Shipping Indian Essence Through Handicrafts To The World
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You all must be aware,how important handicrafts sector is for the Indian economy. It is one of those sectors, that generates a huge amount of employment opportunities and accounts for a significant share in the country’s exports.
Indian handicrafts industry is fragmented, with more than 7 million regional artisans and more than 67,000 exporters/export houses, promoting regional art and craftsmanship in the domestic and global markets.
If we look at the figures, according to the provisional data available, the exports of handicrafts have shown an increase of `2091.26 crores, from `16989.51 to `19080.77 crores, which is an increase of 12.31 increases (write the duration in which these changes have happened).
Sensing the opportunity and inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make In India’ campaign, Karma Bhutia, founded- iShippo.com. It not only promotes handcrafted ‘Make in India’ products but also includes promotion of this cultural heritage and that of its keepers i.e. traditional handloom artists and craftsmen.
This startup is an online eCommerce marketplace, where people around the world connect to make, sell and buy handcrafted goods.
In just one year of its existence (started in April 2015), iShippo has managed to become one of the leading Indian eCommerce company, which is dedicated to export handicraft all over the world.
They have partnered with organizations like Central Cottage Industries Corporation (CCI), Digital empowerment Foundation (DEF), Craftmark, Indian Handloom & Cauvery Handicrafts, BanglaNatak, Rural Crafts Hub - West Bengal, Ministry of Textiles - Government of India in a very short span of time.
With the mission to honour and support artisans/craftsmen, iShippois creating a sustainable way of doing business, while using the power of Internet and eCommerce, to bring together communities and empower people.
Entrepreneur India caught up with Karma Bhutia, to understand his business model and why did he choose this sector to kick-start his journey.
How was the idea of your Startup conceptualized?
I’ve been in the IT industry for over 2 decades. I’ve seen a lot in those years. In 2004, I co-founded an IT services company and by March 2015 my company got acquired. We had built a reputation for ourselves by building a lot of cool stuff for many established companies like Apple, HP, SAP, Dell & startups like Cleartrip, HolidayIQ, TaxiForSure etc.
I wanted to create something valuable and sustainable and that’s how iShippo.com started. Initially, we started by trying to solve the logistic challenge, that prevails in our country, but we quickly realized that there were many security & regulatory hurdles that needed to be resolved, before we could open it up to the public, and that’s when we pivoted into the marketplace for handcrafted product,s because we realized that it allows us to vertically integrate a completely underserved market and we had the right skills, tools and the execution prowess to serve this market.
How did you come up with the name ‘ishippo.com’? Is there any interesting story behind it?
iShippo.com, the name originated from Logistics and Hippocampus - the elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain, thought to be the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system. But it didn’t originate from I SHIP Products Online like some people want you to believe.
Tell us about your Business Model? How do you make money?
We partner with artisanal communities, textile designers, and independent artists to showcase their creations. We believe in sharing stories and celebrating how each handmade object can come to represent something much bigger than itself.
As a marketplace, we curate unique products from fun jewellery and cool accessories to creative home decor and kitchen items. Everything we carry is handmade and often one-of- a kind that provides aesthetics and function. These products have an element of individual craft, manual skill, or handwork.
Have you raised any funding so far? If yes, than how did you managed to attract the investors?
I have raised $150,000 from contributions by family and friends and have personally invested quite a bit. Having launched the operations and having partnered with Ministry of Textiles - Government of India, we have been tasked out with a huge mandate and will start raising a Series A round to spruce growth and build fulfilment capacity.
Investors are attracted primarily at the business and what we are trying to do in the space that we operate in. We are an ambitious, motivated and gritty bunch of people, who are creating a business that will provide value to our stakeholders, sellers, buyers, artisans, designers and investors.
Is there any learning from your entrepreneurial journey that you would like to share with our readers?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that a good team can lead you to success and a bad one to failure. Your team needs to be productive and efficient and you need to cultivate and hire A Players. You must work with a team with common vision and goals to smell success.
Who has been your mentor in your entrepreneurial journey?
I’ve been fortunate to have mentors all through my life, my parents and teachers for starters. I’ve been fortunate to know Prashant Prakash of Accel who has been a friend, philosopher, and guide and has always been there to provide critical thinking and sound advice.
Is there any particular business fundamental that you strongly believe in and would never want to change?
We are committed towards supporting artisans/craftsmen, creating a sustainable way of doing business/commerce, while using the power of Internet and eCommerce to bring together communities and empower people.
You must have come across certain hurdles while starting up. So according to you what has been your biggest challenge so far?
One of the biggest challenges was dealing with an unorganized sector on the supply side, which was patronized by folks who don’t purchase unless they can touch or feel these products.
As a startup, there are a lot of moving parts when venturing out on your own: acquiring customers, acquiring sellers, balancing the marketplace (supply/demand), customer satisfaction, social media, marketing, etc. In my opinion having basic knowledge on best practices in these is crucial to running your business on a day-to-day operation but you still have to hire A players who are dedicated to their craft.
Keeping all that in mind you should coach yourself to ‘Never Give Up’.
What are your future plans in term of scaling up?
Our current path is to continue improving our platform, our technology, our outreach to designers, artisans, sellers and buyers. Our focus is on the export market too, as the export sector is more organized, compared to the domestic market. The audit on the quality assurance of products is easier. Our future path is an exciting mystery as we are building something very exciting.
Have you experienced any changes in yourself since the day you started the business till now?
As a startup, you are always on the edge. You feel most of the heavy lifting has to be done by you. However, you should hire a great team of people who will be able to lift the load with you and share a common vision.