This e-commerce store will bring the allure of North-East to you

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Enigmatic and beautiful, the North-East has always held allure for travellers. Known for its natural beauty and magnificence, the North-East is also famous for its ethnic artifacts and products; the Manipuri Phanek, tribal shawls, bamboo bags, tea and the treacherous Bhut Jholokia come to mind. Everything about the North-East smacks of authenticity. Yet, or perhaps because of this, it has been difficult to access up until now.

Giskaa is set to bring the flavours, beauty and art of the North East to your doorstep. An online marketplace exclusively for North East products, Meghanath Singh came up with this idea to make North-Eastern products more accessible. "Although, I have been living outside of Manipur for the past 23 years, I've always yearned to contribute something to my home state and the North-East," adds Meghanath.

The building blocks

Meghanath says that he’d always wanted to start a company of his own. This desire led him to quit his high paying IT job in July 2014. He says that while he had several business ideas around social, mobile, and cloud technologies, he realised that his calling was different. In mid-2014, Meghanath realised that the e-commerce industry lacked North-Eastern products. "It's a niche market, but I nevertheless decided to give it a shot, and create a platform where artisans from the North-East can showcase their products," adds Meghanath.

There was quite a buzz surrounding eco-friendly products at that time. As Sikkim was going organic at the time too, Meghanath thought that they could position North-East India as a major production area, and a burgeoning centre, for high quality eco-friendly products. The e-commerce venture of Catena Technologies, Giskaa was founded by Meghanath, Surchand and Ratheesh.

The trio met in a unique way; when Meghanath posted on Facebook about his idea, Surchand, a long time friend responded. Surchand had explored the idea and had market analysis ready. Ratheesh in turn, had quit his job and was looking to do something different and joined the duo. As they had no office, the initial days were spent in coffee shops.

Challenges

The initial difficulties the trio faced were convincing partners about the venture, and collecting North-East specific data points. In both August and November of 2014, they set out on North-East tours. They travelled eight states, met artisans in the remotest of villages, and collected data on products, capacity, quality, marketability and logistics. After much hard work, the team was able to obtain a seed round of funding.

More about Giskaa

According to Meghanath, their supply chain and operations form the largest network of North East artisans. He further adds that the site has close to 1600 unique products, which are sourced from more than 100 suppliers and artisans. "We continue to add 60 SKUs every week. We target touching 6000 SKUs in the next six months," adds Meghanath. He also says that more than 70 per cent of the products are exclusive to Giskaa. The website follows a marketplace model of which 50 per cent is inventory led. "Giskaa adds its margin on top of the product cost," adds Meghanath.

Currently, the site sees over 50000 unique user sessions, averaging at 1200 unique visitors daily. Meghanath says that Karnataka contributes to 24 per cent of the traffic, followed by Delhi at 22 per cent, Maharashtra at 19 per cent and West Bengal 10 percent. He also adds that 69 per cent of the site visitors are women.

Market space

With the growing number of e-commerce purchases and sites, many wish to create niches within the clutter today. Whether it's Jaypore, or Tjori, or Kashmiri Box, each one aims to bring out the beauty and ethnicity of each region.

Giskaa aims to launch mobile apps for Android, Apple and Windows devices. They also aim to strengthen and scale their North-East logistics through widening their network. They are looking at a warehouse and fulfillment in Bengaluru.

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