‘Sustainability’ it has become one of the most important words of the current era, as the world faces critical challenges such as climate change and pollution. According to a Mahindra Group survey, 88 percent of Indians now want to live more sustainably.
One of them is based in Siliguri. Nikita Agarwali who calls herself “obsessed with sustainability”. However, as she tried to redecorate her home with sustainable décor, the 29-year-old former Air Asia crew member found herself in a constant state of change.
“I wanted to fill my house with interiors made of bamboo or jute,” he says. Your history. However, finding suitable products in the local Siliguri markets and online became a challenge.
She saw a business opportunity and startedCrafts in October 2019 as a personal project.
operating low Concierge Services Suvnik Pvt Ltdthe artisan startup started selling jute rugs with cane baskets and boxes.
While looking for suppliers in northeast India, especially Assam and Sikkim, to redecorate her home, Nikita was also looking to incorporate them into her new business.
“We also established a Facebook group called ‘Craft Buyers and Sellers’ which provided a platform for vendors to showcase their wares. This gave us access to 15,000 local artisans and vendors. We also started receiving purchase requests from all over the country,” says Nikita.
The co-founder also created an Instagram page and started uploading photos of some of the products.
Idhiyaan Handicrafts started with reed baskets and jute rugs. But in the past year, the firm has expanded into the stationery and home decor categories.
It was then that his brothers – Nikhil and Suraj Agarwalwho had been struggling to keep his travel company afloat due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, joined the project and invested Rs 5 lakhs from your travel company.
One of the biggest challenges the startup initially faced was convincing Siliguri locals to buy its products.
“People in our city were not able to understand anything about these products as there is still a lack of awareness. many used to say ye ghaas phoos kaun khareedega (who will buy these grasses and weeds)?” says Nikita, adding: “We wanted to convey that although it is ghaas phoos, the products are much better than the plastic ones and look extremely nice.”
The craft startup, which started by selling offline through a brick-and-mortar store in Siliguri, tried to educate consumers who visited its outlet. However, local demand creation became a major issue that set them back at least a year. The trio then decided to take their products online, through their own website.
The initial set of clients were businesses and wedding planners looking for gift options. “That’s where a lot of our boxes and baskets ended up being sold,” says Nikita. As the second wave began to recede and the travel industry opened up, many hotels also began to purchase their products as interior decoration. Since then, the firm has expanded into the stationery, personal care, and home décor categories.
These products come from artisans and vendors in Manipur, which is famous for cane products. Bamboo products come from Tripura, while earthen products come from Maharashtra, among other states in India.
Idhiyaan Handicrafts works with 30-40 vendors and artisans, buying products from them in bulk at wholesale prices and selling them after adding their own margin. The firm refrained from disclosing its margins.
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A large part of the demand for the startup’s products comes from Mumbai, Chennai, and Bengaluru, as well as other parts of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. Idhiyaan also launched its website about two months ago and receives 90 percent of orders through its digital channels, including the website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Business model and future
On average, Idhiyaan claims to meet 80-90 orders every monthresulting in sales of Rs 3-4 lakhs. Its customers include businesses, individuals, and resellers who generate an order value between 1,000 rupees and 30,000 rupeesaccording to Suraj, who heads sales for the firm.
In the 2021-2022 financial year, the firm generated Rs 22 lakh in revenue compared to Rs 3 lakh in FY21. To be sure, Idhiyaan only operated for six months in the first year of business. The company aims to generate 1.10 crore at the end of fiscal year 23.
Idhiyaan has also opened another store in Siliguri and plans to turn its website into a marketplace for handicraft buyers and sellers over the next year. The firm is seeking to raise external funds for its expansion plans.
India’s cottage industry employs more than seven million regional artisansaccording to the India Brand Equity Foundation, with more than 67,000 export houses exporting to the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Australia, among other regions.
In fiscal year 2021-22, India exported $380.83 million value of woodcrafts (as of August 2021), while in fiscal year 2021, this number was $845.51 million.
Idhiyaan Handicrafts currently competes with Better Capital-backed Beco, Rusabl (owned by EvenFlow), and a plethora of other vendors selling bamboo-based personal care products.