Necessity is the mother of invention.
In GoCoop’s case it is adaptation. – Necessity is the mother of adaptation.
Being India’s first national award winner for handlooms marketing (eCommerce) by ministry of textiles, Govt of India, at GoCoop, we adapted to the on-going pandemic and were successful in most of our efforts. While the world was dealing with the situation in its own ways, at GoCoop, we saw some critical challenges that needed immediate attention.
Primarily being an online marketplace focussing to connect india's artisans, weaver co-operatives and clusters directly with consumers across the world, human intervention is a requirement at every stage. With the lockdowns in place, this was the main challenge and adaptation has taught us many lessons that we will value in the months to come.
For a preview of the eventful year let’s look through our experiences.
Silence of the looms.
For most artisan and weaver communities, summer and the festive season is the best time to sell their goods, collect cash and invest in the production for the coming months. Given the nature of the craft, production planning is done months in advance;raw material procured and the initial stages of production started. While the community was gearing up to sell, the pandemic hit and main channels of sales, often melas, and exhibitions, were put on hold. So the produced goods were left unsold. This created a chain reaction. Unsold goods meant blocked finances, which meant no new production could happen. No production meant no wages paid and in the end the weavers mainly affected. The lockdown and its economic impact had brought this industry to a complete standstill.
To liquidate the stock which would ease the cash situation was seen as the most important and immediate action required.
Every adversity is an opportunity
Being a social marketplace, GoCoop at its core has had the welfare of the artisan community. Over the last 8 years, strong relationships have been built with its artisan partners. During the pandemic, it was only natural for us to support in whatever best way possible. With piled up inventory and b2c offline sales channels almost non-existent, it was essential to equip the artisans with enough information to promote their products through our online platform, our strength. GoCoop being the pioneer in handloom ecommerce marketing, it only made sense that we bring the two together and strengthen our position.
While the backend processes require a lot of human intervention during the on-boarding of the products, in the current situation, this wasn’t possible. The team came up with effective online webinar sessions to educate the community about ecommerce and marketing.
The stocked up inventory also presented as a great opportunity for bulk business. This led us to start the wholesale campaign where we looked at boutiques, designers and retailers to promote handlooms. On one hand this was beneficial in liquidating stock in bulk; on the other hand audiences that did not have or had limited access to handlooms got an array at one stop. While this is still yet to be successful, the wholesale campaign has indeed brought a lot of international customer interests in the last few months.
Online at the end of the tunnel.
Our team, started reaching out to partners who usually participated in offline events, to convince, collaborate and finally onboard them to market their products. What started as a simple exercise, slowly evolved as it was understood that human intervention was to be at a minimum at every stage.
As the word spread, there was more interest in the craft community to collaborate with us. We saw enquiries to be onboarded from noted craft organisations such as Malkha, DastkarRantambore, etc to master weavers and micro entrepreneurs. During this time, our supply chain saw a 3x growth, and our sales also saw a 3x growth.
Marketing also saw some changes, as the offline concept of the GoSwadeshi, was brought online. Event based approach of promoting weaves and crafts from across the country to both domestic and international audiences saw larger incoming customers not to mention artisans who were interested to participate. These initiatives brought in an increase in domestic business but we saw a significant increase of 2x in the international business.
With these initiatives it became more evident – the role of GoCoop as a market leader and the necessity to collaborate with the community.
So much more we can achieve as we collaborate
As most of us are working from the comforts of our homes, thanks to technology we are able to stay connected and accomplish all our goals with very little hindrances.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we often connected with our seller partners to understand their challenges and situation. Multiple sessions were organised in order to support and collectively look for a solution. Building strong relationships is one of the keys to a successful business.
At GoCoop, as we connected, and reconnected with the artisan community, it became clearer that collaboration was essential to develop, support and revive the handlooms and handicrafts sector, especially in this pandemic.
Our team was part of multiple collaborative groups, where we also chose to be part of initiatives for artisan promotions on the platform. Collaboration with creative dignity brought about artisan direct, an initiative to showcase 13 artisans through a month.
Similarly, with SVP and Titan CSR groups, we hosted the event “The Shilp Route” for 13 artisans.
These initiatives gave special attention to the artisans, and were able to provide evidence that the online is helpful in marketing their crafts. Apart from interacting with the artisan community, as a growing organisation, we felt it is also very important to engage and understand our customers.
We launched the “crafting conversations” initiative where we brought together artisans and customers on one platform – a webinar, to hear out their perspectives on the sector and situation.
This engagements has laid foundation to the next steps for the organisation and also made our position and relationship with the ecosystem stronger.
As we enter the new calendar year, we see that the markets are changing, the buying patterns are changing as people are choosing more sustainable and conscious choices. Online, seems to be the way to promote people and products, if we want to reach audiences across the globe and create evident impact.
From collaborations with social organisations, craft entrepreneurs, to customers in different parts of the world, who want to support in promoting the heritage of our country, it is now more than ever necessary to work as accomplices.
For a sector that supports nearly 10million artisans, effective impact cannot be made unless we all work on it together.
Let’s welcome the new year with positivity, more excitement, more effective collaborations.
Let’s continue #craft change together!