For connoisseurs of art and craft, the products of Indian Handicrafts industry are nothing less than visual treat. Be it the marvelous delicacy of quilting from SUJANI or the Sohrai art work from Jharkhand, these wonderful pieces of art have mesmerized people world over.
The culture of craft is deeply entrenched within the rural communities and yet, it is the rural artisans who have been neglected over the years. Partly due to the colonial excesses and partly because of our own negligence. In cities too, we live among some wonderful artisans. Someone’s grandmother has got wonderful embroidery skills and someone’s mother can paint a pot with the same precision and charm that a fellow from Royal college of Art would. But due to lack of exposure, they do not get enough recognition, which otherwise would have helped them monetize their piece of art too.
Rajasthan is one such state in India which has a deep rooted culture of craft, thanks to the erstwhile royal families who gave patronage to the artists. From fabric coloration to puppetry, Rajasthan has got every color of the spectrum of art.
Billioncrafts, which is a Rajasthan based Startup was created with the view of providing the right platform to these artisans. To know more about Billioncrafts and how this Startup is achieving its goals, we interviewed Saurabh Agarwal who is the Founder of Billioncrafts. Currently he is handling the operations all by himself. Though he hasn’t bagged any VC funding till date, he is optimistic about the growth trajectory of his company.
TOS : Handicraft sector is a relatively untapped sector in India. Tell us more about how and when did you come up with this business Idea?
Saurabh-The idea to start Billioncrafts came to me during a trip to Jodhpur where I met very poor artisans working in dim light, making stunningly beautiful craft items but when I talked to them, contrary to their skills they were struggling for their survival. The condition of these people made me realize the condition of the craftsman on a whole who are trying to maintain the culture of our country but are still thriving for basic necessities of life and I decided to help them using the world of internet. The next chapter in this journey was a trip to my Aunt who makes beautiful Home Decor items but doesn’t get any place to sell and just used to give them away to the guests. I realized then that the talent of the hidden artisans needs to be showcased to the world and this is when I quit my job and implemented this idea.
TOS : So as an entrepreneur, what were the initial challenges that you faced?
Saurabh– Initial challenge was to identify these artisans and teach them about the world of internet. These are the people who are living in small villages and do not know anything about the online market. Trust me, it isn’t as easy as it seems. We actually had to enter their lives and influence them. We had to sit for hours to make them understand this shift of the market and get them into confidence.
Inventory management was also a big task for me because the art is so beautiful that you just wish to buy everything. Entering into the small streets and local shops and realizing the worth of each and every craft piece requires a lot of wisdom. Similarly we had to work hard influencing the house hold ladies who refused to trust us and didn’t want to work with us.
TOS– Tell us more about your initial days. How many people were involved in the inception and creation of your business?
Saurabh– I pursued my B.Tech from NIT, Jaipur from Electronics and Telecommunication engineering and during my on campus placement got selected in Verizon Wireless, which is the leading Communication company in US. Thereafter, this start up journey began with few friends but at the end it was just me who managed to give this venture a start.
TOS– Since you said it was just you who managed to give your Idea a final shape, it must have been difficult to manage things alone.What inspired you to go ahead with your Idea?
Saurabh– The zeal to do something for the society has always inspired me to go ahead in this journey even though I had to face a lot of issues. That smile I brought on the face of a poor old craftsman was worth a million gems. My family has always supported me for this noble cause and thus Billioncrafts is moving forward with lot of new ideas and more collaborations with artisans.
TOS– With ecommerce boom, there are some big players in the market who have started selling similar products.Where do you see yourself standing in front of your domain competitors?
Saurabh– As an eCommerce company we have a lot of competitors and surviving in this market is tough. But as an exclusive art and craft website we are pretty sure that we have the ability to capture the market with targeted marketing. Since we have our roots in the hands of our own Indian artisans and not in big factories that makes us stand different from our counterparts.We are also targeting corporate sector and the big hotels.
We have also collaborated with the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (J.N.N.) in its project named SHG project where the government is giving employments to the poor ladies of Rajasthan and promoting them to create beautiful art and craft. Billioncrafts is helping these people to showcase their talent through it under the section of Home Made.
TOS– Finally, apart from being the “karta-dharta” of your company, What other things you do to engage yourself?
Saurabh– As an engineer FIFA is one thing which will always remain a passion. I love reading a lot of stuff. From novels to journals I read everything. After office hours it is always one or the other thing that I do.