Rajasthan’s handicrafts have been an integral part of its rich culture and heritage. Popular with both domestic and international tourists and markets, the demand for these handicrafts has been growing over the years. However, it has been observed that the artisans rarely reap any benefits. Lack of proper marketing, distribution chain and high margins of the middlemen have forced many artisans to give up their age-old craft.
Shilp Mantra, an online portal showcasing traditional Indian handicrafts, aims to change the plight of the artisans. Shilp Mantra was founded in May 2013 by three partners, Lokendra Ranawat, Virendra Ranawat and Sandeep Gaur, and is based in Udaipur. All three are natives of Rajasthan and have a combined experience of over 20 years at the crossroads of business relations and internet marketing.
SocialStory spoke to Lokendra Ranawat to know more about their work.
Here are edited excerpts.
Connecting seller & buyer directly
In our interaction with local artisans we realized these age-old crafts would become extinct if the artisans gave them up for other menial jobs. The crafts can be saved and artisans can earn a decent livelihood if they are exposed to the right customer base. Shilp Mantra provides an online platform bridging this gap between the artisans and potential handicrafts buyers.
We work with artisans to prepare product descriptions and showcase their products on our portal. We also organize training sessions and workshops for local artisans to make them aware of new market trends and designs. It helps them to produce handicrafts aligned with the current market demands. Artisans who were selling their products locally at very low prices are able to earn higher margins using our portal.
Challenge worth taking
We have traveled to around 300 villages, gathered product pictures, explained Shilp Mantra’s model to the artisans and got them on board. We have been able to connect with more than 200 rural artisans so far and have received more than 20,000 orders till date. Shilp Mantra has more than 3000 visitors every day from more than 60 countries. In eight months, we have had a turnover of over Rs. 70 lacs. We keep a 15 percent marketing expense and rest of the money is shared with artisans directly.
Reaching out to artisans in remote rural areas and maintaining the much needed constant communication with them is challenging. But today we are directly connected with them bypassing any middlemen. We have an in-house team of 45 full time professionals, including product designers, social media and internet marketing experts. We are planning to expand our operations offline as well. We are looking forward to getting in touch with artisans from other states and implementing a custom product designing strategy in the near future.