Karma Bhutia: Enabling local artisans of India to sell online

Karma Bhutia: Enabling local artisans of India to sell online

SME Inspirations

GlobalLinker Staff

GlobalLinker Staff

403 week ago — 10 min read

India is a land of handicrafts and has a rich tradition of indigenous art in every part of the country. However, with the growth in globalization and availability of assembly line goods from all across the world, the local artisans often struggle to find a market for their creations. Serial entrepreneur & IT whiz Karma Bhutia felt there was a dire need to promote the handicrafts and artisans of India and to create a platform to sell their products. He is the founder of the online marketplace, iShippo.com that showcases and sells handcrafted goods from all across India to the world. Karma has had a two decade long experience in the IT industry and has spearheaded several startups in the course of his career. However, iShippo is a venture closest to his heart for it seamlessly combines his passion to promote Indian culture and his deep knowledge of the eCommerce industry.


In conversation with GlobalLinker (GL), Karma Bhutia (KB) shares the journey of establishing this unique marketplace that embraces the spirit of the ‘Make in India’ campaign.


GL: Tell us about your business and how it came into being.


KB: iShippo.com is an online marketplace where people around the world connect to make, sell and buy handcrafted goods. At iShippo.com, we have begun a fascinating journey, a humble attempt to bring India a little closer to the world. iShippo.com was founded in April 2015 and is headquartered in Bangalore, India.


We partner with artisanal communities, textile designers, and independent artists to showcase their creations. We believe in sharing stories and celebrating how each handmade object can come to represent something much bigger than itself. Travelling to the corners of this beautiful country, we curate unique and exclusive products that represent India’s finest craft-based designs.


In 2004, I co-founded an IT services company and by March 2015 the company got acquired. We had built a reputation for ourselves by building a lot of cool stuff for many established companies like Apple, HP, SAP, Dell & startups like Cleartrip, HolidayIQ, TaxiForSure etc.


After the company got acquired I wanted to create something valuable and sustainable & that’s how iShippo.com started. Initially we started out trying to solve the logistic challenge that prevails in our country but we quickly realised that there were many security & regulatory hurdles that needed to be resolved before we could open it up to the public. And hence the pivot into the handcrafted products marketplace which is completely underserved and we had the right skills, tools and the execution prowess to service this market.


GL: What are the challenges you have faced in establishing your business?


KB: It is a challenge dealing with an unorganised sector on the supply side where you have to run interventions to educate artisans/weavers about computer, internet & eCommerce, design workshops, solve connectivity issues.


Finally we have buyers who aren’t used to purchasing handcrafted products online and they are longing to touch or feel these products before they buy them.


As a startup there are a lot of moving parts when venturing out on your own: acquiring customers, acquiring sellers, balancing the marketplace (supply/demand), customer satisfaction, social media, marketing, etc. In my opinion having basic knowledge on best practices in these subjects is crucial to running your business on a day-to-day basis but you still have to hire ‘A’ players who are dedicated to their craft to bring the vision into reality.


GL: What is the USP of your business?


KB: As a marketplace we curate unique products from fun jewellery and cool accessories to creative home decor and kitchen items. These products have an element of individual craft, manual skill, or handwork. Further we create bespoke products and encourage people to send in their designs to our artisans/craftsmen; who in turn produce them and ship it back to the designers or customers.


Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make In India’ campaign, iShippo.com not only promotes handcrafted ‘Make in India’ products but also includes promotion of the culture heritage and is the culture keeper of India’s traditional handloom artists and craftsmen. iShippo.com is committed to supporting artisans/craftsmen, creating a sustainable way of doing business/commerce while using the power of the internet & eCommerce to bring together communities and empower people.


We are transparent with our dealings and measure our success with the success of our sellers and our community. We admire the unconventional and cherish the bold. We love what we do, and these values and philosophy will always remain core to the way we conduct ourselves, today, and as we grow our platform and our community.


GL: What are some of the achievements of your business?


KB: iShippo is recognised as one of the top five eCommerce startups to look out for in 2016 – by TechNewsToday – USA. In recognition of our work; we won the mBillionth Award 2016 in the early stage category. We have partnered with Ministry of Textiles, Government of India to promote India Handloom Brand and organisations like Central Cottage Industries Corporation (CCI), Digital empowerment Foundation (DEF), Craftmark, Cauvery Handicrafts, BanglaNatak, Rural Crafts Hub, West Bengal in a very short span of time.


GL: What role do you feel GlobalLinker plays in connecting and assisting SMEs?


KB: GlobalLinker is a doing a great job of connecting entrepreneur stories with the readers who are entrepreneurs-in-waiting. I wish GlobalLinker all the best in this endeavor, as this will encourage our youth to move away from providing services to embracing entrepreneurship.


GL: What is your big business dream?


KB: In India, there are more than 2000 traditional skill-based clusters covering various skills from textile designing, handicrafts, and glass, leather and brass goods to wooden industries. However, most of those working in the sector are suffering from exploitation, poor living conditions, extremely low wages and inaccessibility to direct market.


The handicrafts sector is important for the Indian economy as it is one of the largest employment generators and accounts for a significant share in the country’s exports. There are states and regional clusters that contribute significantly to handicrafts export. However, the Indian handicrafts industry is fragmented, with more than 7 million regional artisans and more than 67,000 exporters/export houses promoting regional art and craftsmanship in the domestic and global markets. According to the provisional data available the exports of handicrafts have shown an increase of 2091.26 crores, from 16989.51 to 19080.77 crores, which is an increase of 12.31%


Keeping this in mind, iShippo.com, a startup, offers a marketplace to buy/sell creative handcrafted products that supports local makers, artist, craftsmen, self-help groups, NGO and indie businesses. Its mission is to support local artisans by connecting them with designers & buyers from across the globe. iShippo.com will work to bring due recognition and economic prosperity to these communities of weavers, craftsmen and local makers. Why not, since they are literally fueling our country’s dream.


Our mission is to honour & support artisans/craftsmen, create a sustainable way of doing business/commerce while using the power of Internet & eCommerce to bring together communities and empower people. Our current path is to continue improving our platform, our technology, our outreach to designers, artisans, sellers & buyers. Our future path is an exciting mystery as we are building something very exciting.


GL: What is your message to aspiring entrepreneurs?


KB: There are just so many variables at play that it is impossible to create a winning formula right out of the gate. There are definite things that you need to do: you need to know your product, how you want to sell your product, marketing ideas, etc. But it is really up to you on what you feel are the best ways to approach it, how you build, how you plan and how you execute to scale.


You also need to listen to feedback and be open to changes – always. What it takes to become an entrepreneur is having a solid idea, determination, and ability to solve problems. There are so many resources available online that what you lack intuitively you can make up for by researching. The right attitude to have is to keep a curious mind.


You will probably have a bad week, month, or even quarter when starting. If you are only focused on the negative things you are probably going to sabotage your own success. I think it helps to create some type of timeline or plan to help your progress. You also need to have realistic goals and expectations.


One of the most important lessons I have learnt is that a good team can lead you to success and a bad one to failure. Your team needs to be productive and efficient and you need to cultivate & hire ‘A’ players. You must work with a team with a common vision and goals to smell success.


Keeping all that in mind you should coach yourself to never give up.


Disclaimer: This article is based solely on the inputs shared by the featured member. GlobalLinker does not necessarily endorse the views, opinions & facts stated by the member.



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