Rakesh Sonava, Nethaat: E-commerce platform for handmade items


YourStory in conversation with entrepreneur Rakesh Sonava about the business idea behind Nethaat, an online store for handmade & designer items

Rakesh, introduce us to the concept of Nethaat.

Nethaat is an interactive online marketplace for handmade items. Artisans, artists, designers and homemakers creating handmade & designer items can open their online store within minutes on the Nethaat platform with no setup/initial cost and start selling their products in minutes.

How is Nethaat different from other online handmade item/designer stores? What are your flagship offerings?

Nethaat has been a pioneer in the handmade marketplace in india and has received a very good response. We have tried to encourage the seller to experience e-commerce in a simple and safe manner with no initial investment. Every individual in this space can become an entrepreneur with an online presence if he/she has the creativity. Essentially, it’s about empowering them with tools to go online with ease through simple steps.

Some of the innovative features on nethaat which makes it unique are:

(a) Haating

This is a place for a seller to offer his products to be negotiated as we do in our physical markets.

(b) Locker

Any seller offering his unique creations, who wants some of his designs not to be displayed to the public, can display or sell from this space. The seller generates the password and can share it with  only those who he/she wants to showcase to.

(c) My Workshop

This is a place for the seller to develop any customised order, where both buyer and seller interact with facility of uploading files and sellers’ ability to generate links for deferred payments as desired.

We have created an animated tutorial in 17 national and international languages explaining Nethaat’s features. There is also an auto currency converter which displays the currency of any item as per country’s IP address.

Sellers get their own shops’ gift cards, discount coupons and their own subdomain name. For Indian sellers, we have introduced free shipping and COD (cash on delivery).

How did the business idea for Nethaat come about?

We had this Nethaat domain name for more than 3 years. We wanted to replicate the Haat (Marketplace) system on the internet. Delhi’s popular Delhi Haat for handicrafts helped us in zeroing in on the name. The name itself defines the specific area of the market we are addressing to. Since the concept of marketplace in handicraft space was new in India, we had many apprehensions. We brainstormed, scraped few models and fixed on the existing model in 2010 and started working on the project dedicatedly, with the investment coming from our savings.Tell us about your background.

I am a supply chain/operations professional with work experience in India and Canada in techno-commercial, IT and distribution domains. My entrepreneurial passion, along with my co-founder Roshan Agarwal’s vision, has helped us in effectively converting our ideas into a handmade item e-commerce platform.

How has the response to Nethaat been?

The concept has generated a very good response from both sellers and buyers. Sellers are trying to experience the newest medium of selling their own handmade items and making it visible. One of the artisans on our platform enquired about the process and within a couple of days, contacted us again saying that he had bought a new computer with internet and wanted us to teach him to open his shop on Nethaat. That was very heartening for all of us here at Nethaat. Recently, Nethaat was also covered by the international media through the news agency AFP.

Where do you see the handicraft space, the e-commerce domain and Nethaat five years from now?

Handicraft and handmade items constitute a major portion of interiors and can be seen all around us here in India. E-commerce in this space is taking off in India and specifically with many players gradually entering the space and sellers’ readiness to offer unique items online, this space is ready to explode.

If you scroll through Nethaat sellers’ offerings, you will find many items and designs not seen at a single place online on the web. We want to make this a landmark for anyone wanting to scroll, purchase or admire any kind of handmade and designer items before taking any decision.

We would gradually encourage sellers to sell the select items to various offline retail channels and as FDI opens up in the near future, we will see a jump in requirements from retail giants from this category, which will benefit small and medium businesses.

What is Nethaat’s revenue model? Have you been funded?

We haven’t been funded. The founders have contributed from their savings to put up this platform. Presently, Nethaat’s revenue model is from commission on sales and sales of package for sellers. In the Basic account, sellers get a lifetime space of 25 items and get charged 3.5% after seller has sold the product. In upgrade accounts, the seller pays of fixed amount of Rs.350 per month. There are other packages as well.

What are the challenges that you faced while developing Nethaat? How did you overcome those challenges?

Every phase of the development has been a learning experience. In India, the items in this category are being sold mostly in offline mode. This space definitely required an online medium where buyers directly connect with the sellers. In the initial days when we started to offer the platform to sellers, they had all kinds of fears about this online platform. We had to talk to them personally and help them in each step of opening the store and sometimes, even in clicking photographs of their products. To meet these challenges, we appointed full time customer support executives in 4 cities - Delhi, Calcutta, Jaipur and Ahmadabad and we are in process of adding people in more cities.

Another challenge that we faced was the Indian rupee payment system for sellers at Nethaat. We analyzed the situation and talked to many people in this space. But we could not find any cost effective solution for this kind of marketplace. We have finally developed our own payment system as per RBI guidelines with zero initial cost and a nominal transaction cost. We are in testing phase and would be launching it shortly.

How big is the team behind Nethaat? Are you looking at hiring?

We are a team of 12 people, including the co-founders. We have people with experience in Marketing, IT, SEO, supply chain and customer support. We are always open to adding resources to our team. We’d be looking at passionate people having entrepreneurial capabilities who are ready to learn and help others.

Tell us about your journey so far. Where do you see Nethaat going in the days to come?

We launched the platform in January 2011 and have more than 450 sellers online. We have more than 2000 members. We are in our beta version and we would be going out of beta shortly with a campaign to spread the word about Nethaat.

We have members from all over India and other countries. Nethaat’s model is definitely scalable. We would like to see this venture grow as a community for people to sell and buy handmade creations on Nethaat’s platform from across the globe.

We at YourStory wish Rakesh and the entire team at Nethaat much success. To know more, check out www.nethaat.com. Also, do share with us your views on this story by writing to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 22nd July 2011 | Bangalore