Kolhapuri chappals, Chanderi cottons, Channapattna toys and Kanchipuram silks: each is a renowned product that shed light on the place it originated from. It is to bring easy access to unique handmade, organic and ethnic products that 'exqzt' was born. The idea behind exqzt is to not only connect with individual artisans but also with the NGOs and manufacturers who help such artisans earn a living.
Birth of the idea
The idea came to Avinash Vanpal when he was strolling around Bengaluru. "I noticed an artisan’s family selling beautiful jute products that made many heads turn. Later that week, a few colleagues wanted a pair of Kolhapuri chappals from my upcoming visit to my hometown, Pune," says Avinash.
These incidences led him to realise the definite need to create an online platform that connects artisans and merchants with people looking for their exquisite wares. After discussing the idea with his friend Anil Kadam, the duo launched exqzt.
Model that exqzt follows
Currently, exqzt follows an inventory model; the marketplace model will be operational in the next two months. In the next quarter or so, they intend to launch procurement hubs, located in the key craft cluster.
This will not only help solve supply chain problems, given the geographical diversity of the handicraft industry, but it will also double as a training hub. This is will be a place for training on digital adoption, marketing and other important aspects of selling online and creating eco-friendly products for artisans, Avinash says.
Challenges and team planning
While travelling across India in search of local crafts, one problem that stood out amongst artisans was low digital adoption. This is why they are unable to promote their products to the global audience and earn a decent livelihood. This, Avinash says, was a big stumbling block to launching a marketplace model.
"We are planning to build our team starting next month, wherein we would hire four to six people who would help in customer support, sales and seller network expansion," he adds.
Traction and future plans
Launched in September 2015, exqzt currently showcases over 20 crafts. The team claims that the site's traffic has been increasing over 40 per cent every month, but it sees a less than one per cent conversion rate.
"At this stage, we are focussed on building a robust marketplace platform that helps artisans with digital adoption, and global reach of Indian handmade and ethnic products," adds Avinash. Currently bootstrapped, the team is working on new capital infusion to fuel planned phase growth, which includes expanding seller network, product variety, procurement hubs and aggressive marketing and brand building.
The 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 aims to bring out the beauty and ethnicity of each region.
According to an SBI Research report, the e-retailing, which comprises online retail and online marketplaces, has become the fastest-growing segment in the larger market, having grown at a CAGR of around 56 per cent during 2009-14. The e-retail market was around $6 billion in 2015.
“Our research indicates that only by considering the discount prices and that too for a select group of products, CPI inflation would be at least 25 bps lower than the actual CPI numbers,” SBI Research said in its Ecowrap report.