Country Clay strives to revive the dying art of Khurja pottery
The Delhi-based brand works with artisans in Khurja, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, to source and sell a range of ceramic products.
The Khurja pottery industry has seen a decline for a decade now due to mass-market production and change in customer preferences. The struggle to find a market for indigenous pottery has impacted the livelihood of countless artisans in Khurja, a small town in Uttar Pradesh.
The stagnating state of affairs caught the attention of the couple Rashi Akar and Siddhant Agarwal when they were on a visit to Khurja, considered the hub of ceramic products, in 2020.
“While browsing through some shops to buy ceramic kitchenware for our house, the artisans caught our attention. We learned that industrialisation had morphed their profession into a hand-to-mouth existence. The shift of consumer behaviour from handmade goods to cheaper and more durable options like plastic has killed the artisans' sole source of income,” says Siddhant.
Ideating Country Clay
Driven by the desire to spread awareness about Indian pottery and offer an alternative to toxic materials., the Delhi-based duo did a pilot run in November 2020 using the existing inventory of the artisans, among family and friends. The good response from them encouraged Rashi and Siddhant to start, a pottery brand that sources and sells ceramic products made by the artisans of Khurja. The idea behind Country Clay is to provide artisans a source of livelihood, showcase their talent, and stem their migration to the cities in search of work.
Siddhant and Rashi spent a few months experimenting and innovating with designs, colours and shapes to create a line of Khurja pottery products such as coffee mugs, kitchenware, platters, bowls, and soup mugs. They launched their own website and joined the e-commerce platform ‘Amazon Karigar’ to sell their products.
The brand also has an offline retail presence at The Madhurya Store in Bengaluru, managed by The Art of Living, and at the Hommage India store in Solapur.
During the pandemic, the supply chain of Country Clay suffered a blow for three months when the artisans couldn’t supply products due to restrictions in movement and lack of transportation. The couple decided to hustle and ideate till the situation stabilised. They resumed business in May 2021 with corporate gifting and diversified into other non-ceramic product categories such as wellness kits, aromatherapy, bathing essentials, and lifestyle products, to complement the cash flow.
The duo also experimented with curated gift hampers and custom products for organisations such as Sleepy Owl, Open Financial Technologies, Walmart Global Tech, and Niti Ayog. This has helped strengthen their presence in the B2B space.
Although the D2C channel will be the focus, the brand also plans to keep cash flow steady through B2B bulk orders.
Country Clay has also been working on streamlining the manufacturing and supply process from Khurja to its warehouses in metro cities and then to the stores in a safe and timely manner.
USP of its products
Sidhant says its products’ USP are its unique designs, which are decided by the couple. He also says his company’s products are organic and toxin-free.
Normally, lead has been used in ceramic glaze, leading to likely contamination of water and food. The paint sourced by the artisans that Country Clay works with is lead-free, says Siddhant.
The corporate gift hampers are between Rs 1000 and Rs 1500, while the pottery sets for retail customers are priced between Rs 500 and Rs 700.
Supporting local artists
Country Clay, which began working with five artisans in Khurja a year ago, now works with over 20 artisans through a freelance arrangement. Five artisans handle one order worth Rs 1 lakh every month. Individually, each artisan earns around Rs 20,000.
Apart from sourcing and selling Khurja pottery from artisans, Country Clay also sponsors the healthcare needs of artisans and their families and their children’s education and provides cash advances to artisans for personal emergencies.
Strengthening digital presence
According to Rashi, Country Clay primarily operates via word-of-mouth publicity. But it plans to boost its digital presence soon.
The brand is looking to collaborate with social media influencers to boost its visibility. It is also planning to document and share its corporate partnerships and business achievements on LinkedIn.
Country Clay has slowly established a foothold in the market with 200 stock keeping units. It has sold more than 70,000 units so far.
The company generated a revenue of Rs 15.7 lakh during May 2021-March 2022 and Rs 7.3 lakh from April 2022 till now.
Country Clay was recognised as one of the Top Challenger D2C Brands by YourStory this year.
The brand is focused on expanding in the domestic D2C market by partnering with boutique outlets in Tier I cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. It will also explore exports in 2023 to “garner a global appeal”.
“The company is currently bootstrapped and invests Rs 1.5 lakh every quarter. We’re open to bringing investors on board to improve the funding for the business. There’s a possibility of collaborating with similar brands to make the business more lucrative and getting acquired if a company presents the option,” says Siddhant.
Edited by Swetha Kannan