Building A Platform For "The Etsy Of India" (Business)

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Changing the business model from purchasing to a complete marketplace grew business 25% monthly. By Monica Gupta (Founder, Craftsvilla)

The idea of Craftsvilla all started when I took a road trip to Kutch, which is in the rural part of Gujarat India where many artisans and NGOs reside. This was the changing point in my life as I noticed the beautiful high quality products that these artisans are making and just thought to myself “what if the world can see these”.

Instantly, I started brainstorming on how a marketing platform can be made to bring these products globally to consumers. At the same time, I met a bandhani artisan named Soheil and was an awakened even more. He was going to discontinue his profession of doing beautiful ‘tie and dye' as he could not get the right price for his products. This was because he sold to middlemen who did not pay him well and he lost profits as he had no way of going direct to the end consumer.

I felt that traditional art and craft will die and the next generation will have no clue about true Indian colors. I brought Soheil’s products online to Craftsvilla and buyers were appealed be his products.

With e-commerce being a huge space in terms or products, buyers and sellers made me start launched Craftsvilla in December 2010 and started with a business model of purchasing products, merchandising and curating from artisans across India. This includes working with several NGOs that work with 100’s of artisans, such as Gramshree in Gujarat.

We also launched the “Craftsvilla Artisan Fund” which allows people to give donations to artisans and NGOs so that they may develop products and sell them on Craftsvilla. All revenue from this is completely given to the artisan and Craftsvilla only helps with the sale.

After 6 months, around mid-2011, we had a team size of close to 40 people with leaders in all functions. We had also closed our first round of venture funding with Lightspeed Venture Partners and Nexus Venture Partners. Then, with a talented team in place, we saw an opportunity to not only help sell artisanal products but also work with thousands of individuals across India making unique handmade products in jewelry, bags, home décor and much more!

We slowly moved our business model from purchasing to a complete marketplace where each seller, designer or artisan gets a storefront and connects with consumers globally for sales. After the launch of the marketplace in mid-2011, our business started growing 25% monthly in sales as well as customers. We also launched the first studio in the handicraft hub, Jaipur. Studios are small offices that allow individual sellers to go to and get help to get their products online. As many artisans and sellers are not tech savvy, the studios give an additional benefit to them including educational training on how products can be made to better fit market trends.

We now have over 600 sellers with sales to over 20 countries including the US markets where close to 30% of revenues come from. People just love unique products and we have been called the most unique marketplace on the net! Also, it has been great to be compared with ETSY as “the ETSY of India”. We feel that with over 4.1M individual designers and artisans across India, the work has just begun. Our goal is to hit 2000 sellers by end of 2012 and be at over $6M in sales by end of 2013.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Monica Gupta founded Craftsvilla. Prior to Craftsvilla, Monica was actively involved in the handicrafts industry in India for three years. She traveled across India, including remote areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan and built strong relationships with multiple artisans and organizations including Gram Shree, Kalaraksha, Sahaj, Sadhna etc. It was during her travels that she realized that access to markets would be her biggest contribution to the fast collapsing handicraft industry of India.