In conversation with Sudip Dutta, Aporv | SupportBiz

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In conversation with Sudip Dutta, Aporv

Aporv is an online handicrafts store of a different kind – what separates it from other similar ventures is its uniqueness. Aporv, pronounced a-poor-v, partners with local artisans in co-ordination with NGOs, designers and self-help groups to get their products online. Each of the products sold on Aporv is handcrafted, and some are designed by their designers, ensuring that they are one of a kind.

SupportBiz presents an exclusive chat with Sudip Dutta, the founder of Aporv. Find out what Sudip has to say about Aporv and about being an entrepreneur.

How long has Aporv been in operation?

The idea of Aporv originated in 2009, and our website was launched in 2010. So, we are a two-year-old, steadily growing company.

What were you doing prior to starting Aporv?

Prior to starting Aporv, I was the Director of Sales for an IT company in the US. I lived in the US for a little over 6 years, after which I decided to move back and start Aporv.

How did you come up with the idea of starting Aporv?

I am highly interested in arts and crafts. I do a lot of domestic and international travel, and wherever I go, I pick up unique products. It was during one of these shopping expeditions that the idea of Aporv came about - sourcing unique design creatives from India and shipping them globally.

Secondly, I have been involved in a few social causes, one of them being helping artisans get a decent livelihood by directly selling to consumers globally. Research showed me that India has over 23 million artisans, but 10 percent of them give up their jobs every seven to 10 years, mainly because they are not able to sustain themselves by selling their artifacts and not being able to find buyers.

I wanted to help such artists by creating Aporv.

How big is your team, presently?

We are a seven-member team, with a few others helping us part-time. Our team has members from BITS Pilani, Wharton Business School, IIM and Stanford.

How is Aporv different from other e-commerce websites?

There are a lot of handicrafts store online, but there are a number of factors that set us apart.

For one, we have a very stringent selection process for our partners and products alike. We are very conscious of who we partner with, and about choosing very unique products. We also design few of our products, ensuring that they are one of a kind and not available anywhere else.

Moreover, we sell only hand-crafted and eco-friendly products. We are very selective of what we get on our site, and that's what our customers like about us.

We sell our products as artifacts, rather than as just products. We tell our customers the story behind the creation of each product sold on our site, thus educating the client before they make a purchase.

We source directly from the creators of the artifacts or the organization associated with the artisan/ designer. We don't have any middlemen, which helps us reduce pricing, also making sure that the money directly goes to either the organization or the artisan.

We ship globally and also help create corporate gifts.

Do you have any exclusive retail outlets as well?

No, we are purely online players, and that is the reason we have been able to reach out to customers in 100+ countries, with 18,000+ fans on our Facebook page. Had it not been for the online platform, we might not have been able to reach out to so many global customers in such a short time.

What are the major kinds of products available with Aporv?

Aporv has a decent collection of products ranging from home decor and artifacts to jewellery, accessories like stoles and bags, sarees and a number of eco-friendly products.

Why did you choose Bangalore as your base of operation?

We could have been based anywhere, since we sell through the online medium. It so happened that I wanted to be in Bangalore after I moved back to India from the US. Hence, basing our operations in Bangalore was a natural choice.

What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?

There have been quite a few. For instance, the moment we got our first customer, who was in the US.

Then there was the time when we won our first award in just six months of launching Aporv.

However, what makes me truly happy is the fact that we have been able to help artists. For example, there was this artisan called Naushad from North India who reached out to us, wanting to showcase his art work on our site.

We are very selective of who we partner with, as we want to make sure that products are actually hand-made, authentic and unique. When we spoke to Naushad and informed him that he had been selected, he was so excited that he almost cried.

It is really satisfying to see some artisans who have always been looking out for wider audiences get a platform to reach out to a global market. I get goose bumps and feel excited when their product sells, and we inform them. The excitement is infectious!

What are the major challenges that you face in your business?

The major challenge that we face is that of logistics – of ensuring that each product reaches the customer on time. Then, we have the challenge of ascertaining that each product on our site is handmade.

There is also the issue of language barriers, in interacting with artisans.

What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

I would tell an aspiring entrepreneur to follow his/her heart. Everything else will follow.

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