A Q&A with Craftsvilla co-founder and CEO Manoj Gupta. The Mumbai, India-based company was founded in 2011 and closed a $1.5 million Series A funding round at the end of June. Investors include Lightspeed Venture Partners and Nexus Venture Partners.
SUB: Please describe Craftsvilla and the value proposition you offer to crafters.
Gupta: Craftsvilla.com is an online marketplace with the largest selection of unique products from India across categories including Jewelry, Home Decor, Accessories and Apparel. We are bringing to global consumers access to Indian products which are very unique, not available through any other medium globally and delivered at an affordable price with quality guaranteed. We have close to 50,000+ products and 600+ sellers from across India which are selling on Craftsvilla.com today.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Gupta: The target demographics is primarily women between 21-and-65 years-of-age which is similar to ETSY, Pinterest or even Fab.com.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Gupta: In India, we have very little competition in this space. Globally, ETSY and Dawanda are our competitors although the supply base of ETSY and Dawanda has more U.S. and European flavor.
SUB: What differentiates Craftsvilla from the competition?
Gupta: One differentiation is that we are focused on Asian supply especially, with strength in India. Other is our business model which we call “Craftsvilla Studios” where we handhold artisans and designers in bringing them online by helping them in photo shoot, content writing, web upload and even in some cases helping them in inventory management and dispatches. This has enabled us to bring Internet to artisans of India and bring on Craftsvilla.com supply which otherwise would have never come online.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Gupta: The company was founded in Jan 2011. Our first steps were to build a solid team with tech, seller acquisition and marketing. Our next steps were to build “Craftsvilla Studios” in various parts of India which today have become local hubs for artisans. We have created a tech platform which enables commerce to happen between buyer and seller in a very simple way.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Craftsvilla? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Gupta: Me and my wife Monica Gupta like to travel to villages of India and it is in one of those visits to a village in the western part of India that triggered the start of Craftsvilla. We were very fascinated by the kinds of products these villages had and how these were not available in metro towns we live in. We then interacted with more artisans and suppliers and it became very clear that there is a lot of supply on handmade products in India which are not available on a global platform. The opportunity to create one such platform which captures all the regional diversities of India was very compelling and hence the start of this journey called Craftsvilla.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company/getting it off the ground?
Gupta: The major challenge for us has been to make sure seller quality is maintained, even when we are scaling up. Unlike other marketplaces, we are a controlled marketplace and we check inventory and product quality of all our sellers periodically. How to scale up our audit processes with no significant increase in cost has been our primary challenge.
SUB: You recently raised $1.5 million in new funding. How do you plan to use the funds?
Gupta: We plan to use these funds to expand more aggressively in other Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam to get supply from there. Also some proceeds of this money will be used to strengthen our technology further.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more funding in the near future?
Gupta: We plan to raise $3-to-5 million within the next six months to enhance our reach further into Africa and Asia.
Craftsvilla – www.craftsvilla.com