Wrought By Fire
Beena Kannan took the helms of Seematti, during the most difficult time in her life. Where any woman would’ve crumbled and weakened, she showed nothing but strength and willpower. Beena Kannan had decided from a very young age that she would take forward Seematti no matter what. And when destiny took away Kannan, she herself took over the reigns. She began running the business on the third day of her husband’s demise. Some people awed at her courage, some gaped at her foolishness, some lamented the fate of Seematti in the hands of an inexperienced woman. Beena Kannan took all their breath away – she revolutionized Seematti. No, she revolutionized the whole industry!
Beena Kannan is as tough as they get. She has seen and endured it all. She grew up seeing and facing financial troubles. Her father’s undying dedication to Seematti. His struggles in taking forward the store. She had been through times when the family was drowning in debt. She grew up loving Seematti as much as her family. She joined Seematti as an apprentice at a young age. She even started a boutique ‘Myself’ in Kottayam in the early eighties. This was a boutique for Salwars. Unfortunately, the endeavour was way ahead of its times. In fact, post 1990, the trend of Salwars took Kerala by a storm. When Kannan passed away, she took it upon herself to take forward Seematti. When many ridiculed the sorry state of Seematti’s future in Beena Kannan’s hands, she remained silent. But the fire inside her only burned brighter. She took baby steps. From the financial instability of Seematti, she single-handedly built an empire. Penny-by-penny she saved and spent carefully. She spent hours and years researching and studying the silk history. She took great pains to establish a good rapport with silk traders all over the country. She never shied away from new trends. She embraced them before most and has grown enough to set a few trends herself.
The Holy 'Temple of Silks'
In addition to her extensive research on silk and sarees, Beena Kannan was also aware of how a good shopping experience was paramount in the success of any retail business. She explored the possibilities of providing her customers with a world-class shopping experience. Beena Kannan took from the examples of the best stores across the world and incorporated it into her stores. The visual decor and shopping comfort at Seematti is in par with global standards. Beena Kannan matched apparel quality with customer comfort to exponentially increase the foot-falls at Seematti. She had seen her father’s struggles in building the ‘Temple of Silks’. It took him over 9 years to complete the store. So she was careful about every step that she took. She was with Seematti 24X7. It was this dedication that helped increase Seematti’s shopping convenience area from 5000 sq. ft. to 10 lakh sq. ft. From a single store in Alappuzha, Seematti has now expanded to over 10 Seematti outlets across Kerala. ‘Queen’s Own’ – a boutique for stunning bridal collections, Kids Studio, 16 Plus and Men’s Studio are all various aspects within Seematti, showcasing the diverse collection of apparels for everyone in your family. Since 2005, Seematti has been launching 3 bridal saree lines per year. Beena’s bridal shows are events that fashionists and fashion gurus alike look forward to.
Some of the landmark years of Seematti include 2005, when Shaadi Ki Haveli, a celebration of Indian wedding sarees shook the whole advertising industry, 2006 when Seematti entered the Guiness and Limca book of records for creating the world’s largest hand-woven silk saree (it was 500 meters long), 2007 when Seematti was voted among the top 3 large format stores in India by CNBC – Awaaz Survey and 2010, Seematti centenary year. Beena has a bevy of accoledes and recognitions spread over her 35 year career. ‘Life-time Achievement Award’ from Erode-Coimbatore Weavers’ Community, Business Sree Award of India Trade Fair Foundation, The Women of substance Award of the TOI group in 2010. Also to her credit are the best woman Entrepreneur Award 2010 from Fashion Mantra. Over and above these, she has had several recognitions from the Junior Chamber and Natcon Award 1997. Flagging off the celebration at Kochi, Beena Kannan took the celebration to various Indian metros, the Middle East and USA. The centenary celebration fashion show had Sameera Reddy, Sneha and other celebrity models. The Pravasi Kerala Association of North America at Queens New York and Maryland Washington conferred on her the titles ‘Queen of Silks’ and ‘Excellence in Silks’. Beena Kannan initiated the very first ‘design contest for students of fashion’ called Ensemble in 2014-15. The contestants comprised students from all over the world. The Pearl Academy and St. Teresa’s College are a few of the winners in 2014 & 2015. Beena Kannan’s brainchild concept ‘customer as model’ has entered the 3rd edition in 2016. The communication featuring actual customers lend credibility and authenticity to the Brand Seematti. The Banarrasi – Kancheepuram 2016 compaign involves Seematti’s clients from all around the world. Beena’s Bridal Shows are much awaited events conducted alongside Ensemble, every year from 2014. Celebrities like Mandira Bedi, Urmila Matondker, Sneha, Rima Kallingal, Deepika Padukone, Jacqueline Fernandez, Liza Haydon, Sameera Reddy and Sonali Bendre have been either ambassadors or show-stoppers in Seematti’s communication and Fashion shows from 2006-2015. Kamala Das (Madhavikutty) wrote on Beena “She has institutionalized textile retailing in South India like no other. Subrato Bagchi of Mindshare considers Seematti a case study material in successful retail scaling up. Prema Manmadhan of ‘The Hindu’ considered her, the fashion ‘Trendometer’, in bridal sarees.
The Many Shades of
The growth of the Silk Empire in India can be attributed to a handful of people, and Beena Kannan is one among them. She is determined, fierce, caring, noble and artistic, all at the same time. There is only mantra she goes by ‘To not chase success. It will come to you if you are passionate about what you do.’The Queen has always been level-headed in her life. She has kept her cool through the most stressful periods of her life. All the while, in her hectic life, she has been careful to take along everything she loved – her family, Seematti, painting and dance. She performed her Arangettam at the age of 42, when most dancers slow down. She has been proving time and again that age, gender nor religion is a wall to your dreams. There is nobody stopping you but yourself.