[Startup Bharat] How Varanasi-based Shoppingkart24 helps artisans connect

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When Prateek B Singh was working on exports of agricultural products in 2016, he found that farmers and artisans faced significant challenges in terms of Geographical Indication (GI) marking. GI Tagging aims to protect traditional products from extinction and also wants to provide a more conducive landscape for businesses related to traditional and origin-based products by tagging them on the basis of geography.

Prateek realized that there were significant pain points, which inhibited the growth of GI products. He also realized the gigantic potential that could be tapped if the right steps are taken.

So he came up with the idea of ​​creating an online marketplace and discussed it with the then Minister of Commerce and Industry, Suresh Prabhu, who liked the idea and gave the green light. This led to the birth of Inasmuch asSHOPPINGKART24Inasmuch as.

Launched in 2016, the platform aims to help Indian artisans, farmers, weavers and small sellers showcase and sell their products to Indian and international buyers.

“While former Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu initiated the step towards exclusive IG retail outlets, the first exclusive IG outlet was inaugurated in 2019 at Goa International Airport through CEPCI (Cashew Export Council of India), and Shoppingkart24 is associated as a supplier of Indian GI handicrafts and hand weaving products as well as APEDA (Authority agricultural and processed food export development), the spice tray, the tea tray and the coffee tray,” says Prateek.

Challenges plaguing the sector

Despite several traditional art forms, most Indian artisans come from villages and semi-urban areas and are unaware of the benefits of the GI label.

“These artisans are not getting the recognition and monetary compensation they are due, which is causing them to abandon these age-old practices,” says Prateek.

Moreover, cheap replicas of these products are sold in the market, which has a negative impact on weavers and artisans. Producers and growers are also not aware of the right price for their products and therefore end up selling them at a much cheaper price. This caused them to lose interest in continuing the business.

“Despite a dramatic increase in internet usage in India, a large number of artisans, artisans, local vendors and retailers are still unaware of online business models or find it difficult to do business through the media This has been a major barrier to bringing the products to larger markets,” says Prateek.

These questions highlight two major areas that require a skilful approach – how to increase the legitimacy of authentic and original products, and how knowledge of these products can be brought to a wider audience so that they start frequenting them.

How does Shoppingkart24 help you?

Shoppingkart24’s core business is to provide a online marketplace dealing with GI products. These include agricultural products, art and other GI products.

“With limited marketing channels, buyers were unable to purchase IG-labeled products from distant locations. Shoppingkart24 offers more than 15,000 GI products in one place and has the support of more than 2,000 reliable suppliers located in different parts of the country. Our team interacts with genuine producers and encourages them to sell their products online. The team helps them manage their product list, educates and trains them to manage each vendor’s product dashboard,” says Prateek.

He adds that many deserving sellers and producers are unaware of the GI labeling of products. The team helps them to undertake the necessary activities to obtain the certificates of use of the GI tags so that they can enjoy the benefits of this brand image.

“Furthermore, we have collaborated with many Ministries and are involved in their programs to empower marginalized artisans/artisans. Shoppingkart24 has also participated in national and international programs with its special theme videos and stories on various IG products,” says Prateek.

However, when the pandemic hit, artisans and vendors were also significantly affected. But the flip side was that people were more open to digitalization.

“Our team’s persistent follow-up and the bigger picture has resulted in a large number of products being onboarded, and the trend continues. Likewise, buyers have also started frequenting the website and although they were initially conservative in their spending, awareness of IG products has increased many times over, which is now translating into more purchases,” says Prateek.

The number of products available on the website has grown to over 15,000 and over 2,000 vendors are associated with the website. With emphasis on introducing more products under GIs by the government, there has been an increase in the number of GI products and many products have been added to the GI list.

Out of 417 GI product categories, Shoppingkart24 has 324 categories on the website, making it the largest GI-specific website in India, says Prateek. The startup takes a small percentage of the sale made. The team declined the share of the percentage amount.

The market and the challenges

The majority of GI products are manufactured by suppliers located in remote areas. Their products are excellent, however, packaging and shipping are big hurdles in delivering products to buyers.

For this, Shoppingkart24 has linked to many reliable shipping agencies and carefully chooses the competent agency for the area concerned at preferential rates. In addition, items are often purchased from Shoppingkart24’s warehouse and packed there before being sent to the buyer.

The team says it educates manufacturers on the nuances of packaging. Shoppingkart24 is also in an advanced stage of discussions with a major national shipping agency for a memorandum of understanding, which will further reduce shipping costs and improve last mile connectivity.

Shoppingkart24 also has a team of content writers who work with manufacturers/producers to help them highlight relevant aspects and features of their products to generate good buyer appeal.

Besides, the team also educates and guides the producers to take proper photos so that they can showcase their intricate designs and the real works of art on the website and product catalogs.

“Producers of IG products are not very business savvy and therefore there is a general reluctance to offer their products to an unknown sales channel or to buyers on a digital platform. It also stems from their lack of exposure in managing online business processes and activities. Our team helps them undertake these activities and, in some cases, manage their product portfolios on their behalf. Shoppingkart24 has managed to gain strong support from more than 2,000 suppliers through its persistent and persistent efforts to earn their trust,” says Prateek.

Competition and future

Since its inception, the team has been operating from Varanasi, which is a hub for GI products. However, some team members also operate from different locations like Delhi, Bengaluru, and Luxembourg.

There are startups like iTokri, Tjori, Kashmirbox and several others operating in a similar space. With the D2C segment touching $100 billion over the next five years, according to multiple reports, the segment will further grow and expand.

“We have a traction of more than 1,000 users per day on our portal and we are building a good customer base, which is growing day by day across the world. We have customers from the United States, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and others Since its inception, Shoppingkart24 has achieved a turnover of over Rs 1 crore,” says Prateek.

The team has raised an undisclosed amount of angel funding. Shoppingkart24 is also planning to rebrand itself as Authentic GI. Its ultimate vision is to be a global e-commerce platform focused solely on IG products. It also plans to set up brick and mortar experience centers at strategic locations in the near future.

“As there is a high demand for Indian items and handicrafts, Shoppingkart24 partners with overseas suppliers for bulk supply of GI products. We also seek partnerships with government organizations, and also seek partnerships with private/corporate entities for more business through corporate gifts. We are focused on starting with adding and integrating international GI products registered in India and other countries in the future,” says Prateek.

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