Business Lifestyle

Starting a Handicrafts Business

Various functional and decorative items made from sikki grass.
Various functional and decorative items made from sikki grass.

I recently visited Delhi Haat, a place which provides a delightful synthesis of handicrafts bazaar, traditional food and cultural activities. Though it aims at providing visibility and exposure to the needy artists from all over the country in order to sustain and preserve the richness of Indian heritage. But in my opinion its underlying motive is also to provide a firmer base to the entrepreneurial aspirations of the crafts persons.

My recent trip to this wondrous place art and culture introduced me to Meera thakur, a Chandigarh based artist known for her sikki grass craftsmanship.

Meera Thakur exhibiting sikki grass handicrafts at her stall in Delhi Haat, New Delhi.
Meera Thakur exhibiting sikki grass artefacts at her stall in Delhi Haat, New Delhi.

Born and brought up in a village of Bihar, Meera said that she learnt the art from her mother and had been practicing it since a very young age. She has showcased her art at several platforms throughout the country and abroad.

A sikki grass vase with some raw sikki grass in it.
A sikki grass vase with some raw sikki grass in it.

Sikki grass is form of a wild grass found growing at the river side in the wet and marshy areas.

Beautiful bangles made from sikki grass.
Beautiful bangles made from sikki grass.

 

Various functional and decorative items made from sikki grass.
Various functional and decorative items made from sikki grass.

The art of making items from this grass is ancient and traditional where sikki is dried and the flower head is cut off resulting in fine golden fibre which is painted and used in weaving to make toys, jewellery, baskets, etc.

Starting a Handicraft Business

If any of you too have a hidden talent to create or market interesting handicraft items, then this is the apt venture to turn your passion into an income-generating business. Of late handicraft business has become one of the most lucrative businesses as there is a huge demand for handmade craft items that are artistic, usable and affordable. Also, India being one of the famous tourist destinations there is a rising demand from tourists for unique cultural items as souvenirs. You can produce your own handicraft items or you can just sell other’s products or you can do both – producing and selling.

But before starting your handicraft business there are certain factors that need to be considered:

Thorough Market research

Before you venture in this business, you should do an in-depth research about the business as this will help you in formulating a strong business strategy. Study about the available products, various product categories, marketing strategy, hits and miss of your competitors, pricing strategy, etc. Besides, try to attain the basic understanding of various aspects of a business like bookkeeping, managing, advertising, and purchasing. Also try to gather information on how can you run your business cost-effectively. It will help you in providing a firmer foundation especially during the relatively wobbly initial years, with minimal or no human resource. For your research you can refer to smallb.in (http://smallb.sidbi.in) as it helps individuals in gaining deeper insight into various business opportunities.

Managing Finances

Before starting crafts business undertake a detailed financial analysis of your expected costs to ensure you can run your business in the limited available budget. Also, arrange for reserve capital in advance, to meet expenses various expenses before you are able to sell and earn profit. There are certain avenues from which you can avail initial support for your enterprise.

  • India Aspiration Fund (IAF) launched by Arun Jaitley to promote start-ups in India.
  • Under ‘Made in India’ program government has also launched loan schemes for small enterprises.
  • SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India) provides various financing schemes to promote entrepreneurship.
  • 10K Startup is a NASSCOM initiative which provides funding as well as assistance for brooding and speeding of business.
  • Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hastshilip Vikas Yogna promotes artisan clusters into professionally managed enterprises.
  • National Small Industries Corporation also runs various schemes related to financial assistance.

Besides these, the other prospective funding agencies are –

Supply Chain Management

Supply chain encompasses of all the activities associated with transformation of resources into finished product, which will be delivered to the end user. To make you product deliveries on time you need a robust supply network.  To avail timely supplies you can either build direct contact or can have third party assistance. Online portals like tradeindia.com (http://www.tradeindia.com/TradeLeads/buy/) also prove to be helpful for the purchase of raw materials. Before making a purchase order, decide the quantity, quality, cost and time duration that fits your requirement.

Product categorisation

You need to decide the product categories, you want to trade in. Whether you want to sell all types of handicraft products or just want to deal with exclusive categories. You can do a market research on it. Then you can partner with various local craftsmen or can go to Indian handicraft fair or places like Dilli Haat. Sign a merchant agreement with them after deciding the product price and delivery date and time.

Location of the Store

The place where you will setup your physical store should be suitable in the terms of services, size, safety and security. Zero down on an area keeping in mind the prospects of expansion in future. The location of the store majorly depends on the flow of finances. You can either consider renting or buying a home studio or in order to save up on the setup cost, you can even start the business from your home.

