Handicraft are outcome of the ingenuity and creativity of the artisan / crafts-person. The handcrafted products are result of generations of skill transfer and often refined with changing socio-political and technological scenario. They are legacy passed on and also detailed study of the handicraft will give more insights on the community of the practitioners and for the consumers of the handcrafted product. It would be worthwhile to understand whether the handicraft is leisure pursuit or major source of livelihood, practiced by men or women and how many people from the family are involved in the handicraft. What are the market prospects, supply chain and opportunities for growth of the handicraft for ethical craft sustenance.
Today we are presenting Suhel Parvez from livecrafts who has kept the art of crafting alive in this modern world. His venture not only keep Indians craftsmanship alive but also helping many artist and craft-people earn their livelihood.
Lets see what Suhel and his venture Livecrafts does.
1.What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?
LIVECRAFTS – ‘Craft Meets Creativity’
Always behind every creative craft work, there is a wonderful thought, creative hands and untold story. LIVECRAFTS is an initiative to blend creativity to craft and bring the stories to the art loving customers. Effectively keep the CRAFT story LIVE.
As our tagline suggests, we are striving to bring in contemporary design and creative ideas to one of the forgotten craft-form from Channapatna. Every product of LIVECRAFTS has got a story behind it.
2.Who is your target Audience/clients?
Our primary target audience is corporate clients, craft loving customers and export market where there is demand for organic and eco-friendly products.
There is a huge potential to bring in Channapatna products as an alternate to Chinese products in the gifting segment. Our product design segments cover toddler toys, birthday gifts, return gifts, special occasion gifts, corporate gifts, etc. Our designers are smart enough to customize designs based on the specific client requirements.
Our retail clients are mainly buying the products for self-use since our concepts are very much in line with the modern market trends.
3.Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & What are your geographical target areas?
The venture is based out of Channapatna, a town 60 KM from Bangalore towards Mysore. The town is popularly known as toy town of India. The village is popular for small kids toys made of lacquered wood and run as cottage industry ventures.
The geographical areas targeted are whole of India through our website livecrafts and Direct selling in Bangalore through shop outlet partners. We are also targeting US and Europe markets considering the acceptance towards organic and eco-friendly products.
4.What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
The Channapatna craft was being ignored over the last few decades due to poor marketing, lack of innovation in designs and penetration of low cost Chinese toys. The products manufactured were mostly low margin wooden toys sold through small outlets. The segment operated like ignored cottage industry.
With recent popularity of organic products and government support to promote Made in India products, LIVECRAFTS is working to bring in the unorganised segment into mainstream.
LIVECRAFTS focuses on bringing in innovation to designs, reducing the cost of manufacturing through process improvements and promote the products and artisans through streamlined marketing efforts.
We take extra care to ensure the traditional processes are retained and ensure the charm of the product remains intact. All our products are made of processed wood, nontoxic colors and quality controlled to avoid damages.
As part of reviving the segment, LIVECRAFTS choose toys and home décor series of products. We are giving special emphasis on toys by engaging design experts from collages to generate innovative concepts for all age groups. These can be used for educational purposes, popularising traditional games and for gifting.
Organic, lacquered handcrafted home décor segment is another high expectation segment we are entering into. Our range of products include Flower vases, table top products, Kitchen accessories such as honey dipper, jars, salt pepper, etc. Over a period of few months, we realised the potential is enormous and what is needed is concepts and marketing.
5.Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it came to an existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
I am a third-generation artisan from Channapatna. My father is a well-established artisan who has been working hard to keep this traditional craft relevant in the modern world. After completing my initial education, I started doing graphic designer course in Bangalore. My stay in Bangalore helped me to understand the demand and the market for handicraft products. I also noticed the local quality Channapatna products being sold at very high prices.
This made me think why not I take the initiative to bring in more relevant and contemporary products which can replace these low-quality stuffs. I also realised, one of the major drawback of the craft being ignored is due to lack of marketing, lack of awareness among the villages on how to price the product and the need for bringing in new concepts at regular intervals.
This inspiration took me back to the village to restart my career among the artisans. However, I realised the need for a good partner and after few months of search, I stumbled upon a craft loving partner from Bangalore. This led to the birth of LIVECRAFTS.
Some of our famous products Channapatna horses, channapatna toys, flowervases, Finger spin tops, whistles. In a span of 6 months we produced more than 500 pieces of each of these.
Remember, each product is hand crafted and 500 per design is a motivating quantity for us to start with.
Our primary goal was to keep the craft live and bring in creativity into the craft. Over the last 1 year, this has been our effort and we are still chasing our goal.
6.Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Our main competitors are:
1) Low cost Chinese wooden products: We have a huge penetration of attractive Chinese products imported into India and these are very popular due to its low cost. This is one of the biggest threat for our growth.
We are differentiated through high quality of products and we give 1 year quality assurance on the wood. Also, we believe, innovation is key to take on the challenge and hence the attention towards new deigns and themes.
