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September 19, 2018

How Etsy Intends To Empower Indian Artisans

Text By Shubham Ladha

As the US-based marketplace for crafts and creative goods makes its mark in India, we speak to its managing director about how it sustains a human connection at the heart of commerce

When Himanshu Wardhan’s daughter was born, she was gifted a toy from Etsy. It arrived from France, wrapped in a crumpled paper package, accompanied by a card with a personalised note from the seller — with her name hand-stitched on the toy. It’s this wholesome and personal experience that US-based Etsy’s Indian managing director keeps close to his heart as he helms the e-commerce website’s advent into India. We speak to him about Etsy’s impact on India’s e-commerce bubble, empowering offline sellers and what’s on his shopping list.

After almost a decade, how did Etsy decide to find its place in India?

Sellers from India have been using Etsy to share their crafts with the world since the company’s early days. We’re excited to now have a team on the ground to help grow and support that seller community enabling them to share even more of their unique and handcrafted goods with the world.

Given the exponential growth of e-commerce and small online sellers in India, we see a strong opportunity to cultivate the large number of creative micro-entrepreneurs who can offer beautiful and unique products to the Etsy community. We will reach out to creative entrepreneurs in India (such as small artisans of traditional art forms, parents working from home and professional designers and artists) to display their products and sell to nearly 35 million buyers not just in India, but nearly every country across the world.

How will Etsy affect the e-commerce market in India?

E-commerce in India till now has largely been associated with discounted mass produced goods sold by few large resellers. Etsy is the exact opposite of that. We are a platform for unique products sold by small creative entrepreneurs who are involved in making of the product or designing the product.

What sort for support system does Etsy intend to lend local producers? What about those who aren’t on Etsy just as yet?

The goal is not just to get a large number of sellers or build up a certain number of listings, but it’s also about how we get high quality and diversified products, how we expose the sellers and what is the platform that we give them. We are reaching out to new sellers through different online and offline channels. We are looking to mobilise a community of creative entrepreneurs and not just sign them as sellers.

Among other things, we will be hosting workshops to introduce existing and potential sellers to each other and creating more awareness of the brand and its offerings. Our teams are also physically going to local bazaars or looking at the online database to find interesting sellers. Our aim is to empower sellers to run businesses in their own right.

In May, we exhibited a few Indian sellers in New York during an international seller showcase. There are a lot of such opportunities we are looking to create for Indian sellers now that we are here.

A number of these entrepreneurs — such as craftsmen and artisans — aren’t digitally active. How will you help them find their presence online?

We have a seller from Shahpura district in Rajasthan, Vijay Joshi. He’s an artist who makes the ‘phad’ form of painting — a very unique artform that goes back to more than 700 years. There are only a handful of ‘phad’ artists in India and they all belong to one family in the heart of Rajasthan. When we reached out to them, we helped them in opening their shop, writing the descriptions and giving suggestions on the kind of photographs they should select. Our team was available to answer the queries that Mr. Joshi had and now, he can manage the shop himself without our help.

We aim to enable new sellers with enough support in terms of content creation, digital knowledge enhancement and setting up their shop.

Are there any specific areas in which Indian sellers are performing well?

The beauty of the platform is that there’s no one product that can represent it. While there are sellers making customized beer glasses, and tablets that connect to typewriters in the US, there are also sellers like Vijay Joshi, and Comfymommy, a maternity wear brand from Lucknow. A lot of our sellers and buyers from across the world are looking for supplies to create their products. And Indian sellers have a lot of fabrics, gems and jewellery to offer, which can have a significant influence on different buyer segments.

What’re you always on the lookout for when you’re shopping on Etsy?

My searches are often about home decor. I wanted a yellow typewriter, and found one from an Italian seller. I bought something from a seller named Beast Craft recently, and then discovered it was a brand from Hauz Khas, Delhi. I’m looking forward to getting some festive shopping done in the next few weeks. I am really drawn to what the seller has written and love reading about them, so let’s just say I spend a lot of time browsing through the platform.

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