A Saga of Needle and Thread
Scroll through the pages of our Coffee Table Book which details the origin, evolution, and legacy of brand P N RAO spanning 100 years. Authored by Aliyeh Rizvi and filled with memorable stories and anecdotes, the book brings out such nuances that have helped shape the history of the brand.
What qualities and values ensure successful entrepreneurship? How are heritage brands made? How does a family business survive and thrive in today’s fast-paced world, with dynamic markets and a demanding clientele to cater to? What role does memory play in archiving brand history?
This commemorative volume, ‘A Saga of Needle and Thread’ takes a closer look at these questions through the brand history of P N RAO, a leading menswear heritage brand in Bengaluru, as it celebrates its centennial year. It is told primarily through oral histories —long-forgotten stories, memories and anecdotes contributed by members of the family, staff and employees, vendors, business associates and long-term clients and partners, and accompanied by evocative text and images.
The story begins in 1923, when its founder, a young man named Pishe Narayan Rao (initially spelt as the colonial ‘Row’) emerges from humble beginnings as a tailor from the Marathi-speaking Bhavsari Kshatriya community and goes on to set up a haberdashery store on the South Parade (present day MG Road) in the Bangalore Cantonment, a colonial military station. It traces the growth of P N RAO by locating it in the business history of Bengaluru and viewing it through a unique lens—a period of Maratha occupation in Bengaluru in the seventeenth century, the early history of the Marathi-speaking communities, including the Bhavsar Kshatriyas and their presence in Bengaluru, the back-story of Bengaluru and its subsequent growth into a textile hub, the building of the nineteenth century Bangalore Cantonment, a British military station, and the evolution of the South Parade as a retail hub and high-street where their flagship store was established a hundred years ago.
Clearly, this is an exciting story of inspirational entrepreneurship that is shaped by patience and perseverance, experiences and choices, setbacks and triumphs, as well as ground-breaking events in world and city history such as the World Wars and India’s Independence that, unknown to many, had a direct impact on India’s retail and fashion history. It is crafted by a series of events, choices and personal qualities, losses and success, courage and conflicts that interlace with the hitherto unexplored fashion, retail and social history of the Bangalore Cantonment to create one grand narrative. Along the way, this warm and personal story, also highlights several unparalleled achievements—not only does P N RAO operate from its original location even today, but it has also remained a hereditary business that is currently helmed by the third generation in his family.
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