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A Souvenir For King George V
When King George V visited India, he stopped over at Madras. It was decided that a hand-crafted Kanchipuram Silk Saree would be gifted to him as a souvenir from Tamil Nadu, and Mr. Chinnasami Chetty was chosen for this prestigious occasion. As the occasion coincided with the King's coronation, Mr. Chetty wove a rich silk saree with a special border which he named 'Durbar Pet', or the 'Coronation Border'. At Nalli, Durbar Pet sarees are available even today, on special request.
Shades of Change
In 1921, when a Swiss pharmaceuticals firm named Geigy wanted to test the market its chemical dyes and replace vegetable dyes, weavers were reluctant. All except Nalli Chinnasami Chetty. He dared to change, and others followed soon, opening the doors to a myriad of colours.
Madras Calling
By 1928, the famed Kanchipuram weaver, Chinnasami Chetty, was visiting Madras twice a week. As an astute businessman, he decided Thyagaraja Nagar near Mambalam station would be his residence and depot. He later assigned his son-in-law, Mr. P. Lakshmiah Chetty, to manage the deliveries from Kanchipuram, while he managed the retailing front. The rest, as they say, is history.
Standing strong during World War II
In 1939, as World War II raged all around, the air was filled with despair. Frightened by imminent bombing and armour rolling in, terrified citizens cleared the city. Hundreds of businessmen shut shop and relocated. The Madras High Court shifted to Holy Angels School in Pondy Bazaar, T Nagar. Amidst all the pandemonium, however, one business remained open: Nalli. People from all over Madras came to Nalli for any purchase, however small. It was this dedication that permanently etched the Nalli name into the hearts of the people of Madras, forever transforming it into not just a saree shop, but a symbol of the city’s defiance.
A Saree for the Legend
One crisp summer morning in 1951, the late M.S. Subbalakshmi, one of the greatest names Carnatic music has ever known, walked into a Nalli store with a blue thread in her hand. The thread was of a particular shade of blue, one that she wanted a saree fashioned out of. As that particular color was not commercially available, Nalli experimented with dyes in their own workshops and true to Nalli's reputation, she got her wish fulfilled by an exquisite Kanchipuram silk saree in a unique shade of blue. From then on, that particular shade came to be known as MS Blue.
The Queen's Coronation
For the coronation of Queen Elizabeth – II, Mr. V.A.K. Raghu of Royal Insurance was invited for the occasion. Thrilled by the invite, he decided to get something extra special as a gift for her majesty. He gifted India's finest silk saree, woven by Nalli.
Passing the baton
It was time for the new generation to take charge. Mr. Kuppusami Chetty, the grandson of Nalli Chinnasami Chetty, rose up to the occasion and entered the family business. Keeping with the dedication towards quality and customer satisfaction, Mr. Kuppusami Chetty decided to do away with discounts. This was done as a measure to always offer goods at affordable prices for different economic groups, without compromising on quality.
A household name
Nalli came to be known as the ultimate destination for wedding sarees. People traveled from smaller cities and towns to Chennai to buy silk sarees and dhotis for weddings and other important occasions. Nalli became a household name that customers trusted for high-quality silk sarees.
Yes, Prime Minister
Politics never looked so elegant after Indira Gandhi made handloom the sartorial language of India. The late Prime Minister visited Nalli in Chennai and showed her love for Kanchipuram Silks.
Embracing Technology
Nalli became the first textile retailer to use barcodes and computerized billing systems. This revolutionary move paved way for ease of doing business and for serving the customers better.
The Second Store
With more and more customers coming in, word of mouth made people travel from near and far to buy a Nalli saree. As loyal customers increased, so did the demand for Nalli to step out of Chennai and look for new areas to serve the customers. Thus, Nalli opened their next store in Madurai.
Delhi Durbar
After establishing a name in south India, it was time to move up north. For this, Nalli held an exhibition-cum-sale in New Delhi to test the north Indian market. Today, the stores in Delhi are a favorite shopping destination for saree lovers.
Silken Singapore
It was also the time Nalli to serve their customers outside the country. The first step in this direction was setting up a store in Singapore, where the large Tamil Diaspora welcomed the store with open arms.
2000 and beyond
The Way Forward
With a growing number of loyal customers, Nalli has opened its stores across major cities in India and also in the US. Keeping in mind the needs of saree lovers across the globe, Nalli introduced its online portal. Just like in the stores, the online portal showcases an extensive collection of sarees woven using the highest-quality fabrics. Customers who do not have a Nalli store in their city can shop online and get quality sarees delivered to their doorstep.