[Startup Bharat] Making crafts mainstream, how this entrepreneur is ensuring sustainable living

‘Sustainability’ has become one of the most important words of today’s times 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 on Siliguri Nikita Agarwal who calls herself “obsessed with sustainability”. However, as she tried to redecorate her home with durable decorations, the 29-year-old former Air Asia crew member found herself in a state of upheaval.

“I wanted to fill my house with bamboo or jute interiors,” she says Your story. However, finding suitable products in local Siliguri markets as well as online has become a challenge.

She saw a business opportunity and started Idhiyaan Craft in October 2019 as a personal project.

Sustainable decorations

operating under Suvnik Concierge Services Pvt Ltdthe artisan start-up started selling jute rugs with rattan baskets and boxes.

While finding sellers in northeast India, particularly in Assam and Sikkim, to redecorate her home, Nikita was also looking to incorporate them into her new business.

“We also created a Facebook group called ‘Buyers and Sellers of Crafts’ which gave sellers a platform to showcase their products. This gave us access to 15,000 local artisans and vendors. We also started receiving purchase requests from across the country,” says Nikita.

The co-founder also created an Instagram page and started uploading photos of some products.

Idhiyaan Handicrafts started with rattan baskets and jute rugs. But over the past year, the business has expanded into the stationery and home decor categories.

It was then that his brothers – Nikhil and Suraj Agarwalwho was struggling to keep his travel agency afloat due to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – got on board and invested Rs 5 million from their travel agency.

Overcome Challenges

One of the biggest challenges the startup faced initially was convincing the people of Siliguri to buy their products.

“People in our town were not able to understand anything about these products because there is still a lack of awareness. Many said ye ghaas phoos kaun khareedega (who will buy these weeds and weeds)?” Nikita said, adding, “We wanted to convey that even though it’s ghas phoos, the products are much better than plastic ones and look extremely nice.

The craft startup, which began by selling offline in a physical store in Siliguri, tried to educate consumers visiting its outlet. However, local demand creation became a major issue that set them back for at least a year. The trio then decided to put their products online, via their own website.

The first group of customers were corporate 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 home decor products. Since then, the company has expanded into the stationery, personal care and home decor categories.

These products come from artisans and vendors in Manipur, famous for its cane products. The bamboo products come from Tripura while the earthen products come from Maharashtra among other states in India.

Idhiyaan Handicrafts works with 30-40 vendors and craftsmen, buying products from them in bulk at wholesale prices and reselling them after adding their own margin. The firm refrained from disclosing its margins.

Credit: YourStory Design

Much 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% of orders through its digital channels, including the website, Facebook and Instagram.

Economic model and future

On average, Idhiyaan claims to fulfill 80-90 orders each monthresulting in sales of Rs 3-4 lakh. Their customers include businesses, individuals and resellers generating order value between Rs 1,000 and Rs 30,000according to Suraj, who heads the company’s sales.

During the 2021-2022 financial year, the company generated Rs 22 lakh revenue compared to Rs 3 lakh in FY21. Admittedly, Idhiyaan only operated for six months during the first year of operation. The company aims to generate Rs 1.10 crore by the end of FY23.

Idhiyaan has also opened another store in Siliguri and plans to convert its website into a marketplace for craft buyers and sellers over the next year. The company is looking to raise external funds for its expansion plans.

India’s cottage industry job finished seven million regional artisansaccording to India Brand Equity Foundation, with over 67,000 export houses exporting to the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Australia, among other regions.

In the financial year 2021-22, India exported $380.83 million wooden crafts (through August 2021), while in fiscal year 2021 this figure was $845.51 million.

Idhiyaan Handicrafts currently competes with Beco backed by Better Capital, Rusabl (owned by EvenFlow) and a plethora of other vendors selling bamboo-based personal care products.