Himanshu Wardhan, the man at the helm of Etsy India, enjoys travelling, both on work and on holiday. His other hobbies like racquet sports and cooking help him unwind every weekend
Whether it is a paper sculpture of a kingfisher captured in flight or a Phad scroll painting in shades of sunshine yellow and burnt orange, the focus is on creativity, craftsmanship, and excellence at Etsy.
The ecommerce website which makes buying and selling handmade and vintage items very simple, is well known for its dedication to the work of craftsmen and artists across the world. Buyers can pick from products that range from everyday items like parasols to exclusive merchandise like handcrafted jewellery and finely woven carpets to highly skilled work like paintings and murals. This US-based marketplace for creative goods is working extensively with local entrepreneurs in the country. Himanshu Wardhan is the managing director of Etsy India.
YS Weekender spoke to Himanshu on his own entrepreneurial journey, his work at Etsy and his love for travelling, great cuisine, and his other hobbies.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur in two different contexts,” begins Himanshu, as he speaks of his own startup in the Silicon Valley where he started off by bootstrapping his company and, subsequently, his work with Etsy in India.
“At my own startup, I was doing everything, along with my co-founder, right from looking for potential investors to planning operations,” he remembers. “The entire process of setting up a company of my own was an interesting journey with a lot of great learnings.”
The most important thing that Himanshu learnt as an entrepreneur was that it is very important to have a clear vision in one’s mind. “An entrepreneur needs conviction in their vision to be able to go through the ups and downs of a business. He or she should also be a great salesperson. In fact, being a good salesperson is the most important thing that one needs in any field, as at the end of the day it all depends on how you well you can sell an idea to someone,” he adds.
The second part of his entrepreneurial journey was when he started working with Etsy. “We did not have an office, so the first step for me was to set up a working space, that’s when I started operating out of a co-working space. Then I started the process of building a team, and onboarding like-minded people who were passionate about working for a brand like Etsy. The whole journey has been very exciting. My entrepreneurial experience has helped me to deal with uncertainties, and I am always in a problem-solving mode to get things done with given resources,” he explains.
On Etsy, Himanshu says, “Today, we connect 2.1 million creative entrepreneurs around the world with more than 39.4 million buyers. Around 87 percent of our sellers are women.”
According to Himanshu, India has such a wealth of vibrant textiles, eclectic jewellery, and intricate prints, that it has proved to be a market with great potential.
“Buyers around the world are interested in unique items by Indian artisans,” he says. “We greatly admire the spirit of entrepreneurship among small creative sellers in India and the quality of the craftsmanship.”
Himanshu explains how he is always excited to onboard new sellers in the country to share their goods with the world – right from an artisan making a traditional art form, and a housewife looking to supplement family income to a professional designer or artist aspiring to sell to over 39.4 million buyers globally.
When Himanshu steers away from the subject of his work, which he is clearly passionate about, to his weekend pursuits, we find that he loves travelling, badminton, cooking, and DIY projects around the house, in that order.
His favourite holiday destination is Santorini in Greece.
“The one trip I remember fondly is that trip to Greece,” he says. “The blue water, the breathtaking sunsets, and the view from my hotel gave Santorini a special place in my heart. I have also loved my visits to Turkey, the Death Valley in California, and Acadia National Park in Maine. In India too, I’ve been able to see a fair bit of the country as part of my work.”
Himanshu finds that travelling gives him a change from the usual humdrum of life. “It opens up your mind and gives you space to think. It’s a great opportunity to step back and view your life and also plan for it when you travel. I am very fascinated by the new cultures and the diversities that I get to see in different parts of the world. There’s always so much to learn - both personally and professionally,” he says.
As a traveller, Himanshu says he is not the “typical” tourist. Travelling is all about the process for him, right from the journey from the airport to his hotel to the actual holiday. “I am constantly observing and making a note of interesting places I can see or eat at or an interesting public space I can come back to,” he says.
When a person travels extensively, there will be some troubles along the way.
Himanshu can never forget an incident in San Francisco when his car was broken into after a week-long road trip across the Death Valley, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and Los Angeles. “It was kind of funny because across over 2,000 miles on this road trip when all our luggage was always visible in the car, nothing happened. We were just finishing the road trip in SF and ending it with a glass of wine. Our car was parked about 20 meters from a police station in one of the safest parts of the city. When we came back, my car was broken into and we had lost our luggage, including my friend’s passport,” he recalls.
Despite the occasional glitches, Himanshu loves his days on the road. “Travelling is so much more than just taking pictures for social media platforms. For me, it’s more about the experience and being in the moment,” he says.
Himanshu was a badminton player in college and still loves the game - though now he only manages to squeeze in some squash over the weekends or post work.
He says that he has always had a special fondness for racquet sports.
“They sharpen my concentration and there’s intense hand-eye coordination too,” he says. “Playing badminton and squash lets my mind breathe and makes it clutter-free. I focus on only one thing at that time: my game.” He also enjoys going to the gym after work to stay fit.
Being a foodie, Himanshu likes almost all regional Indian, and world cuisines. “At home, I prefer homemade dal chawal. When I’m travelling, I like to try local cuisine as much as possible,” he says.
He loves coffee and has a collection of Starbucks city mugs from over 30 cities/countries across the world, which now occupy a special space in his living room. Brewing a cup of good coffee is an art, and Himanshu is very particular about how his coffee is made.
“I love cappuccino but it should be equal parts foam, milk and, espresso, extra hot with skimmed milk. I enjoy coffee that is less about coffee beans and more of the process that’s involved in making it. Even at work, I like to make my own coffee as I need to have the right proportions and enjoy the aroma that comes out of it.”
Himanshu also enjoys unwinding over the weekends with a spot of cooking. One of his favourite ways to relax is to experiment with different recipes for grilled salmon while listening to jazz music. When he was in the US for his MBA, he won a curry cook-off among 25 participants from different countries.
“My go-to dish is a fusion Mediterranean-European preparation of salmon with couscous and every once in a while, I like to indulge in butter chicken, which I make myself,” he says.
Himanshu follows the latest trends in home décor and interiors, particularly DIY and personalised items. He also closely follows the latest trends in home décor and interiors, and is particularly enthused by DIY and personalised items, which he incorporates in his own home, located in New Delhi. His love for hues of yellow is reflected in his living room decor. His hobbies have taught him “how to declutter his mind and focus on one thing at a time.”
Himanshu's first tip for entrepreneurs is to have a complete and clear vision of the idea.
"Don’t do it for the money or only because it’s cool to be an entrepreneur," he says. "The second tip is to develop a thick skin because entrepreneurship is full of endless challenges. You’ll be making a hundred pitches (to customers or investors) and probably 99 of them will be rejected. The whole process of going through 99 rejections and having that one successful pitch is an emotional rollercoaster."
According to Himanshu, while it’s important to have an end-goal in mind, one shouldn’t be rigid or married to that single idea alone. "There could be several iterations before you hit the right format - so it’s important to keep an open mind and continuously iterate. You will have to keep tweaking models and your ideas before you find the right one which makes you successful," he says.
“In the future I want Etsy to be a household brand and a default platform for small creative entrepreneurs, even in the smallest cities of India,” he says.
As for his personal goals, he hopes that in a decade or two, he can retire and run a coffee and wine shop where every corner is filled with books. The place will also have a creative DIY corner.
“I just don’t want to run and own the place, but I want to actually make and serve coffee myself to my customers every day,” he says.