[Startup Bharat] Ecommerce startup Maavni Designs is promoting Odisha handicrafts and empowering artisans

Founded in 2019, Bhubaneswar-based Maavni Designs aims to promote the many handicrafts of Odisha. It offers personalised products online, ensuring a consistent income for artisans.

Entrepreneur Smaranika Mohapatra has always been inclined towards handicrafts. After working for almost a decade in the IT sector in Bangalore with several companies, including TCS and JP Morgan Chase, she returned to her hometown, Bhubaneswar, and took the entrepreneurial plunge to work in the handicrafts segment.

With an aim to promote Odisha’s handicrafts across the country, Smaranika launched Bhubaneshwar-based Maavni Designs in 2019.

The startup onboards artisans, makes personalised handicrafts products and sells them online through their official ecommerce platform.

Image Credit: Maavni

“We started with home decor products and slowly expanded into apparel and accessories. Our edge over other players is that we provide personalised products to suit customer demands. A majority of our work is done in-house; several artisans have been onboarded as full-time employees. However, in cases of any big orders, we reach out to other individual craftsmen for help,” Smaranika says.

Maavni is a combination of two words, Ma meaning Mother and Avni meaning Earth, and is working to ensure a stable income for local artisans in Odisha.

Image Credit: Maavni Designs

Promoting Odisha handicrafts

Maavni positions itself as both a manufacturing and ecommerce company. It makes handicrafts products in-house and sells them through the online platform.

Smaranika explains that Maavni has its own line of products that are available for purchase online. Users can seek personalisation such as colour changes in the products and also seek customised options.

At the moment, users can purchase the products online through the official website and the startup’s Instagram account. The products are shipped using courier services and delivered across India.

“Our biggest chunk of work comes through referrals,”  she says.

The founder says the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a huge blow to the industry. During that time, several artisans reached out to Maavni for marketing their products. 

The startup partnered with other artisans to sell their unsold crafts through its online platform.

“Being a woman entrepreneur, I have always been inclined towards helping women workers and craftsmen manage both the work and their life. In our office, women workers are allowed to bring children into the office and take care of them while working. We also offer work-from-home options to artisans,” Smaranika says.

Maavni has a total of 11 team members at present, and a total of 25 members, including the outsourced artisans.

Illustration: YS Designs

Business and more

Smaranika reveals that the handicrafts startup receives around 300 to 500 orders on an average per month. 

The bootstrapped startup claims to have supplied products to customers from Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia, the UK, and the US.

Image Credit: Maavni Designs

She says offering customised products comes with its own challenge, adding that sometimes customers may not have clarity on what products they are looking for and leading to a gap between their imagination and the real products. In such cases, it becomes difficult to sell the products to clients. 

Speaking to YourStory, Purna Chandra Mohapatral, a pattachitra artist, reveals that Maavni ensures regular projects for him, resulting in a constant income. He reveals that he gets work worth Rs 30,000 to 40,000 per month.

According to media reports, the Indian handicrafts industry is estimated to be around $7 to $8 billion market. 

Similar to Maavni, Kolkata-based Rare Planet also operates in the handicrafts market. It is providing a sustainable income to local karigars by promoting indigenous handicrafts made of terracotta, copper, ceramic, brass, wood, and marble. 

Smaranika says the startup is now looking to list its products on other ecommerce platforms such as Flipkart and Amazon. 

"Our goal is to promote handicrafts from Odisha across the country and also in international markets. Till now, we have products showcasing only two to three types of handicraft styles. In the future, we want to showcase more forms of handicrafts and cater to larger audiences across the world," Smaranika says.

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Edited by Teja Lele Desai


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