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How this couple plans to take Indian artisans to the rest of the world

Tausif Alam
23rd Nov 2016
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Deepti Kshirsagar (37) and Swapnil Kshirsagar (38) are peculiar kind of travellers. They are collectors and hoarders of exceptional and exotic products.

(From left to right) Deepti and Swapnil
(From left to right) Deepti and Swapnil

After travelling across the length and breadth of India, the husband-wife duo realised that the country with its diverse culture and geographies has a rich collection of artistic forms — from hand-woven textiles to handcrafted jewellery.

So, they decided to unearth these treasures, made with love and skills and passed on from generation to generation.

In November this year, the duo launched a platform that curates the rich collection of artistry to match the eclectic style, retaining its mool (core) tatva (essence). The platform was rightly named IndiTatva, and sells handicraft products online.

“With more than seven million regional artisans, involving mostly women and people from weaker sections of the society, the Indian handicraft industry is fragmented. Our aim is to unearth the stories and culture behind the crafts, and work with artisans giving them recognition and a sense of pride,” says Swapnil, who is the CEO.

He is a diploma holder in Electrical Engineering. He was a digital strategist with 15 years of industry experience having worked with renowned agencies like Grey worldwide, Mediaturf, and lastly heading STC Associates as the Regional Director.

His co-founder, Deepti, is an art graduate from Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai, and has been working in the design And branding industry for the past two decades. She has been the founder of WOW Design, a strategic branding and design firm based in Mumbai.

The platform sells handcrafted and handwoven products of artists from across India with a contemporary twist. The products listed on the platform include arts, artefacts and apparel.

Swapnil aims to promote the proud heritage of India's various artistic traditions to the world and take it to urban homes in India and abroad. Handicraft reflects the culture and skill of the local population. India is one of the most sought after destinations for handicraft due to variation in culture, and people who produce varied kinds of handicrafts. Besides India, the platform is eyeing the US market.

This bootstrapped platform infused around Rs 15 lakh that went into product procurement and platform building.

Following an inventory-based model, it has tied up with over 30 artisans and has over 600 registrations on it.

Growth opportunities and challenges

Handicrafts is a big market and possesses immense opportunities and challenges as well. Indian handicrafts are exquisite and valued worldwide. Every Indian state has a variety of handicrafts reflecting its enormous history and religious value, and owning a piece of such magnificence is a matter of pride.

Despite the growth opportunity, there are many challenges in this unorganised category.

Swapnil says that reaching out to far-flung areas of the country, finding artisans and doing business with them is quite a challenge.

Besides, the artisans belong to a very different strata of society and are vulnerable and often duped by middlemen.

Market and competition

In the Indian market, where almost $5,000 million of art and craft products are exported annually, many new players are making an entry into the segment.

Craftsvilla, IndianRoots, CBazaar, Utsav Fashion, and Namaste Craft, among others, are some of the old platforms in this category. In addition, many e-commerce platforms are catering to this segment. Early this year, Flipkart tied up with multiple government ministries to help artisans shift to online sales. Snapdeal has partnered with India Post to enable Varanasi artisans to sell their work on the online platform.

Industry experts add that about 90-95 percent of total industrial products of the world are produced in small workshops run by less than 100 people. In India, handicrafts are in competition with mechanised products, both in terms of volume and quantity.

The Indian handicraft industry is labour-intensive and has seen consistent growth of approximately 15 percent over the last few years. With a workforce of about seven million artisans, it plays a major role in foreign earnings.

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