2) Off late, there are many players entered into the segment leading to exploitation of the unorganised segment. They exploit the artisans by paying low purchase price and the products are being sold with multifold profit. This negatively impacts since the products will not be in the reach of common man and affects the market penetration.
We are different by working with the artisan’s community, bringing in more women artisan into the mainstream through trainings which gives them stickiness to the profession.
We are also CRAFTMARK certified which audits us for fair trading practices such as equal employment, minimum wages and good working conditions.
We also believe high quality doesn’t always means high price. Our pricing is a demonstration of our belief.
7.How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us some thing about your co-founder/s
After my return to my village to support the artisans, what I needed was a good partner who appreciates the problem that I am trying to solve and also shares the same vision and goal. It was not an easy search to begin with.
Accidently I met up with a couple in the Channapatna Craft park who was in search of some good artisans who can make few customised designs. They were owning handicraft website and instead of selling the regular handicraft products, they were in lookout for some industries which badly needs attention.
During course of many interactions, I realised that this is the team that I can partner with since we both shared the same vision. We decided to start working together initially to focus on small set of products with high quality finish and reasonable pricing. The success of our initial sales gave us the confidence that we are on the right direction.
I was strongly impressed by the vision of my partner and her eagerness to support the craft among the women artisans and to put some steps in place to bring in a steady financial support to the women artisans. She came up with a concept of “Power of One” wherein, we share 1% of our profit for the welfare of women artisans.
8.How did you hired your first team members? What skills Do you want in your employees/team?
Our first team members were interns recruited from major institutes. We have few design interns working with us who works on ideations and concepts. The new generation coming out of colleges are having good exposure and excellent design thinking. So far, our engagement with the design colleges have been mutually beneficial.
The students get an opportunity to try out new designs and also prototype their ideas using our experienced artisans. Similarly, we get an opportunity to interact with some of the best design brains which intern enhances our product range.
We are in constant look out for people with good product design skills, passion towards craft, marketing skills to take our products to new locations, new audiences and help us in achieving our goal. If you are one among them, we always welcome you to be part of our success story.
9.What expansion plans are you looking for the next 2 years, next 5 years?
After 1 year of establishing, we now have introduced new design concepts and received support from various design schools. This ensures steady supply of designs which allows us to reach out to audience with variety.
We are establishing in the online space now and would like to be first choice in the organic gifting space.
In the next 2 years, our target is to become a popular name among corporate gifting segment. Since there are already established players with relations ship with corporate companies, we target to start collaborating with them and introduce our product range as gifting options in their catalogue.
Within 5 years, we would like to be a popular brand known for fair trade, high quality, innovative concepts in the craft loving Indian market. We would to have some of our innovative designs being awarded by some prestigious team such as CII design group.
10.Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?
One of the best eco-friendly décor and toys brand popular for innovative and contemporary designs. One of the respected team supporting women artisans. That’s our goal and that’s the mission we are into.
11.What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
Our next 3 months goal is promoting the brand and story behind the brand. Make it more visible to the craft lovers. We are introducing new Diya designs, Chirstmas products, toys for all ages, everything new and never seen before concepts.
Next 6 months we want to get into gifting segments to see if our products can be a viable alternate for the festival gifting seasons. This gives us the much-needed financial cash flow. We are in search of collaboration partners who can give us an opportunity to introduce our products as gifting options in their catalogue.
Within 12 months, we target to generate some investments and fund flow.
We need support in improving the tools, introduce product management processes and improvement the operational efficiency.
12.Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
We are self-funded till now. We are establishing our presence in the ecommerce space and collaborating with retail outlets.
With our recent successful experiments with retail outlets, we are confident of the working model and hence we are in look out for more collaboration engagements. Any established ventures who would like to partner with us are always welcome and we are in constant look out for such collaborations.
Within 12 months, we plan to generate some funding- either through investments or through government assistance to meet marketing expenses and to bring in process and product improvements.
13.What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
Even though the intentions we started LIVECRAFTS was all good, it needs to be conveyed and the concept should be accepted by the team who plays a lead role. In our case, these are the craftsmen from Channapatna village.
One of the major challenge was lack of education and exposure towards the latest marketing concepts. With a poor internet connection making the product visible in the digital environment was the initial challenge.
Initially we were very sceptical about the acceptance of our new designs by the market. The initial positive market response gave us the boost. Moving away from the established bulk order processing style of working into making own design and exploring the market was a totally new change for us.
The insecurity among the artisans was very high leading to lot of attrition. We started training more women artisans and making them more skilled to produce our designs. This gave us the loyalty and stickiness of the artisans.
We also started introducing team building exercises to keep them motivated and become one team to march towards our goal.
14.Are you married, single or in a relationship?
Married with a caring and supporting wife.
15.What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I have a strong passion towards craft and art. I used to spend time reading and visiting some of the village local craftsmen to curiously know about the effort and skill they exhibit in creating wonders.
My non-worktime goes with my family and artisans. It refreshes my mind and energizes for the next upcoming challenge. Supporting the artisans and being a part of their life reassures my confidence that one day I will reach my goal.
