My work with artisans led to Craftsvilla.com, says co-founder Monica Gupta
We wanted to give a fair deal to the artisans involved in making these products.
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.
Monica Gupta, Co-Founder, Craftsvilla closely interacted with rural artisans and got to know first-hand their work, creative processes and also struggles to stay afloat to be able to earn decent wages for their labour. This helped her cut off the need for middlemen and brings artisans directly in touch with their buyers on her online platform. In an interview with Firstpost, Gupta, 34, talks of her life before plunging into her own venture and her plans for her start-up.
Excerpts from the interview:
You did an MS in accounting from the US. What did you want to do after that?
I got married, went to the US and pursued my higher studies there. I am a professionally qualified Chartered Accountant and have an MS in accounting from San Diego State University, US. Since I came from an accounting background, I chose this subject for my higher studies. Going back to the classroom was a great experience as that meant interacting with students from different countries. It also helped me to have an insight into different cultures across the globe. After completing my studies, I came back to India and travelled extensively, including to some remote areas in Gujarat and Rajasthan. This helped me build a strong relationship with artisans and organizations including Gram Shree, Kalaraksha, Sahaj, Sadhna, among many others.
Did you have plans to start your own venture?
I am from a Marwari baniya family and business runs in my blood. I have always been passionate about arts and crafts of India and wanted to do something to preserve the vast cultural heritage of our country. Before founding Craftsvilla, I was actively involved in the handicrafts industry for three years and this helped me understand the plight of artisans. During a road trip to Kutch, I met many artisans who were selling handmade products at a cheap price. I realised then that what is sold in the market is very expensive because the middlemen cheat the artisans and give them a raw deal. Neither the customer nor the artisan benefits from it. I met some artisans who were contemplating leaving the profession and look for better paying jobs. I wanted to give them their due and this is how craftsvilla.com was conceived in 2011.
How did you validate the business idea? Who funded it?
I brainstormed with my husband, Manoj Gupta who was at Nexus Ventures and has been on the board of several companies such as Snapdeal.com, Sohanlal Commodity management, Deccan Healthcare, etc. Craftsvilla.com was initially funded by our personal savings of Rs 10 lakh and later by external funding from Nexus Venture Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
How did you hit upon the name, Craftsvilla?
We wanted a name that would signify the treasure house of arts and crafts of India and the grandeur associated with it. So Manoj came up with craftsvilla.com
What did you aim to do with it?
The driving force behind our creation was to aggregate the supply of crafts using the power of the Internet to showcase India’s culture and diversity. We wanted to give a fair deal to the artisans who make these products. I am happy with what we have achieved. When we started out, we never thought that it would become this huge in less than five years. We still have a lot of hard work ahead to achieve our dream of bringing all ethnic products and artisans online on craftsvilla.com.
What were the challenges for you, initially?
The biggest challenge we faced during the early days of business was that sellers were very skeptical about selling their products on an online platform. It was hard to convince them that the platform would enable them to reach out to more people. But once operations began and sales picked momentum, more sellers joined us through word-of-mouth promotions.
You have spent time working with artisans. Tell us about that experience.
Artisans are simple people with limited needs. They love what they do. They are generally happy with what they have and enjoy life. Around 80 percent of our sellers are women entrepreneurs, the rest are male artists and NGOs. Our focus is on traditional artisans. We locate them and ask them to join us on our platform to sell their products. We get their products shot in our studio, upload the pictures, and provide warehousing, packaging and dispatch facilities. We also train artisans to manage their own online accounts.
For a new seller, coming on-board is quite easy. All that they need to do is to register on craftsvilla and start uploading products on their own. After a few hours, the products will be live on the site and the transaction with the buyers take place with zero manual intervention from the site.
You have secured multiple rounds of funding.
We have used $50 million towards upgrading technology for a better user experience. We have also used it for marketing and providing a better customer experience.
What were your revenues last fiscal? How much are you expecting it to be in 2016?
Our revenues in the last fiscal were $12 million and we are expecting to touch $100 million in the next fiscal.
What is the most sold and bought item/s at Craftsvilla? What do you shop here?
The most sold item on our site is salwar suits. We showcase a number of products and based on customer choice we promote the category. I shop for costume jewellery, sarees, salwar suits, natural beauty products and home decor very regularly from craftsvilla.com. This also helps me to know different sellers and their quality standards.
How do you unwind?
I like to read and travel to new places. My greatest stress busters are my two daughters and I unwind by playing with them. I also cook quite often. My favourite cuisine is Marwari and Italian. I integrate work with family and find a happy balance.
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