London, Oct 13 (PTI) Indian saree company, Nalli Silks, has opened its first UK store in London with an investment of around 300,000 pounds to meet demand ahead of a busy wedding and festive Diwali season, a development hailed by the UK''s Department for International Trade (DIT) as a sign of a flourishing India-UK trade partnership despite the COVID-19 pandemic constraints.
The Chennai-headquartered company''s initial UK investment unveiled this week includes up to eight members of staff at a 2,500 square feet store in Wembley, the north London hub with a large Indian diaspora population.
The firm, which has a history of appealing to British royalty with sarees gifted to King George V and Queen Elizabeth II, says it has plans to open more stores in London and Birmingham.
“I am delighted to welcome Nalli Silk to the vibrant cadre of many Indian companies present in the UK, which support jobs in this country across all sectors,” said Gerry Grimstone, the UK Investment Minister.
“As both the Indian and UK economies recover from the impact of COVID-19, increasing investment in each other’s markets is more important than ever. Brands like Nalli Silk are sterling examples of the opportunities available to Indian businesses if they wish to sell high-quality goods to a strong base of customers in the UK, including an Indian diaspora of 1.5 million people,” he said.
With a worldwide presence in the US, Singapore and Canada, the company said it began searching for opportunities to expand to the UK prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
DIT said its officials in Chennai and London have been working with Nalli over the past 18 months to help facilitate site visits in the UK, introductions to key accounting and tax services.
They also provided updates on COVID-19 related support measures, including the Retail Bounce Back scheme announced by UK Exports Minister Graham Stuart in September to boost trade with targeted measures for the retail industry, including specialists to provide advice on online retail and international market-places.
“Our South Asian customers living in the UK are some of our most vocal and passionate patrons. When our friendly skies were still friendly, almost every week we would greet a few UK customers at our flagship stores in India, requesting for a Nalli store nearby,” said Nalli Silks Vice-Chairman Ramnath Nalli.
“Soon we started receiving social media requests from non-Indian brides asking advice on saris for their bridesmaids (or themselves) as more and more people go in for themed Indian weddings held in their own locales, or as a destination wedding. We’re very happy on this joyous occasion to finally be coming to the UK – London first, and then Birmingham soon after,” he said.
The company chief said his team would bring their “very best, hand selected pieces” just for the UK market.
Established in Chennai in 1928, Nalli is a textile brand which prides itself as being steeped in tradition. Its British connection goes back to the Raj era when King George V visited India in 1911 and Tamil Nadu gifted the king a hand-crafted Kanchipuram Silk Saree from the company as a souvenir.
As this was the year of the King’s coronation, Nalli wove a rich silk saree with a special coronation-themed border to mark the occasion. Similarly, Queen Elizabeth II was gifted with a Nalli Silk saree by the state of Tamil Nadu for her coronation in 1954.
The DIT said the saree firm''s investment follows a number of other DIT-supported Indian retail investments into the UK, including Dehli-based heritage occasion wear retailer Frontier Raas, and Mumbai-based luxury fashion house Purple Style Labs.
Nalli''s first store has been hailed by the DIT as symbolic of growing trade between the UK and India, which increased by 10 per cent from the previous year to 24 billion pounds in 2019.
It added that at this year''s Joint Economic Trade Committee (JETCO), the UK and India have agreed to deliver an “Enhanced Trade Partnership” to deepen the trade relationship against the backdrop of ongoing talks for a wider post-Brexit free trade agreement (FTA). PTI AK SCY