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Total Quality Management in the Apparel Industry with reference to Kalamkari Art


A land of textiles, India has always been known for its culture. The enthralling weaves, amazing embroideries, vibrant colors, and detailed costumes have been the most sought-after inspirations and generations. As said that work is worship, it is apt to relate with Indian textiles and their manufacturing since the work is carried out with utmost devotion and dedication. Very likely it is this devotion and dedication that has put up the markets for Indian textiles across the globe. Inherited through cultures, traditions, generations these crafts have been taken up as work and have been nurtured and groomed over years under skilled guidance and thus have evolved as the heritage of India. Keeping in line with its cultural traditions is one such textile craft, kalamkari, the dye-painted textile of India. Hand-painted and blocks printed kalamkari also known as the Machilipatnam kalamkari is widely used in clothing, home decor, and lifestyle products today.

Total quality management (TQM) is a company-wide management philosophy of improving continuously the quality of the products/services/processes. As well as focusing on the customers’ needs and expectations to enhance customer satisfaction and firm performance. The primary data is collected from Jhansi kalamkari, a manufacturing unit cum wholesale and retail store. An opportunity was given to visit the process of manufacturing kalamkari fabric in detail. Secondary data were collected through books, newspapers, articles, and various websites. Facts collected are put in an appropriate way and conclusions are drawn.


The word Kalamkari means “work done with a pen”. Kalamkari represents a unique art of painting cotton fabrics with a kalam which means pen. The name Kalamkari originates from the Persian words kalam (pen) and Kari (craftmanship).

The most prominent centered of Kalamkari art are Srikalahasti, Chittoor district, and Machilipatnam, Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh. Kalamkari art is considered unique as it uses rich, classic colors as a vibrant medium for portraying mythological characters from epics, in the form of paintings. The popularity of the exquisite Kalamkari paintings crossed the shores of India, during the 17th and 18th centuries. In Srikalahasti, the textiles are processed by small families and small-scale enterprises. Whereas in Machilipatnam, the production is done in commercial work centers, here the block makers, washers and printers work under the same floor.

Textile Industry in India:

The Textile industry in India is one of the largest in the world with a large raw material base and manufacturing strength across the value chain. It is the 2nd largest manufacturer and exporter in the world, after China.

India is a global leader in jute production, accounting for about 70% of estimated world production. The Textile industry in India is one of the largest sources of employment generation in the country with more than 45 mn people employed directly in 2017-18. The Textile industry in India is dominated by 70% of the women's workforce and balances the male workforce. The industry contributes to 7% of industrial output in value terms, 2% of India’s GDP, and 15% of the country’s export earnings.

Investment Opportunities:

  • The Textile industry in India has a robust presence in the entire value chain.

  • All levels of the textile value chain i.e. from fiber/ filament to garment/specialty fabrics manufacturing at a large scale are available.

  • India has an extensive custom of textile and apparel manufacturing with infrastructure spread across the country in numerous clusters.

  • Fabric processing set-ups are for all kinds of natural, synthetic, and specialty textiles.

  • Opportunities for investments in retail brands are immense.

  • The Textiles industry in India (including dyed and printed) attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth US$ 3.12 bn from April 2000 to March 2019.

  • Apparel and garment manufacturing centers have been set up in the north-eastern region.


The main aim of this research is to know the process of making Kalamkari fabric and identify the Quality Management techniques in the same process. Primary data is collected by visiting the Kalamkari stores in Machilipatnam as well as getting an opportunity to see their work centers and their operations. Secondary data is collected through blogs, newspaper articles, and books. The findings of the study are mostly qualitative. The study aims to examine how quality is managed in the process of making Kalamkari fabrics. The research conducted was of exploratory and experimental nature.


Quality is generally referred to as a parameter that decides the inferiority or superiority of a product or service. It is a measure of goodness to understand how a product meets its specifications.

Numerous definitions have been given on Total Quality Management (TQM) by quality gurus, practitioners, and academicians. Besterfield defined TQM as “both a philosophy and a set of guiding principles that represent the foundation of a continuously improving organization”. It ensures that all allied works (particularly the work of employees) are toward the common goals of improving product quality or service quality, as well as enhancing the production process or process of rendering of services. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), for example, have been slow in adopting TQM when compared to large companies.

Elements of TQM:

  • Customer focus.

  • Integrated system.

  • Process centered.

  • Total employee involvement.

Process of making Kalamkari :

A broad classification of three styles of art is the Srikalahasthi, Karrupur, and Machalipatnam styles.

Srikalahasthi style involves free-hand painting and entire colorwork using the pen, incorporates sketches from Hindu mythology like Gods and Goddesses, “Krishna, rasaleela”, etc.

Machalipatnam style involves block printing art influenced by motifs of Islam culture, flowers, animals, and finishing touches are given using the pen.

Karrupur style developed in the Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu has a profound influence on Tamil culture in its evolution. This was mostly used by Royal members of the Maratha dynasty.

Kalamkari is an early style of hand painting done on cotton or silk fabric with a pen, using natural dyes. This art involves 23 tedious steps of dyeing, bleaching, hand painting, block printing, starching, cleaning, and more. Motifs drawn in Kalamkari spans from flowers, peacocks, and paisleys to divine characters of Hindu epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. Nowadays, this art is primarily done to create Kalamkari sarees.

