How a .in domain helped Things Etc retain its ‘Indian-ness’ while becoming a global brand
While working a corporate job in the early 2000s, Shivkalaa Mudaliar often thought about the lack of country-country code top level domain (ccTLD) names that could represent India-based companies. “Back then, people generally preferred a .com domain name and country-specific domain names were usually reserved for various government departments and agencies of other countries,” she explains.
Little did she know that it would be a ‘Made in India’ domain name that would soon become a launchpad for her indigenous brand ‘Things Etc’ and ramp up her audience reach.
Mumbai-basedis a social enterprise that was established in 2013 and works with handicrafts artisans, self-help groups and, small and medium enterprises. The organisation sells their products via its portal, network of NGOs, corporate offices and associates, while helping them become self-reliant.
Shivkalaa’s journey as an entrepreneur started when she realised that she didn’t want to continue with a job in corporate setups, as she had done over the past two decades. “I was always making handicrafts and knick knacks in my free time. So, while thinking of launching a business, starting with handicrafts was a no brainer,” she says.
The entrepreneur says that her vision was to create a platform that could empower artisans and if she could benefit even one life, it would be worth the effort. Today, the platform is working with over 1,800 artisans, while reaching out to clients in 25 states and 19 countries.
A window to a global audience
While she was setting up the business, one of the first things she did was to set a website for her brand. Having worked in the IT industry, she knew what a website could do for a budding business. When it was time to choose a domain name, she decided to go against the flow by opting for a .in domain name rather than a .com. It was a decision that didn’t make sense to anybody except Shivkalaa.
“The thing about being an entrepreneur is that you know what’s best for your business, even if people might not agree with you. I decided to go for a .in domain name as I wanted to develop Things Etc as a global brand while retaining its ‘Indian-ness’,” she explains.
The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has helped hundreds of businesses across sectors and sizes distinguish themselves as a brand with its .in or .Bharat domain. It’s among the only internet exchanges in the world to offer a ccTLD in multiple languages. By opting for a .in and .Bharat, one can choose between 22 languages for a domain name.
A .in domain name projects Things Etc as an international brand that's rooted in India, says a beaming Shivkala. Describing her experience, she said that one of the biggest advantages of getting a .in domain name is that it helps small businesses and brands compete with bigger organisations without having to invest a lot.
Tackling business challenges
Discussing why social media cannot replace a website, Shivkalaa uses an interesting analogy to describe the difference between the two. “A website is like a family fixing a marriage, while social media is the friends and relatives. Anybody who wants to do business with me would first check my credentials and a website could work towards that end. It would tell them the kind of work we have done, the impact we have created.”
On the other hand, social media is more like a trend and can only support you through your growth journey, she adds.
“The moment an international client looks at our website, they know that we are an Indian brand and that the product is authentic. And, that makes me very proud. Over the years, it has also helped us boost our sales and take Indian handicrafts to international clients.”
When the COVID-19 struck last year, Things Etc was at the cusp of venturing into a new direction, one that had been a long harboured dream for Shivkalaa. “I opened a studio on February 14, 2020 and wanted to rope in artisans to conduct workshops on traditional art and craft forms like Warli and Madhubani. However, the pandemic dashed all our plans.”
As sales went south, Shivkalaa decided not to sit and mope and use the opportunity to do something different. “We launched ACT talks where experts talked about art and culture in online sessions. We completed around 60 episodes and were able to reach around 8 lakh people.”
The ‘Shaping India Inc's Online Growth’ series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.