Online businesses are not new and neither are handmade products, but a symbiotic enterprise that benefits both makers and sellers is news to me. Aside from promoting indigenous cultures and their products Pallavi Keshri also ensures that a chunk of the profits find its way back to the artisan unlike most others.Yourstory learnt more about Pallavi’s venture www.eyaas.com and the impact they have on the handmade goods industry.
How does your company source and sell its products?
Eyaas is an online platform for selling hand made goods from global producers. We source our products from non-profits, community organizations and producer groups that use handcrafts for income generation and we also work with small independent producers, providing an online platform for retail and exports to the international market. We are looking at market expansion as a tool for sustainable development. Each handmade product has a life and culture behind it. We work to maintain traditions and a sense of pride in indigenous cultures. What you see is a shop with products but what we sell is culture.
What is different about the business model you are using?
At a very basic level our business is nothing new – we are an online store and we sell handmade goods. We are differentiated by our producers - we buy/stock products from non-profits, guilds, producer groups and independent artisans and sell them online to individual customers. We also give back a part of our profits to the producer organization/artisan which are used towards developmental activities like education and health. This is phase one of our business.
How do you plan to scale-up and where?
There are several levels or scaling that we are looking at (the scope is so immense). We want to enlist anywhere between 40- 50 organizations/artisans across a range of products from India & SE Asia. We are also in talks with organizations in SE Asia and Africa to increase our product offerings from different regions of the world. We hope to have at least 10 international organizations on our panel within the next 3 months.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. I think it’s genetic. I did my 9-5 stint for a good 7-8yrs, which was never really 9-5, either starting or ending. Had way too many ideas and experiments which is not really conducive to large and established organizations. But I enjoy commerce and business as an endeavor. I strongly believe in its ability to drive change and my own set up allows me to work things and experiment to my heart’s content.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a start up?
The biggest challenge is cash flow. For any start-up but more so for one like ours where we are dealing with small producers, paying cash upfront is a need because it is a question of survival. Which essentially restricts spending in other critical areas like manpower and this makes it difficult to employ people on a paid basis. Volunteering is great and it has helped us tremendously so far but to increase efficacy, getting the right set of people on board for the right price is difficult.
What kind of recognition has your company garnered?
We are a young organization right now and we are working towards exposing a whole world of potential and change. We have been asked by a Rwanda based organization for support in developing their business side and help them sell their products internationally. We have also been asked to partner as a host for the first global “webbed socent event” starting September 10. Delhi will be hosting one of the first in a series (along with Brussels and Denver) of events from September through December 2010. Cosi10 www.cosi10.com
What makes you love the journey of entrepreneurship?
I love the journey and the process of creation. I enjoy “dirtying my hands” so to speak, the challenges are invigorating. I think it is a very personal thing. At heart I am an anarchist. I like rules as long as I can break them or I am setting them. I am not very good at following them. I like the independence and the freedom. There are no limits. In my current scope of work, I am absolutely enthralled by the difference it makes in the lives of the people I am working with. It is humbling and it makes me keep things in perspective.
What goals do you want to achieve in the coming 2 years?
In the coming 2 years, on the consumer end, we will consolidate our presence in the US and UK Market. Even though we deliver globally we will focus on these major markets. On the supply and sourcing side, we will definitely have foot-prints across all continents of the southern hemisphere – Latin America, Africa, South-East Asia and South-Asia.
What lessons should a budding entrepreneur learn before starting their journey?
You can learn from the mistakes of others or you can make your own. As humans we tend to learn by doing – so don’t be afraid to make mistakes because a wise man (I think it was a woman) once said, there are no mistakes only lessons.
What entrepreneurial pressures do we Indians face?
As Indians we are very risk averse as a race so the social pressures are huge, especially if you choose to decline a “bright and stable future” for one of high risks and maybe some returns. This makes Indian entrepreneurs deal with tremendous social pressures. On the business side, the infrastructure can be a lot more simplified to make it easier for people to start businesses. It should be simple – a one stop shop for all registrations. Right now company registration is a bit of a tedious process. India is a country in transition and the infrastructural issues will change but it is a challenge for the moment.