The saree, as a category, clocked an impressive 8.8% annual growth in value terms between 1998 and 2006 to become a Rs 53,459-crore market in 2006, according to an ICRA report quoting statistics from the ministry of textiles. During this period that witnessed the turnaround of the economy, explosion in job opportunities for women and a boom in disposable income for consumers, all other textile categories — shirting, suiting, dress material, readymade garments — reported a decline in growth rate in value terms.

The humble saree today makes up a $12-billion plus market, which accounts for more than one third of total consumption of apparel and household textiles in India.

Debunking conventional theories of consumer behaviour, according to which modern women have dumped their sarees to sport new world apparel, consumption pattern for various household apparel and textiles show that the saree is the only category to have actually accelerated its growth rate during 1998-2006 as against 1993-98.

In fact, in terms of volume growth, saree fares even better. Growth rate in volume terms, which was stagnant at 1.1% during 1993-98, accelerated to 8.4% in the next six years

Though volume growth rate for few other categories such as readymade garments and knitwear also shot up during the corresponding period, sarees clocked the maximum acceleration. Moreover, while knitwear and readymade garments grew at a faster pace than sarees in value terms during 1998-06, their growth rate came off from higher double digit rates of 1993-98.

In some categories like shirting, suiting and dress material there was a decline in both volume and value growth rate pointing towards weakening demand. The sharpest decline in value growth came in suiting(11% to 2%) and dress material(12.6% to 2%).