Figure showing Kalamkari Design

Procurement of Material :

The raw material i.e., cloth is collected from mills in the southern part of India. The procured cloth is made into pieces based on requirement with an excess of 10-15% shrinkage.

Treating the cloth with milk and drying:

The cloth is soaked in milk, the butter content in the milk will spread on the cloth which in turn makes sketching easy on the cloth. Dry the cloth after this treatment.

Myrobalan process:

Myrobalan seeds are powdered and soaked in water for one day. The next day, it is filtered with gunny cloth. The ready cloth pieces are dipped one by one in the juice extracted. This process has to be done carefully so that all the threads of the cloth absorb the juice evenly and are squeezed properly and then dried in sun.

Sketching/Painting process:

For the process of sketching, tamarind twigs are used which act as sketches to outline. These tamarind twigs are burned and are used as coal. Once this process is done kalam i.e., the pen is prepared with a bamboo stick which is sharpened at the edge and a cloth is tied around the stick which acts like a sponge. Ink is absorbed by this sponge. The later painting will be started.

Preparation of Kasimi (Ink):

A black liquid is prepared with iron waste, water, and jaggery. The bamboo stick is dipped in Kasimi and then painted. Because of the liquid, the color comes out black called tanning context.

Colour filling:

The color filling is done so cautiously to avoid color spreading. Initially, the yellow color is filled in the required portions, and then it is followed by green and rose. Finally, the blue color is filled. The color filling is done using tapered-edged Kalam. Kalam is made of bamboo stick but the point is flattered. Natural dyes are used in making this art rather than buying from the market like the dyes are made by extracting from natural sources with no use of chemicals. For example, blue is obtained from indigo, green is derived by mixing yellow and blue together, yellow is extracted by boiling pomegranate peels.

Running water wash:

The cloth is washed in the river as in the case of alum painting and dried on the sand in the same way. Finally, the cloth is soaked in Luke-warm water to remove excess alum and color, it is again washed in flowing water to remove impurities and then ironed which is ready to be sent to the customer.

Kalamkari painting on sarees can take up to 50 days to complete depending on the design and pattern. Running designs are much common in the present times however every master kalamkari artist has their style and creativity to implement various styles of designs and motifs. This is the main reason automation of Kalamkari is not possible.

Total Quality Management in Kalamkari: In the Textile industry quality control or quality, monitoring is practiced right from the initial stage of sourcing raw materials i.e., cotton cloth to the stage of final finished garment. For textile industries and apparel industries product quality is determined in terms of quality and standard of fibres, yarns, fabric construction, colour quality, product designs and the final finished garment products. The Quality Control in Kalamkari is done by first selecting and testing the cloth. This ensures the strength of the material used. Kalamkari work goes through a lot of treatment before and after the painting is completed on the cotton fabric.

  • Quality Control: Quality control is a set of steps or guidelines designed to guarantee that a product or service meets certain performance standards. The quality of the procured cloth is been inspected before processing. The colours used to fill the painting are not substituted with artificial colours, this shows that the artisans are not compromising on Quality of the product and safety of the customers.

  • Cleanability of fabrics: All the impurities are removed, and the unevenness in mordant painting is neutralised by these actions. Prior to boiling, the fabric is opened out and inspected. The fabric doesn’t look gaudy and with each wash the colours shine more and more and the designs stand out better against the background.

  • A tamarind twig is used as a sketch so that it doesn’t break and easy to handle and sketch. A bamboo stick is sharpened and a cloth is tied around the stick which acts like a painting brush.

  • Craftsmen/employee involvement: Unlike other styles of painting, Kalamkari work goes through a lot of treatment before and after the painting is completed on the cotton fabric. Every step from soaking of the fabric to sketching the outlines, to washing and drying the fabric, is done most carefully, cautiously following the exact prescribed manner. The artisans are much involved in the process of making Kalamkari.

  • Location specific: The quality of the finish depends upon many factors, of which the quality of the water used and the availability of local minerals to be used as mordants, are not the least. This has a lot to do with why Kalamkari was centred in the locations like Machilipatnam and Srikalasti.

  • Colourfastness: The cotton fabric acquires its characteristic gloss by leaving it soaked in a mixture of myrabalam (resin) and cow milk for an hour. All textile fabrics change in colour with time from the day they are first finished during production till the day they have outlived their useful life.

  • Cost reduction: Instead of the traditional 4-5 colour process, 2 colour or 3 colour and also single colour design explorations were done to try and reduce time and cost of production. Maximum utilisation of available resource is done.

  • Chemicals free: No chemical dyes are used is producing Kalamkari colours.

  • The process of Kalamkari cannot be automated as it involves different styles and designs.

Conclusion: Contemporary kalamkari techniques show various departures from the past. The demand for the kalamkari fabrics has continued but it needs help from the Government to revive some of the Kalamkari centers. The Kalamkari is now practiced by a number of small families. Today, many kalamkari artists continue to produce items of furnishings and fabrics for the modern market. While these industries cater to new markets with ever-changing innovations. Quality is managed without compromising on the production process because making Kalamkari fabric is a tedious job. Even the work is complex the employee involvement is high.

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