These serial entrepreneurs are putting the spotlight on quirkiness with omnichannel platform Quirqstation
When Santosh Jagtap and Sorabh Arora ran their retail store in Bengaluru for licensed branded merchandise for movies and TV shows, including Game of Thrones and DC and Marvel Comics, they were approached by several designers and artists, requesting retail space to sell their products. These included handmade products in various categories such as fashion, home decor, and stationery. The duo found a gap as there seemed to be no vertical marketplaces for these niche artists.
“The existing system was to sell these products through flea markets or exhibitions like Sunday Soul Sante, Comic Con etc. Most of them were also listed on big ecommerce marketplaces like Flipkart and Amazon. It led us to start Quirqstation in 2019,” Santosh says.
Started in 2017, this omnichannel platform lets creators and makers sell their offerings through their eccentric, colourful retail outlets at Indiranagar and Church Street, and online. The platform addresses the main problem with existing systems: that most of these artists’ products were getting lost amid millions of other products.
Connecting with the creators
“Few of these makers were selling through their own websites but managing your own website is an expensive affair, considering the marketing spend on social media etc. This was our Eureka moment,” Santosh explains.
They started by conducting market research where they met creators in flea markets, and gathered insights into the problems they were facing.
The team claims to be working with urban creators like Alicia Souza from Bengaluru, Katie Abey from UK, and also a few traditional and rural artisans from Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
“We also have full-time creators or artists who are illustrators, doodlers, and cartoonists (such as Paul Fernandes), and we encourage our part-time makers or hobbyists who are students, housewives, working professionals among others. Currently, we are helping around 200+ creators and aim to reach a number of customers through our retail stores and the online marketplace,” Santosh says.
The team claims to have sold over 55,000 products, served over 8,000 customers, and make a GMV of Rs 2 crore.
The challenges they faced
Creating an omnichannel marketplace was a big challenge. The first retail outlet in Indiranagar, Bengaluru, was a proof of concept. Santosh says this challenge was overcome by selecting the “right eccentric, colourful, and youthful designs for our stores along with the right location for the stores”.
Quirqstation now has two retail stores at Indiranagar and Church Street in Bengaluru. The third store is getting ready and will be launched at Forum Shantiniketan Mall, Whitefield, Bengaluru.
Another challenge was to build an in-house technology platform as this needed industry expertise. The team was soon joined as CTO by Sanjay Kumar, who has studied at IIT-Kanpur and comes with 10 years of experience in building technology platforms for ecommerce companies.
The working model
Artists and designers can sell their products at the retail outlets, for which Quirqstation charges a 40 percent commission. They work on a consignment (sales or return) basis, and pay them on a monthly basis based on the sales.
Santosh says they don’t buy any inventory, and only provide a retail platform. This makes the business model asset-light and easy to scale to multiple retail outlets.
“Also, any unsold inventory in 90 to 120 days is sent back to the artists for replacement with new designs or new products. This ensures freshness in all our stores,” Santosh says.
For online sales, the team charges 23 percent commission in addition to shipping charges. This is a flat fee across categories.
Quirqstation also offers a ‘print-on-demand’ service. This is a royalty-based model where artists submit their designs or artworks on the website. They also mock up these designs on various products like T-shirts, mugs, posters etc. They get 10 percent royalty based on the sales report after products with their designs are sold.
“The average sale per square feet for our stores is around Rs 1,500, which is quite healthy in this category. For online sales, the Customer Acquisition Cost is about Rs 400 per customer,” Santosh says.
Currently, the average ticket size is Rs 1,000. The team on an average gets over 1,700 customers in a month and prices range from Rs 50 for smaller products to Rs 5000 for larger paintings and products.
“We believe in selling stories of our artists more than selling their products. These stories take shape on our social media platforms, our online marketplace, as well as our retail outlet with a firm belief that stories sell better than products. Our creators can be anybody and everybody who has the flair to create things,” Santosh says.
The team also provides artists with ‘Smartpage’, an in-house marketing tool that enables sellers to create their webpages within minutes and share them on social media.
“The idea here is that our sellers act as ‘micro influencers’ and promote their products or their shops on their social media. With thousands of followers on social media and with us having a few thousand sellers, this is going to have a multiplying effect to promote products sold on Quirqstation,” Santosh says.
The market and way ahead
There are several niche e-commerce platforms that connect designers and artists to consumers these says. BigSmall, Qtrove, Engrave, Kraftly, and Tjori are multi-category marketplaces, but operate very differently from Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal.
There is also Kashmir Box, which works with over 10,000 grassroot artisans, 200 growers, and 135+ manufacturers and brands of the Valley. These startups prove that differentiated, scalable, and profitable online marketplaces can be built in India without spending billions of dollars.
Currently bootstrapped, a typical retail outlet of 1200 sq ft will cost about Rs 50 lakh to set up
Speaking of future plans, Santosh says, “We plan to open around 25 retail outlets in all major cities of India to provide a platform for makers and creators from across the country. Along with retail outlets, our focus also includes upgrading our online marketplace and providing sophisticated technology to our artist partners, which can help them reach millions of customers.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)