16.Whats your favourite food & holiday destination?
I love to have south India delicacies especially simple Idly – Sambar- Vada. The hot steaming idly dipped in sambar gives me the best experience I ever have in my life.
My favourite holiday destination is Jaipur- Jaisalmer. The desserts, the villages and the food are one of the best I ever had. The golden city of Jaisalmer really impressed with especially the forts, the craft works.
17.Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
My biggest motivator is Steve jobs. His attention to detail, the enormous success of various products he launched which revolutionised the industry, the aesthetic form factors which became a trend are inspirational.
18.What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
I have seen the days, that my father used to toil to ensure the commitments made to the end customers are met. Most of our orders are bulk orders either for domestic or international market. The amount of margin that we make have always been a challenge.
We had to follow the customer instructions and produce as per their requirements. Many a times, I keep asking myself if we modify the given design, we can give a totally different meaning to the product.
Such feelings make me think, can I do something different. Also, the tough conditions in which the artisans work and the returns that we get are not proportional. Can I do something which will bring in benefits to the artisans, make them more visible and give wings to my design thoughts strongly pushed me towards the entrepreneur journey.
Being an entrepreneur, you are on your own.
You decide your destiny, your team’s destiny.
Very soon, I realised, it comes with greater responsibility. There are days where I feel high, and also days where I feel let down, but every day, every moment I enjoy because I know careful planning, taking the team along with you and keeping the focus are bringing in results.
It’s a totally new world and I enjoy every bit of it. Each and every artisan in my team is an entrepreneur, because they bring in suggestions, improvements and refines my ideas.
19.If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Given another chance I would like to be closely associated with various craft forms of India and set up training institute to bring in innovation in all the craft forms. I strongly believe better education brings in better exposure to the artisans and helps them to lead a happy life.
20.How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & Social life?
Coming from middle class family background who were used to traditional designs, processes, marketing techniques, my thought of bringing in changes was a pleasant surprise to my family. Even though they were initially doubtful, over a period of time they were convinced that my ideas and thoughts are in the right direction.
Similarly, the artisans were also having raised eye brows when I explained about my vision and venture. But once they seeing the new designs that we manufactured and how it moved in the market, they were quite impressed.
Now I have a good support from my family and my artisans team. They trust in my risk-taking ability which is an encouraging sign for me.
21.Anything, you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
The entrepreneurs journey is full of uncertainty. You have to believe in your instincts, use data and statistics and make decisions. You may be right most of the times and at times you will fail. But every failure is a lesson learnt.
Once you are clear on your idea, you just need to move forward and keep reviewing at every stage.
Interacting with entrepreneurs’ community will give you the much-needed boost and energy. Networking is an important aspect for your success. Keep them growing.
But from my journey, I learned a lot through experience, more than I could gather through text books or any class room sessions.
22.Tell us something about your education & family background.
After my basic education, I moved to Bangalore to do visual graphics training. I was planning to get into some good graphical design firm after completing my training. However, my interactions in Bangalore and understanding how the handicrafts are being received in urban cities, took me back to village.
My father is a renowned Channapatna artisan who used to export products to international market in late 90’s and very popular among the artisans community in India. His hard work was an inspiration for me to keep facing any adverse challenge with a positive frame of mind.
23.What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other start-ups in similar domains.
Our USP is our goal towards reviving the century old craft, bring in new contemporary design concepts in the craft segment.
These substantially will bring employment, especially to women artisans, innovation focus in products and process.
Being craftmark certified ensures we are reasonable priced and follow fair trade practices. We share 1 % of our profit in supporting women artisans and we call it as “Power of One” initiative. This we believe is a strong driving factor for our women artisans to stay loyal with us and give their 100% to make our venture success.
Our products are eco-friendly, organic and nontoxic. There are very few such producers who provides 100% organic toys and décor which is of export quality and can pass any international standard tests.
Eventually we are a Private Social Entrepreneurship, a venture to bring in a difference,
24. What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses & Start-ups today?
Finding talented skills is a biggest threat to start up. Still we carry the mind set of corporate work as priority than chasing our dreams. If the skills don’t come together, your progress of execution slows down and this impacts the strategy.
Any delay in execution as per the plan will lead us back to the whiteboard to redo the approach again.
Cost and availability of talented resources is the biggest threat especially in the social enterprise initiatives like Livecrafts.
25. Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
I consider, so far, my journey has been eventful and successful.
I measure success as the acceptance of my concept within the Channapatna crafts community, more designers coming forward to support with design concepts and acceptance within the market.
We see positive response through online orders and movement of orders through our shop partners.
The sweetness of success can be increased once we get acceptance within the gifting segments and also more shop partners.
Awareness will increase our sales orders, the story of craft becomes more popular and our artisans gets more exposure.
26.Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id & website of Your Business & Contact Person
Name: Suhel Parvez
Phone: 98453 32198
Address: LIVECRAFTS, No 1547, NIZAMI CHOUK, CHANNAPATTANA
Email: [email protected]