Kashmir is a brand in itself and there’s no denying the fact that people across the globe associate Kashmir with something exotic. Be it the saffron, the pashmina shawls, the apples or the walnuts. And two young men from Kashmir were puzzled by their observation that the local artisans didn’t want to stay in their traditional trade. What was the reason? Very low margins and the rule of the middlemen (similar to this case).
These two men- Muheet Mehraj and Kashif Khan- connected the dots and came up with Kashmir Box- an eCommerce portal for selling everything 'Kashmir'. One of the eSparks in 2012, Kashmir Box has been growing steadily and is now ready to go out to market completely. “We were not used to the intricacies of the business and it took us a good two years to consolidate but now we are ready to deliver larger volumes,” says Muheet.
Kashmir Box has been operational for more than a year and ships about 15-20 orders everyday with an average ticket size of INR 1300. Completely bootstrapped, Kashmir Box has been operating from the funds they put in initially and the sales from thereon. Kashmir Box focuses on some of the rare products which are difficult to find otherwise and lists close to 1500 SKU’s on the site.
The Bigger Social Angle
This is great but beneath the eCommerce portal lies a bigger value proposition that Muheet and Kashif intend to bring to the society. All the artisans in Kashmir are employed on a daily wages basis and the shawls or the products they make are eventually sold at about 100Xx of what goes to them. KashmirBox aims to bridge this disconnect. “We want this chain to be a fair deal for everyone, the artisans as well as the end customer,” says Muheet. 10% of all the earnings from the business also goes to the welfare of the local artisans. Kashmir Box also has a lot of other activities in mind which they can undertake once they hit a certain scale.
Authenticity is the key
Another huge doubt in the minds of people is the authenticity of the product. There are many cases like Pashmina shawls being made in other parts of the country being branded as Kashmiri. KashmirBox aims to clear up the fog in this area by extending a free of cost service where they’d be able to tell users all across the globe if what they’re using is an authentic Kashmir product. This verification can be done online or be sent over and KashmirBox can do it physically if the need be. In their products as well, KashmirBox wants to make the whole process transparent. “We’ll be uploading the videos of the artisan making the product and then ship it to the customer,” says Muheet. “It is very important for the artisan to grow with us as well. We treat each of our artisans as a micro entrepreneur,” he adds.
Consolidation and the road ahead
KashmirBox has been in the market for a couple of years now and has grown to a team of 12. Ishfaq Mir who runs an incubator is their mentor and the team also received a thrust when they were able to onboard a CMO from reputed MNC.
KashmirBox works on a zero inventory model except for some of the products that have gained traction (mostly gourmet goods for now). They have logistic tie ups with first flight, dtdc and FedEx for their deliveries.
Now that KashmirBox has the house in order, they’d be going all out. They’re also in talks with a couple of investors for a seed round of financing to propel their business. In either case, KashmirBox is in a good space where they can surely sustain the business without entering into the price wars.
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