts say that the lotus thread is similar to that of the famous Muga silk of Assam. The only difference lies in the strength. Muga silk is stronger than lotus. But the finish products are as good as silk. But it is for sure that the new yarn is going to catch the eyes of the fashion lovers of the world in the near future. The high price of the Lotus yarn has the potential to make it a profitable venture.