This Pune-based startup improves livelihood of weavers by giving handcrafted silk sarees an online platform
Priyanka Ghule Katkar started, an online portal for handcrafted silk sarees, in August 2020, with a desire to improve the livelihood of weavers and artisans.
“We source directly from weavers so no middlemen, and that’s why our prices are very competitive. We offer assisted buying with videos and live calls to check the quality and colors of the products. We're the only silk saree brand which offers no-questions asked exchange and return policy,” Founder Priyanka, 27, tells HerStory.
Today, the Pune-based ecommerce startup, which sources handcrafted silk sarees from weavers across the country, sells over 1,500 products per month. Sarees on the platform range between Rs 2,500 and Rs 80,000.
“We’re striving hard to achieve highest levels of customer satisfaction through timely deliveries, enhanced quality and contemporary touch to ancient clothing saree. Our vision is to become India’s one stop destination for ethnic shopping providing highest quality products from the different parts of India. MySilkLove has become a synonym to online saree shopping, delivering across any part of the world,” Priyanka says.
Weaving a growth story
During the Diwali vacation of 2019, Priyanka was traveling in South India when she visited a few places in Tamil Nadu where Kanjivaram sarees are made.
“I was impressed with the quality and finish of the products and the effort these weavers have to take to make a single saree. When I spoke to them, I got an idea about their earnings and it was not great for anyone for the effort and skill they possessed. They were spending almost 10 days making a single saree and in return would get a paltry sum,” she says.
According to the founder, weavers she spoke to were initially hesitant to sell their products online due to their previous experience.
“They had tried to sell online through Meesho, Whatsapp groups and Facebook pages but they were facing challenges in operations, delivery and marketing of these products in India and globally,” says Priyanka.
Considering these gaps, she set out to build a platform to connect India’s artisans.
“Saree weavers can get the opportunity to showcase their art, they are not bothered about anything but crafting good quality products. Rest everything is taken care of by our team right from photo-shoots, merchandising, picking the product to delivering it to the end customer,” she adds.
MySilkLove team, which has seven employees currently, travels to rural parts of India to meet weavers. It presently works with more than 1000 artisans from Banaras (Uttar Pradesh), Bagalkot (Karnataka), Yeola (Maharashtra), and Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) and sources silk sarees. The average income of the weavers at MySilkLove platform is around Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per month.
About the founder
Priyanka is an engineering graduate and has an MBA in marketing.
“I was working with logistics startup XpressBees before starting MySilkLove. So I had all the tools needed to launch MySilkLove. My experience in XpressBees helped me to figure out entire e-commerce operations and we were operational with 50 weavers within one month of launch,” she says.
Her husband, Vinayak Katkar, runs a digital marketing company and helped Priyanka deal with the marketing aspect of the business.
“We are a bootstrapped and profitable company. I started MySilkLove with a capital of Rs 1 lakh with my personal savings,” she adds.
The target audience
About 75 percent of MySilkLove clientele is women, and most of the purchases come from the age group of 25 to 50.
“We have an esteemed customer base, and a majority of orders come in from Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad,” Priyanka says.
“Our target audience comprises women who love slow fashion, handloom, and handmade products, but are unable to find the right platform to buy due to lack of trust and traceability. We aim to redefine fashion while changing the lives of the artisans,” she says.
The startup has served more than 8,000 customers since inception and has fulfilled 10,000+ orders. Its USP lies in video-based shopping, Whatsapp support, and no-questions-asked refund and exchange policy.
The way ahead
On the business’ future plans, the founder said, “We are targeting the saree market, which has a value of Rs 47,000 crore and growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 5-6 percent. From August 2020 to September 2021, we have generated Rs 3.5 crore of revenue and are targeting Rs 4.5 crore for this financial year.”
According to Priyanka, the digital-first platform offers customers a diverse choice, something that a local shop would not be able to fulfill.
“We bring choices of more than 3000 SKUs, all premium sarees, under one single platform, nine different types of silks, at the customer's fingertip. If they would like to buy a saree, traditionally they would go to a local shop where they will not find more than 100 options to choose from, here they can choose from more than 3000 products,” she adds.
MySilkLove aims to increase the SKUs (stock keeping unit) present on its website to around 3000 to 5000. It is also planning to offer more options on women's wear, like Kurtis, stoles, and other designer clothing to become a one-stop destination for all ethnic women's clothing needs.
“We are a digital-first brand and sell only via our website. Our 100 percent revenue comes from online selling. Best-selling products on our website are Kanjivarams (60 percent), Banarasis (20 percent) and the remaining 20 percent are Paithani, Patola,” says Priyanka.
According to Priyanka, MySilkLove is not looking for funding. “We might look for growth money for our future expansions and marketing as we add more weavers and SKUs on the website.”
The firm claims to have been growing 15 percent month on month since inception.
Some of the other Indian startups working to improve the livelihood of artisans and weavers by selling their products, especially sarees, include Inde’ Loom, Byloom, Karagiri, Suta, Bharatsthali, Taneira, Parisera, Yes!poho, Beatitude among others.