When Sanjay Rajan ’11 (EMBA) wants to discuss new product designs with his manufacturer, he uses Skype to video chat with his handloom weaving partner in Hyderabad, India. The master weaver shows Rajan the latest product prototypes created by members of his co-operative, each imbued with a unique hue or pattern.
“Although our vision is to create a global brand, we work locally to sustain natural dyeing traditions,” Rajan says. “The focus is on ‘conscious comfort,’ which means high quality products created with passion and consciousness. Instead of having many products, we aim to shift consumer behavior to having fewer products that last a lifetime.”
These ideas led to Slowcolor, a sustainable lifestyle company that Rajan already had in mind when he started business school. After honing his plan in the School’s EMBA-Global Program, Rajan and his wife launched the company in April 2011, just one month before graduation. Slowcolor sells naturally dyed, handcrafted linen products, currently offering scarves online and in 25 stores throughout the United States, with plans to expand to men’s and women’s clothing and home furnishings. The company’s reach is expanding, too: Slowcolor recently made its first sales in Japan, is in talks with a major US catalog company, and is looking to enter European and Middle Eastern markets as well.
The fair-trade products are reflective of Rajan’s overall approach to business, molded in part by his time as a consultant for environmental organizations before he pursued his global executive MBA program. “I felt it was very important to look at the integrated bottom line of planet, people, and prosperity,” Rajan says. “I want to build a business that is sustainable in economic, social, and environmental terms.”
Slowcolor follows this philosophy to the smallest details: the company intends to reduce and eventually eliminate plastics in the supply chain, ensure that local workers are paid living wages, share profits with its manufacturing partners, and as the company product line expands, “upcycle” leftover material into children’s or pets’ toys.
“Values and ethics are so important, yet we many times lose sight of that,” Rajan says. “We think at Slowcolor, we are setting the tone for a different kind of company, a different way of doing business.”