Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.
Shilpa Sharma, co-founder, Jaypore, a premium online store that focuses on traditional Indian handicrafts, focuses on everything that is Indian and has a few ventures showcasing handicrafts, travel, with food being her latest foray.
Starting her career in an advertising firm, she soon quit as she found the job not to her liking. Opting to work with brands and then later with Fabindia, the Indian chain of stores that retails garments to ethnic products made by rural craftmen, opened her to her own capabilities. Sharma traverses various genres geared to fulfil her dreams for each one of them.
Catching up with Sharma as she took a pause between her hectic schedule, she reveals how she was determined early on in life not to give in to people’s expectations of her. “I don’t like to be boxed in,” she says.
Growing up in a conservative Punjabi family where a girl was groomed for marriage, Sharma decided that was the path she would avoid. So even as she was being shepherded to follow the traditional line of marriage, she chose to create forks on her path by pursuing studies and getting equipped for a career. “I think after a point my parents gave up,” she says laughing. The determination to do it her way and not buckle in to societal pressures took her to new vistas that she had not charted on her journey.
“Heading product development and buying for FabIndia, I realised that I was good at driving the business,” she says, adding that when her dreams got bigger than her shoe, she decided to risk security for freedom. “We have only one life, and there is so much to do. It required a paradigm shift, which I realised I was ready for,” she says.
Jaypore was co-founded with Puneet Chawla, few friends and an angel investor with Rs 2 crore. It was launched in August 2012 . “What prompted us to create a brand like Jaypore was our shared vision of how we could present Indian, craft based designs in a contemporary application, one which would appeal to a domestic and global audience as much,” says Sharma.
When it was time to choose a name for her first venture, the co-founders were unanimous about naming it Jaypore, India’s 'most beautiful city'. Jaypore was launched with an iPad-only shopping experience and the website went live later and was connected to the rest of the world in January 2013. The start-up curates the work of craftsmen, designers and other producers, and works largely on a Sale or Return (SOR) model, showcasing a collection for up to two weeks. It also curates it own in-house label apparel and personal care products.
Most of the traffic is driven from metro cities with people showing a preference for sarees, shawls, apparel and jewelry. “All of our sales promotion and marketing initiatives are in the social media /digital space, so we don’t reach out to areas with limited or no connectivity,” says Sharma.
Jaypore has been profitable from the start. “We have always been able to pay our bills,” says Sharma. The company's revenues have crossed the four figure mark," say media reports.
With a slew of online and offline stores selling crafts and arts of India, the biggest challenge says Sharma are the scarce resources leading to an inability to invest in product, technology and marketing as well as a very high customer acquisition cost. “Deep discount driven marketplaces rule the roost, and that makes it difficult for niche players who are focussed on quality and experience to get visibility," she says.
Another issue that is gnawing for Jaypore is their inability to give customers a ‘touch and feel’ experience of what the brand has to offer. “We are a brand which happens to be online just now, as we grow, omni channel is the way to go,” says Sharma outlining her future plans.
Sharma’s hobbies are her other business ventures. She has founded Breakaway, a venture which plans and executes bespoke experiential journeys around India. Her latest is Mustard (named after the favourite condiment of the Bengali cuisine), a concept restaurant in Goa, that offers Bengali and French Cuisine. As if all these don’t keep Sharma busy, she also finds time to paint, cook, read and do photography too. “That makes me see things in a different light, pun fully intended,” says Sharma.