Once the location is finalised then you can register your business and obtain the necessary permits and licenses needed to run the same.

Explore the Online World:

Since, your physical store won’t allow you to reach large number of audience, creating an e-commerce website will help you in selling your product in a wider market. If you are wondering how to start your online handicraft store, refer to the wonderfully detailed article ‘A Complete Guide to Sell Handicrafts Online’ posted by Anupama Ravi – https://www.kartrocket.com/sell-handicrafts-online/

Below are some pointers for your quick reference, derived from the same.

  • Hire web designers and developers who will create online store for you or go for pre-built design templates which will save a lot of your time as well as money. Make sure that your design templates are mobile responsive so that it can be accessed from any gadget.
  • Prepare a product catalogue. List down and click all the products that you are going to deal in and then divide the products in various categories and sub-categories. It will help customer in tracking the product easily. Follow a feasible product pricing strategy and provide apt product description to your items.
  • Choose a method for online payment. Decide whether you want integrate payment gateway to accept online payments or COD (cash on delivery) to accept offline payment or both. If you are willing to sell handicrafts online to the international audience, make sure that you do have a secured payment gateway like PayPal to accept international payments easily.
  • Make the shipment of your products very carefully as it will affect your sales and potential customers. Choose packaging material as per the product type. If the product is delicate and breakable, then you need to take extra packaging care. But, make sure that you don’t make your package too big as it will increase your shipping cost.

If venturing on your own in the new vistas of E-commerce seems like a challenge for you then you can also go for tie-up. For instance, Anwesha, a crafts based non-governmental organisation (NGO) works among craftsmen near Bhubaneswar, Odisha. Since it works on a lean model with 8 – 10 employees, it was facing a major challenge in finding the right market for its products. Tie-up with Craftsvilla, an e-commerce company, opened new prospects for them by linking them to the fragmented buyers. Besides Craftsvilla there are many other e-commerce portals as well like CraftsinIndia, theartbazaar, artsycraftsymom, craftgully, Indian Gifts Portal etc.

Selling of Finished Products

Besides selling your finished products from the your studio and e-commerce channels you can also sell your products at retail stores, galleries, consignment stores, craft and flea markets, state emporiums etc. You can also associate with Crafts Council of India (http://www.craftscouncilofindia.org) to know about the schedules of craft shows and markets in India. You can also tie-up with various NGOs like AIACA, Happy Hands Foundation, Dastkar, HandsOfIndia, Craftrooots, Maati, Gramin Vikas Hastakala, Rangsutra, etc. to promote and sell your products.

Product Pricing

The correct pricing strategy is the most important aspect of crafts business. Don’t price yourself too low that you are not able to cover your cost but at the same time don’t overprice yourself out of the market. The key is to price your products close to the market price, which also leaves you with some amount of profit.

Marketing Your Crafts

High quality work is the biggest marketing agent of crafts business. Where there are other marketing ideas that you can adopt to increase your visibility and increase your product sale.

  • Business cards and pamphlets illustrating and describing your work, is the standard form of marketing.
  • Word-of-mouth, especially if given by an opinion leader, such as a newspaper columnist, works as a powerful tool that can build a great reputation for your business.
  • Make a direct connect with your customers by telling them tale of your business. Acquaint your customers with the unique way with which you produce your crafts, the thought that goes into the selection of materials, or what inspired you to venture in this area. You can put your story in your web site, share with a newspaper editor, include it in your brochure or publish it in the form of a book. The book ‘The Fabric of our lives’ is the story of FabIndia written by Radhika Singh.
  • Try to get the email IDs of your potential customers. Mail them regarding your products, offers and attractive discounts.
  • There are many forms of advertising on the Web that you can try like buying targeted banner ads, Google ad words for your keywords, or even donating a craft item for web site contests. Depending on your budget you can opt for paid advertisements to increase your visibility in popular social networking sites like Facebook.
  • To expand your business in the virtual world, you can use search engine optimization (SEO) marketing technique. In it you have to choose relevant keywords with maximum searches and minimum competition and include these keywords in your site content and product description.
  • You can also take the help of the organisations like UNESCOITC, UNIDO, UNDP, which work for crafts promotion worldwide.
  • For e-marketing and export of product you can also take help of government agencies like Central Cottage Industries Emporium, Export Promotion Council of Handicrafts and The Handicrafts and Handlooms Exports Corporation of India Ltd.

Handicraft business is a rewarding one, but it takes certain amount of time before it turns into a flourishing venture. So tread the path of craft entrepreneurship with patience and farsightedness.

About the author

Rashmi Sacher

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