This startup enables weavers and artisans to directly connect and sell their products to customers

Hyderabad-based Pickmycloth lets weavers and artisans decide the price and sell their products directly to customers without the interference of middlemen.

During their college days at NIT Warangal, Dinesh Suram, M Ram Kalyan, and PV Abhishek used to travel to nearby villages to source materials for their college fest. During that time, they came in contact with various weavers and understood how sarees are woven, how to source raw materials, finance, and the marketplace for selling these finished goods. They also realised how less these weavers were getting paid for their effort.

Since then, the idea to build a platform for these artisans to directly sell and name their price had started to flash in their minds. In late 2016, while working for other organisations after college, they recouped and started preparing the groundwork to build a platform to help these weavers. 

In 2019, the trio started Pickmycloth, an ecommerce platform for weavers/artisans, to sell handloom and handicraft products directly to the customers across the globe. The startup began its journey with the handloom clusters of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. 

The prices on the platform are determined by the craftsmen with free shipping across India provided by the startup. It also provides a platform for local designers/boutiques to showcase their designs, engage in customised clothing, pre-orders, bulk sales for marriages, and corporate gifting.

“At Pickmycloth, we wanted to bring the weaver or artisan to the forefront to sell their goods at the price determined by them. We want to bring dignity to the hard work done by the craftsmen whose skill has been transferring for centuries, and these form the treasury of India. Our aim is to bridge the gap between weavers or craftsmen and customers to improve accessibility and affordability,” says Dinesh.

Connecting with the artisans

According to the team, weavers and artisans often face difficulty in selling finished goods to customers and are dependent on intermediaries who reap benefits from the whole process with no value addition. The Pickmycloth platform is aimed at eliminating these middleman.

In addition to this, there is also a lack of selling marketplace. “Weavers sell to a limited market, making it difficult to sustain and leave the profession. The lack of decent wages is driving away the younger generation to take up the activity as a profession. This is causing a large distress in rural India,” adds Dinesh.

A weaver in the process of weaving I Image credits: Pickmycloth

Small and medium scale boutiques/local designers form an integral part of Pickmycloth. The startup aims to provide them a platform to showcase their designs. Some of the products sold on the platform include sarees, dupattas, dress material, leather goods, and dhurries.

Abhishek adds that convincing the artisans to use the app was the biggest challenge for them initially. Most artisans are from states like West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. He says they are semi-literate and the language barrier was making it difficult for them to communicate.

He says, “We used local translators to understand the challenges they are facing and why the existing market players aren’t able to resolve. Our app has been carefully designed to ease the process for craftsmen to engage without the need for any intermediaries.”

How does the platform work?

The weaver has to upload the image of the product with the wholesale price on Pickmycloth platform. Customers can then choose from the options and pay for it. Indian customers also have the option for cash on delivery. Once that it done, the weaver gets paid and reaches the customer through the delivery partners.

The team claims to have shipped to over 16,000 pin codes in India and across 80+ countries. “We have a customer base of 3,500, 50 percent from tier-II and III towns, 30 percent from metros and state capitals, 20 percent from abroad (majorly from the US and Australia),” Abhishek says.

Co-founders (L-R) Ram Kalyan, PV Abhishek, and Dinesh Suram.

The ecommerce startup at present has multiple revenue streams including B2C, B2B, bulk sale, and also runs a transactional model charging the customers. It does not charge anything from the craftsmen.

When asked about the COVID impact on its business, Ram Kalyan says,

“Post lockdown, our orders surged without spending any amount on marketing. Due to social distancing and shutting of shops, we had a greater number of inquiries and orders. Lot of artisans lost their livelihood due to the closure of retails stores, which pushed them towards registering with us. Currently we have over 1,100 craftsmen registered with us.”

Traditional apparel market

According to a report by Statista, the market size of women’s traditional wear across India in the year 2018 was approximately Rs 92,500 crore and is estimated to reach Rs 1.7 lakh crore by 2023. Pickmycloth joins the likes of startups such as Inde’loom, karagiri, Byloom, Thoomri, and Yes!poho.

The founders claim that the platform’s uniqueness is its easy-to-use app for artisans that has been designed after thorough research. The founders travelled to the source locations of Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh to study the various pain points and reasons for artisans not being able to reach a larger market.

“During a short span of 18 months, we were able to reach 1,100+ craftsmen and have more than 40,000 products on the platform. We have real time data of the products, orders, and the revenue generated by weavers/artisans,” adds Ram Kalyan.

The team now plans to introduce AI to generate data insights and analytics for weavers, vernacular language conversion, and improve user experience using augmented reality.

The startup also aims to expand to other clusters across India and onboard more craftsmen and local designers to increase its product line.

Edited by Megha Reddy