Imagine buying hand-woven Sambalpuri silk, Ikat and Tussar saris on your smartphone or browsing through a variety of handmade home textile fabrics sitting at home without having to scout physical stores.
The founder and MD of Bengaluru-based start-up GoCoop.com puts it quite succinctly. “We are aiming to be the Amazon or Flipkart for handloom and handicrafts,” says Siva Devireddy, who founded GoCoop in 2012 to create a visible online marketing place for handwoven and handcrafted products.
Every quarter since they started, GoCoop’s online sales have doubled with a quarter million page views a month. Forty per cent of their sales are to countries such as the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Europe and Singapore.
Devireddy, 38, plans to connect global buyers and sellers directly, providing individual recognition for weavers and artisans. GoCoop has been supporting 50,000 weavers and artisans through 200 cooperatives and sells 11,000 products. By significantly reducing the cost of marketing, they have been providing better prices for buyers and sellers. Recently, they inked MoUs with three major corporations under the Ministry of Social Justice Empowerment.
Devireddy is now on an expansion mode going from four states (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha) to 10. To this end, he has been travelling four days in a week, from Himachal Pradesh to West Bengal, identifying the weaver clusters, their products, their marketing issues and developing a platform for them worldwide.
A mechanical engineer-cum-management graduate from the US, Devireddy worked with Accenture for eight years. But an encounter with weavers in Guntur made him quit his job to start GoCoop. “I stumbled upon a lane of weavers in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh where year after year, I saw them diminish in number. I saw how difficult is was for them to sell their products at the right price or even access the markets. After a bit of research, I found hundreds of cooperatives and self-help groups who were struggling to market their products,” says Devireddy.
“From here, started my journey to create access to markets and also to aggregate smaller groups into bigger ones to increase their production capacity. Thus was born my e-commerce platform,” he adds.
GoCoop offers a platform which includes a directory service, a micro-site service with trade inquiries, and an e-commerce service with both branded e-stores and a marketplace. Its development model is based on creating identity and awareness for artisans and handcrafted products by listing them online. It identifies clusters renowned for handloom and handicraft products, particularly in states where the government intervention is largely through NGOs. Once identified, it works with the departments concerned to train, offer operations support and market the products. An office is established in the state and products from the cluster showcased on the portal, providing an interface for the seller and buyer.
Devireddy says his biggest support has been his wife Sailaja, a chartered accountant. His two good friends, Jaganmohan Reddy and Srinivas Babu, also from Accenture, became his business partners. “I owe it to my partners as they entered an unknown area. I have invested `40 lakh from my savings. We got one round of seed funding from Unitus Seed Fund and Indian Angel Network. Now, we have set up office in Delhi with our own teams in Maharashtra and West Bengal,” says Devireddy.
In the next two years, GoCoop hopes to capture a sizable marketplace but with better pricing from global buyers. “There are no details about artisans when their product is sold. But on GoCoop, we give due recognition and visibility to these unsung heroes. We are planning to create a retail initiative so that we have a recognizable brand of our own,” Devireddy says.