Manoj has an MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad, B.Tech from IIT Bombay, MS from University of Illinois, and CPhil from University of California. Monica Gupta, on the other hand, has an MS in accounting from San Diego State University. She has extensively travelled across India, and has been actively involved in Indian Handicrafts industry. In a free-whirling interview, Monica and Manoj Gupta speak about their entrepreneurial venture, the challenges faced in their line of business and how they aim to transform the fast collapsing handicraft industry into a successful venture. • What was the motivation behind CraftsVilla.Com? The idea of CraftsVilla.com started when I took a road trip to Kutch, in rural Gujarat, which is home to many artisans and NGOs. This was the changing point in my life when I noticed the beautiful high quality products that these artisans were making and just thought to myself “what if the world can see these too”. Instantly, I started brainstorming on how a marketing platform can be made to bring these products globally to consumers. At the same time, a chance meeting with a ‘bandhani’ artisan named Soheil helped me reinforce my decision. He was on the verge of discontinuing his profession of ‘tie and dye’ as he could not get the right price for his wares, the reasons being the dirt cheap prices at which he sold his products and also he had no means of contacting the end customers. I felt that if nothing is done, the traditional art and craft will die and the next generation will have no clue about the true Indian colors. Online store was an obvious choice as, India being so rich in art and tradition, all couldn’t have been put in one brick and mortar store.
• What have been your greatest challenges so far? Our greatest challenge has been competing with the prices of machine-made factory products. Initially, the artisans were also sceptical of online selling. Now, they can see the sales on CraftsVilla.com and that helps build their trust. • How do you perceive the current ecommerce environment in India? The current e-commerce environment is very deal-driven. There are few people who go online to get genuine unique products and also help socially in turn. CraftsVilla.com is working on changing that attitude in India and abroad. • How has technology helped in your regular operations? Technology is one of the key factors of e-commerce. The prepayments on orders are done through reputed secured payment gateways. All the orders are transferred to the sellers in real time which helps them in timely dispatch. The sellers are also able to update and manage their shops on CraftsVilla.com from any part of the world due to technologically advanced backend for their online stores. • What has been your mantra for customer satisfaction? We believe that each customer is unique and special. This is the reason we have handwritten personalised ‘Thank you’ note for all the customers with a special surprise gift. We have a buyer protection promise wherein we assure timely delivery of the product or full refund. Sellers on CraftsVilla.com also emphasize on the customer satisfaction themselves. • What has been your strategy to increase the customer base? There are several, actually: * We do marketing through various online and offline channels like Facebook, Google, e-mailers and exhibitions. * We also have a gift helpline which can help you if you are looking for gifting ideas. * We get referral traffic through our satisfied customers and also repeat purchases through them on CraftsVilla.com. • What has been your learning from your business operations that you would like to share with those who want to start their own business? Never give up or give in. Always remember that a start up goes through many ups and downs but if you are hard working and ethical, success cannot hide from you for long. Take care of your sellers, customers and also your team. Get the three pillars right and you can go a long way! You can check out the wares at www.craftsvilla.com