When Dhirender Nirwani and Kunjal Nirwani came up with the idea of Craftgully, they visualized it as a street (or gully) with stores for each of the different crafts (ie. Quilling, jewellery making, flower making, clay modeling etc). Their thought was that much like the real world, a customer could walk down the street, browsing in and out of the stores buying whatever caught their fancy.
When they left the comforts of a secure job and entered into the world of being their own boss, their support system was a combination of the ton of experience they had with the belief in their idea, all their savings and of course the passion to build something bigger than them.
In this IOS exclusive, Dhirender shares insights and opinions about the shift into the world of online selling once they started Craftgully in 2014.
You and Kunjal are from different backgrounds. How does that help?
Both of us being from different backgrounds works very well to our advantage. Each of us brings a certain specialization and competence to the table, which complements the other in this venture. While my expertise is in technology, marketing, business and strategy, Kunjal’s lies in understanding the subject, and the customer. Each of us works to our strengths, and together we are able to provide a great experience for crafters everywhere.
You have a warehouse in Goa, city of tourism, but you operate out of Mumbai, city of opportunity. We are curious to know the reason..
While our registered offices are in Mumbai, our complete warehousing, logistics and operations are based out of Goa. We found Goa scored on a number of points – it is fairly well connected to most cities in India, has a proximity to Mumbai, offers a much better work environment, and a chance at a better work-life balance. Moreover, surrounded with the kind of natural beauty that Goa has, you cannot help, but do good work.
A number of the products that we sell are custom made to our specifications by various manufacturers, while some are made in-house. We also import some of the products we sell, while we also source some locally from artisans who specialize in them.
We actually stock all our products. This was a conscious decision we took, because we wanted the least possible time gap between placing an order to receiving the products. In everything we do, we try placing ourselves in our customer’s shoes, to see what we would like if we were them and work towards that. That said, we continue to evolve, and further refine our processes.
What are the challenges/hurdles you faced? How did you tackle them?
One of the biggest hurdles is ensuring timely delivery. Finding the right courier partner(s) is essential, and is a process that continually needs tweaking. Our solution is to have multiple tie-ups, and play to each one’s strengths.
Building trust. We make sure to detail the features of our products, to ensure the photos showcase the product as close to real life as possible, not to mention meet all the commitments we mention, such as delivery times etc.
Managing growth, keeping quality and service standards intact. More so, since we have a number of products, which are pretty low value, and our typical order, consists of multiple SKUs. We are always in a constant state of building, breaking and rebuilding our systems and processes.
Why did you not consider selling through an online marketplace? Wouldn’t that be easier?
Selling through our own website allows us the flexibility to do lot more than what would be possible through selling only through marketplaces. We are able to get a better insight into our customers, and hence are able to create more products and initiatives that would cater to them. As an example, we worked with our customers, and Facebook fans to crowdsource an eBook “CraftGully Quilled Jewellery Reference Guide” which is available as a free download from CraftGully.com.
With CraftGully, our aim is to cater to all crafters at each stage, and provide them with the tools and products to explore and exploit their creative potential to the fullest.
So no plans to enter the online marketplace scenario?
We currently do sell through select marketplaces as well. Admittedly we started selling on them pretty late. The main reason was managing inventory, because we would need to keep inventory in separate buckets for each of the marketplaces if we wanted to cater to them properly. But we signed up with Browntape last year and they have taken care of all our inventory and order management.
Secondly the average ticket size of our products is pretty low, which makes selling on marketplaces unviable for the majority of our product range.
While we will still continue to sell select product through marketplaces, we intend to continue selling the bulk of our product range through our own website. Here’s why:
- It allows us to have a much wider range of products at price points that hold a better appeal to our audience.
- It allows us to build a much better relationship with our customers
- We would tend to believe that profitability is higher on our own website.
- Marketplaces of course win when it comes to sheer traffic, but in the short time that we have been around, we have managed to deliver all across India, right from the Lakshwadeep Islands to the Andamans.
- In the case of your own platform, the dynamics are completely different. Growth relies on repeat purchases, while marketplaces on the other hand, are akin to a one-night stand.
What about packaging issues?
We have got custom corrugated boxes made which are extremely sturdy. All our orders ship out in those.
What are three common pitfalls that are critical to avoid?
Make sure you have a reliable courier partner. It can make the difference between a delighted customer, and a disgruntled one.
Customer service. We can’t emphasize this enough.
While our primary mode is word of mouth, we use a mix of social media marketing, online advertising, and SEO.
As an online seller in the expanding ecommerce space, what do you think is your biggest challenge today?
It would have to be the logistics for the final delivery. Inefficiencies in the courier systems, unsystematic development in most of the cities (which seem to have exploded), all contribute to it.
What are the tips you’d share only with your closest confidante about online selling?
Hire for scale, not because of scale
Price it right
The experience is as crucial as the product
What do you think is lacking in the ecommerce space right now? There must be scope for some betterment right?
A standardized regulatory and taxation policy when it comes to the movement of goods between states. Each state currently has it’s own taxation policies, and regulatory requirements, which can lead to insane delays.