Developing a platform for rural artisans and bringing in their work to urban areas is indeed a perfect kick-start for a startup. The success story of this startup is also based on this concept when it saw hope in the eyes of artisans hailing from the rural society. Maneet Gohil realized the importance of appreciating the hard-work of artisans and came up with lal10. He has given an edge to the highly motivated skilled people to reach the masses on a larger scale.
Entrepreneur brought in picture the creative vision of Maneet Gohil, founder of lal10 and interacted with him to peep into his entrepreneurial journey.
Journey from education to career
I graduated from Delhi College of Engineering in Electronics & Communications and then worked in consulting for 2 years before doing my MBA from NITIE, Mumbai. I graduated from NITIE and started working in the customer experience strategy team for Flipkart for almost an year before taking up the entrepreneurial plunge.
Finding the right path of entrepreneurship
I am a Gujarati. My father is the only engineer in our family and I followed his footsteps. I am the only MBA from my maternal and paternal sides. Though my father chose to work for a PSU and didn't take the traditional business approach, I have absorbed bizness talks whenever I used to visit my native place during my childhood. Thus entrepreneurship came very naturally to me. In this era of startups, funding, losses, customer acquisitions etc, I still believe that the true entrepreneurs were our elders who used to do businesses in the traditional ways by making a net profit for their home and family.
Striking the right note with the startup
My co-founder Sanchit (batch-mate from DCE, NITIE and Flipkart) and I have a penchant for travelling. We love to explore new places, cuisines, cultures and meet new people. During our travels, we observed various crafts, handlooms in different states. The idea originated in the hostel rooms of NITIE when we worked on the seller and buyer data for such kind of hand-made products. We were amazed to see the huge market potential for these handicraft products in International and domestic markets. To add on, we found that the seller (artisan) data is even humungous (70 lakh). Going through further reports and studies, we found that the handicraft market is fragmented and unorganized. Basic problems like authenticity of a product, right price of the product and customizations were a huge problem. Artisans were exploited by the middlemen whose margins would lie in the range of 300-800% whereas the buyers were cheated with extremely bloated prices and non-authentic goods. We decided to address these traditional problems through our expertise and technology.
Winning the game with name
One thing common in my partner and my travel in Arunachal Pradesh to Andhra Pradesh and Kashmir to Gujarat was the erratic electricity in many craft clusters of our country. The only thing which binds all these artisans was “a lantern” which the artisans deterministically used to make their products. We decided to keep the name as lal10 (Hindi term for lantern. We wanted artisans to recall our brand and feel rejoiced on hearing it; hence we restrained ourselves from keeping a swag name with English words in it.
Key players driving towards success with major business model
We are into a bulk selling model entirely with our website lal10.com as a sample selection portal. We have developed a brand through which we intend to penetrate into multi-brand retail outlets in various tier 1 and tier 2 cities in India with handloom apparel and utility handicraft products from National Award winning artisans and Shilp Gurus. We are also exploring direct selling models with housewives in few metro cities in India. We are in the process of enabling technology to connect 1800+ artisans with buyers from across the globe and facilitate trade between them. Our expansion plan is to break in international bulk markets, tier 1, 2, 3 Indian cities and monetizing from the technology using our own brand.
We have a team of 28 full time and part-time resources now. I, Sanchit and Albin are the promoters of the company.
Looking into the consumer response story
We provide products of the same quality from the same sellers of big companies like FabIndia, Good Earth and other ethnic brands at one fourth of the price. This has led to a rich customer experience and recurrent bulk buyers.
Our recent direct sales initiative in a one gated community in Noida led to havoc when the housewives went crazy over buying our unique Bagh-printed apparel from our sales agent. We sold an inventory of 1.2 lakh in merely 15 minutes. This was insane for us, as we were not prepared for such a positive response. We were planned with a period of 5 days to sell goods.
Inspiration booster for success
My father always firmly believes and influences to lead life and work in a way that you have nothing to lose. In tough and lighter times his quote "don't worry, be happy" resonates my ears and keeps me pushing to pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions. I am a big fan of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk after being inspired by my father.
Golden words of wisdom for beginners
As time passed by, I learnt a lot from my mistakes and grew in a consistent manner. Being focused and self motivated are the key mantras for startup founders. Also, I would say, try to find a solution to a problem rather than running behind funding. If you are really bound to solve a problem, then, definitely funds and growth will follow your steps.
Finding source of motivation and guiding force in family
My family has been very supportive. Leaving a comfortable job and convincing my family was not a very tough task for me. Definitely without their support and confidence, it would have not been possible for me to run lal10.
Interesting moments happened while starting up
Sanchit and I were travelling to a small village of Tharu Tribes which were squeezed between the Nepal border and the Dudhwa National Park. We were in middle of the jungle with a tribal sect with whom it was very tough to communicate. We went there in search of jute bags and jute products which they specialize in. To our surprise, the Tharu tribals were so warm and welcoming to an extent that we didn't face any problem at all. They understood how we operate and were equally excited to work with us. We have been generating an average monthly sale of 25k for them. Their trust on us and hope we saw in their eyes together pushed us to work even harder for the struggling artisans from various craft clusters.
Entrepreneurial journey supported by mentor and biggest learning
Over the course of last 2 years, we have been in constant touch with few industry stalwarts and successful startup entrepreneurs who have been mentoring us in different areas of our business. It has been an immense learning in shaping our vision and aligning every solution for the problem we are solving in one direction.
Business mantra to stay on top in market
For us, it is very important to create value in terms of the products we sell and create MoM growth in terms of GMV and net profits. A productive culture in the office and a great team which believes in your vision is a must for a business to stay ahead in the market.
Overcoming the biggest challenge in the career
The biggest challenge we faced was to get resources which could travel to various nooks and corners of the country when we had no cash with us. With a team of 3 people it was not at all feasible for us to approach every craft cluster and connect with the artisans.
We got a brilliant solution to this problem; we immediately registered our entity as a private limited entity and enrolled in the placement cells for internship in various IITs, NITs, NIFTs and IIMs across the country. We chose our colleges in different states so that our student employees (intern) could travel with ease and on-board the artisans. Within 2 weeks we got 500+ applications and we chose our best 24 first employees.