The social commerce platform, Lal10, takes pride in calling itself the Alibaba of micro-entrepreneurs in the Indian crafts industry. Though India is known for its exquisitely crafted handlooms, embroideries, block prints and other forms of leather and metal crafts many of these crafts businesses have languished due to lack of support. There are 1.2 million SMEs in the crafts sector—employing the largest number of people after agriculture. The going got tougher for artisans during the pandemic, when a lot of them lost their livelihood. That’s when former Flipkart employee, Maneet Gohil, decided to launch a B2B e-commerce site, Lal10, to support artisans to sell their crafts to international retailers.

While Lal10 seeks to give artisan communities a facelift, Stage3 is yet another upcoming social commerce platform that seeks to give small-time fashionistas and fashion influencers a platform to showcase themselves. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are full of small boutiques and entrepreneurs showcasing their products. It could be a boutique selling chikankari sari and salwar kameez from Lucknow, mojris from Amritsar or even a Bollywood-inspired homemaker selling fast fashion from her single-room apartment in suburban Mumbai.

Though social media does give all these entrepreneurs a window to the world, they find it a challenge to market themselves and shipping is a tough proposition too. Stage3 promises to power the creator economy in fashion and beauty. “If I am a small seller of athleisure, I can set up my storefront on Stage3. The sellers and buyers can directly communicate with each other, and we will take care of shipping and payment protection of the buyers,” explains Sabena Puri, co-founder, Stage3.

Giving the Indian artisan community an opening in the global market is gaining momentum. In fact, the Indian arm of leading furniture and home furnishing retailer, Ikea, is also looking at selling its Indian handcrafted collections across its stores globally. In the past few years, it has been working with organisations such as Rangasutra and Industree—which closely work with artisan communities across the country. “For the last two years, we have been doing a festive collection, which is made in India and has generated a lot of interest in global markets. Next year onwards this collection will be global,” says Kavitha Rao, chief commercial officer, Ikea India.

Gohil, along with his colleagues at Flipkart, created the platform that enabled various artist clusters to have their own webstore and digital catalogues which could be hosted on Lal10. Though masters of their individual crafts, most crafts businesses in India don’t know how to make their craft saleable. Therefore, in addition to connecting them with buyers, Gohil and his team also help them with the latest design trends. “The market for a Maheshwari sari weaver, for instance, will always be limited to Indian sari lovers. But the same weaver can also create curtains, cushion covers and other home furnishing stuff, which would have a wider audience. So, we help them make their products more marketable,” explains Gohil.

Lal10 also helps weavers’ source good quality yarn at a competitive price and helps them with financing too. Most weavers end up borrowing from the unorganised market at hefty interests. “Many of these weavers only require 100 kilos of yarn, but factories turn them away as they only supply bulk quantities of 1,000 kilos. These weavers end up buying from middlemen who charge them a hefty commission and the quality is often questionable,” Gohil further explains.

Gohil’s clients are cooperatives, NGOs and power looms which have annual revenue of ₹50 lakh to about ₹20 crore. So how can a craft entrepreneur make use of the Lal10 platform?

The B2B platform has a request-for-enquiry model where a buyer can put in a request for particular kinds of products and the craft manufacturer listed on Lal10 would pick up the order. As they close the order, the order comes to Lal10—which takes charge of the shipping to the buyer. “It’s a managed marketplace. We take the onus of the order and we get a commission from the buyer. The buyer pays us and we pay the seller,” says Gohil. Launched in the midst of the pandemic, Lal10 already has 2,000 crafts businesses listed on its platform and an annualised run rate of $7 million, claims of Gohil. He is confident of having 6,000 crafts businesses on his platform by the end of this fiscal.

Rao says the company will partner with more artisan communities and take their business to global shores. “The moment we start sourcing for the global markets it will give global access to entrepreneurs and the scale of the game will change. It will also give us the ability to balance prices,” she explains.

Stage3 is focusing on influencers too. Apart from the high profiled celebrity influencers almost every city and town in India have local influencers who the millennials swear on and Stage3 is trying to connect the brands on its platform with these influencers. “Young India shops through influencers, therefore, we are allowing influencers to set up their own storefronts. They can set up their own closets or they can partner with the brands we have, and their products catalogues would get exposed to influencers. The buyer would be able to see their favourite influencer showcased products and the value proposition gets elevated both from the perspective of buyer and seller,” says Puri.

Stage3 gets its revenue by charging a 20% commission to the seller for every transaction. If the brand opts to promote its products through an influencer, then it would have to pay a 5% commission to the influencer. “The total commission would be 25%, which is much lower than what most fashion platforms charge,” says Puri. The likes of Myntra and Ajio charge commissions to the tune of 35%-40%, and more than often the sellers also have to invest an additional amount in advertising, else they would end up getting lost in the maze of brands.

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