While offline retailers benefit from Flipkart and Amazon by putting up their products online, rural craftsmen and artisans are left behind. A great deal of talent comes from the rural part of the country, which is often unappreciated and underpaid mainly due to lack of education and options. The involvement of brokers and middlemen contributes to the cause and worsening conditions of these workers. Siva Devireddy, founder of GoCoop, is working hard to bring justice for the craftsmen and rural cooperative societies by helping them sell their products online, thus eliminating the role of middlemen and brokers.
Talking about why he started, Devireddy says, “I was more focused on seeing how we can support the livelihoods of rural producers. The key challenges the producers faced was in access to markets and also market-related information. The produce sold at Rs 10 by the producer is finally sold to the consumer at Rs 30-50 by the retailers. There is 3-5X price difference across the value chain where producers get very small part of the margin. Producers in sectors like agriculture and crafts are fairly unorganised, which compounds the problem further.”
Before starting GoCoop, Devireddy worked with Accenture, where he headed many CSR initiatives, which in some ways strengthened his resolve to do something for artisans. After pondering over this concept for over two years, he finally quit his job and started over full-time.
However, his journey wasn’t smooth, and he had to face his own set of challenges. His initial challenge was to interact and understand the complexities of working with cooperative societies and rural weavers- To make them understand the concept of computers and online selling. But, he didn’t give up.
Devireddy says, ”We spend lot of time in conducting awareness sessions. We, now, see good interest and adoption for online commerce from the producers/weavers.
“The other challenge was in developing a team that was passionate about doing e-commerce for the social sector. This is a really tough job, and finding and building a team that could apply itself to this task is challenging. We could build a strong team over the last 2 years. “
Their team operates at regional clusters around the country, and goes on to conduct awareness meetings and generate interest in the people about computers and e-commerce. Once artisans and cooperative societies join the marketplace, their profile is created and the products are listed on the site. As they receive an order, they reach out to the producers and then ship it after inspecting the product.
At present, over 40% of their customers are based out of India, and they have a track record of less than 1% return or delivery issues. Their main revenue comes from subscription fees and commissions they charge on products sold through their website. Currently, their portal boasts of 10,000 products and 170 sellers.
Other e-commerce platforms like CraftsVilla are also working in this sector, and there are high chances that big players like Flipkart and Amazon also get into this. However, reaching artisans in rural India might prove slightly difficult for them in the early stage, which could also lead to the some of the niche players getting acquired given the fact that they generate enough traction.