KraftInn: Upholding the North-east Indian culture | SupportBiz

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KraftInn: Upholding the North-east Indian culture

 
KraftInn is a venture based in Jorhat, Assam, a place where people can get a little bit of the unique North-east Indian culture and take it back home in the form of tangible artefacts like lamps, bags and home decor.

The name is a slight twist of two words - ‘craft’ that symbolizes the firm’s desire to design unique products and harness the skills of artisans who have evolved over generations, and ‘inn’, where passersby can experience the local culture. 

SupportBiz had an exclusive conversation with Parikshit Borkotoky, one of the co-founders of Kraftinn. Edited excerpts from the interview:

What are the major kinds of products that you offer?

KraftInn's core focus is on the designing and manufacturing of hand-crafted products using sustainable materials like bamboo and water hyacinth and making them mainstream using online and offline channels. Currently, the products that we offer include lamps, bags and other home decor artefacts like bookshelf, laundry baskets and shoe racks.

What is the background of the founders of KraftInn?

KraftInn was founded by Pramathesh Borkotoky and me, Parikshit Borkotoky.

I am an MBA graduate, and have worked with firms like American Express, Religare Securities and AccelTree software in the marketing division prior to my entrepeneurial attempt with KraftInn.

Pramathesh worked as a research assistant in a CSIR laboratory after doing his MCA. He is also actively engaged in a not-for-profit e-Magazine by the name of Fried Eye as the editor-in-chief. After two years of research work experience, he decided to join KraftInn.

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

We never planned to be entrepreneurs. It happened by chance.

In late 2009, when the world economy was facing a slowdown, the company where I was working had to be shut down. At that point of time, I had two alternatives - either to look out for a new job or to take this as an opportunity to start something on my own. I chose the second one, and made entrepreneurship as a career choice.

When I came to the north-east, our native place, I had a conversation with Pramathesh, who was also planning to start something. We clubbed our ideas together, and Kraftinn was incorporated on June 2010.

The need for greener alternatives is increasing day by day, and Assam is a pool of such natural resources which are still unexplored and untouched. We have chosen bamboo and water hyacinth to work with because of their durability and its easy availability in Assam. Bamboo home décor has a great demand, but this market is largely disorganized and a very niche and untapped category. This was one reason we decided to foray into the domain. Besides this, we wanted to start something which will address the issues of lack of sustainable income to the artisans, environmental and social awareness by using eco-friendly products, and revival of the dying art forms of North-east India.

What was the initial investment that was needed to start KraftInn? How did you arrange for the same?

We started with an initial investment of Rs. 15 lakhs, which was contributed by both of the co-founders and our family members.

What is your business model?

In the course of our research, we realized that the traditional offline business model cannot be ignored, specifically in India. In India, online buying is still at its nascent stage, as consumers often need to touch and feel a product before buying it. So, we worked on a hybrid business model - we have a showroom-cum-factory outlet for offline sales, and also sell online through our website.

Besides, we also sell through our online channel partners like Ebay, Shopo.in, and Craftsvilla.

How is KraftInn different from other e-commerce firms?

Since we do the design and manufacturing of our products ourselves, we have an inventory-led model, which means that we usually ship within 24 hours of the order. Also, our in house manufacturing allows us to maintain the quality of items and a superior customer experience.

Typically, in a normal retail scenario, the customer pays 2-3 times the actual manufacturing price. This happens because a product goes from a manufacturer to a distributor to a retailer, and in each phase of the supply chain, there are costs related to storage, movement of goods, display, marketing, sales and real estate. However, since we manufacture and sell directly to our customers, we are able to provide goods at factory price. This is a tremendous value addition for the customers, and can only be provided by bringing the customer closer to the actual manufacturing, which we are able to do by leveraging the internet.

We are probably the only one or among a select list of home décor companies who use only eco-friendly material for our products.

Tell us about the competition in your line of business….

This is a niche area, and we hope to create a new market. However, since we are looking at affecting consumer spend related to purchasing household items like lamps, our competitors include all the lamp manufacturers and home decor suppliers. The best way to deal with it is to be informed and constantly analysing the latest trends in business.

What are the major challenges that you face? How do you overcome them?

The major challenge we are facing currently is managing the logistics cost. Customers want the best products at the least prices. Our goods are very delicate and hence, require many layers of packing material to ensure maximum safety. The products are voluminous, and logistics costs are very expensive.

Also, sometimes, some customers want to receive the purchased products immediately after transacting. Moreover, in India, consumers are somethimes concerned about the look and feel of the product, but seem to ignore the longevity aspects of the material – like how the material has been treated.

Having said that, the customer experience cannot be compromised, regardless of these issues. We have spread out our product delivery across multiple courier services. We have replaced products in case of any complaints, without asking for any justification from the customers. With the help of social media tools we are trying to engage consumers and building their trust to buy products online.

How do you market your business? How do you get most of your business?

Most of our business comes through organic referrals and organic loyalty via excellent customer experiences. We also get business through our presence on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

What are your thoughts about the e-commerce industry in India? What are the major trends that you notice at present?

E-Commerce has just started in India, and has a huge market potential that is already being reflected with the entry of many players in the arena. A major revolution is happening in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities because of growing internet penetration. Today, consumers are very informed of the number of brands/products available online. Moreover, in big cities, e-commerce is often a convenient choice by the customers, as driving to a market and finding parking space often turns out to be a very painful experience.

Personalisation is a key trend that we have observed in the e-commerce domain lately. Many consumers look for personalised items which fit in with their lifestyle.

From an e-commerce perspective, we also see two key challenges:

• Heavy discounting and deals: The Indian consumer is being bombarded with deals and heavy discounts of up to 70-80%. We feel that this is ultimately detrimental for the industry, as many of these discounts are not real. For instance, you can actually verify the discount in only standard branded items that have an MRP, but a majority of the products on offer on such websites do not fall into that category. It also creates a false impression on buyers that there is little value in e-commerce apart from getting discounts, downplaying aspects like convenience and access to a wide variety of goods.

• Cash on Delivery (COD): We feel that the cash-on-delivery model, though convenient for the user, is not a financially prudent model for business, especially for large-sized products, primarily due to the return rates and long cashflow times.

At KraftInn, we have taken a conscious and cautious approach to these two challenges.

How do you think the e-commerce industry in India is poised to grow in the next couple of years?

The future of the e-commerce industry in India looks to be very bright. We are seeing an increase in consumer trust while buying online. Having said that, we see a lot of consolidation in this space, and think that excessive discounting and options like COD will probably slow down a bit.

What are your expansion plans?

In the next three years, we see ourselves, building a large manufacturing unit, provide large scale employment, cater to global markets, introducing newer eco-friendly products, innovate on newer technologies and be the #1 Indian eco-friendly home decor company.