From Rs 20k investment to Rs 12 Cr turnover: this entrepreneur finds success selling Rajasthani handicrafts online
Rahul Jain, Founder & Business Head, eCraftIndia
Born and raised in Jaipur, Rajasthan, handicrafts from the State always mesmerised Rahul Jain. Be it the fascinating katputli puppets, or the embellished mochdi footwear, or the colourful bangles, the handicrafts from Rajasthan are sought after across the world. But when Rahul, 31, stepped into a mall in Mumbai—where he was working after completing engineering—to pick up a gift for a friend, he was shocked at how exorbitantly the Rajasthan handicrafts were priced.
“I am from Rajasthan and I know how much a piece of Rajasthani handicraft costs. The selling price of that item was four times higher than the actual cost and I was shocked to see that there is no predefined market of these handicrafts,” the entrepreneur tells SMBStory.
That experience spurred Rahul to open his own ecommerce company a year later to collaborate with artisans and craftsmen and sell affordable products by cutting out middlemen.
In 2014, Rahul along with Ankit Agarwal and Pawan Goyal founded eCraftIndia.com with a bootstrapped capital of Rs 20,000. In this interaction with SMBStory, the entrepreneur tells us how they built the platform since then.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
SMBStory: What is eCraftIndia? How was the company started?
Rahul Jain: Although India is an ocean of talent when it comes to artistry, the exposure of and access to modern-day marketplaces and marketing practices for artisans and craftsmen is scarce.
Home decor range by eCraftIndia
Growing up in the haven of art and handicraft, it has been intriguing to see how exorbitant costs are asserted by retailers across the nation selling Rajasthani handicrafts. We wanted to, therefore, bridge the gap between art connoisseurs and artisans and organise the industry, thereby giving impetus to the growth opportunities for trade with affordable artwork. Our burning desire is to create a global reach for Indian art and handicrafts as we also contribute towards skill development and encourage these craftsmen.
Therefore, in a quest to bring to the fore these hidden jewels from rural villages and small towns across the country, we built eCraftIndia. From home decor to furnishings, furniture, paintings, kitchenware and gifts, the portal houses over 8,000 unique products.
Since Jaipur is the hub of the handicrafts industry, we were aware that there is no single brand available online to promote different Indian handicrafts. The handicrafts industry was very unorganised and we found an opportunity to create a brand that will have all types of handicrafts from different states, ensuring price parity to customers.
Started as a small online handicraft store in 2014, where the company sold wooden elephant showpiece as its first product costing around Rs 250, eCraftIndia.com is currently one of the largest handicraft e-stores in India and clocks Rs 12 crore turnover.
SMBS: From where do you source your handicrafts and how many SKUs do you deal in?
RJ: Initially, we started by sourcing products from Jaipur itself. After a few months, we expanded and now take products from artisans and craftsmen located across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
We have also now opened our own manufacturing unit where we manufacture small items like paintings, wall clocks, and showpieces. The raw materials used to manufacture these items are sourced from West Bengal.
In total, we have more than 9,000 SKUs in our collection of different categories manufactured by around 150 artisans we employ directly and indirectly.
Artisans manufacturing products for eCraftIndia
SMBS: Where do you sell your products?
RJ: In the beginning, we used to sell on various coupon websites. We used to get orders from these portals but the volumes were less. Then, we thought of starting our own portal but realised that heavy promotion would be required and we did not have that much capital to deploy.
In 2014, Flipkart launched its home decor category and that was a boon for us. We started selling on Flipkart and later on Myntra in 2016.
Today, we are available on most ecommerce portals including our own. We also sell to exporters and importers from other countries like the US and the UK.
SMBS: How did the company diversify into so many categories?
RJ: Diversification was one of the most difficult tasks. We started with showpieces of different materials. However, later we realised the need to grow our product line in multiple categories like wall clocks, paintings, wall hangings, lamps, utility items, furnishing, home decor, etc.
We saw a huge opportunity in the need-based targeted products that catered to the specific needs of clients during specific periods throughout the year. We introduced product categories like festive collections, corporate gifting, customised, and personalised gifting, which would cater to the needs of one and all.
Our range of products is designed keeping in mind the tastes of lovers of urban home decor and art and handicrafts who are looking for a tinge of ethnicity in contemporary homes, while also enjoying the simple, user-friendly, and modern attributes of our products.
We worked with artisans who were already making products for us to use the same material in which they had the expertise to create different category items. This helped us in using material expertise to design new products in different categories.
Our focus is driven towards encouraging skill development and creating more and more opportunities for artisans and craftsmen in the country.
SMBS: What is the market size of your sector and how are you differentiating from the competition?
RJ: Today, home decor and handicrafts is a Rs 9,000-crore market in India and it is only going to grow in the future. Gifting has become a large segment of home decor along with people looking to buy products for their homes and offices.
Earlier, many of our competitors like Archies used to source products from China. We are focusing on Made in India products and invest in the learning of our artisans to keep innovating in the home décor segment.
Handpainted decorative tea serve set
SMBS: What have been some of your challenges?
RJ: The biggest challenge a company faces is maintaining a high number of SKUs. We have more than 9,000 SKUs in-house and relentlessly working towards expanding in categories like kitchen, home storage, and furniture.
Another challenging scenario is changing trends and customer preferences. The demands of customers keep changing, and running the same product in the market for more than two months results in losses. Therefore, we introduce 200-300 new products every two months to be on par with customers’ demands.
Many players copy our designs and images, reduce product quality, and try to confuse customers. This leads to some unhealthy competition but we have started focusing on key parameters like customer experience, delivery timelines, additional product detailing and videos, which helps our audience trust our products.
SMBS: What are your plans going forward?
RJ: We are focusing on increasing our product line in categories like furniture, home storage, kitchen products, etc. along with expanding our customer base to other countries.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)