India is home to over 200 millions artisans, with creative manufacturing being the largest employment generating sector in rural India after agriculture. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the handicraft and handloom sector suffered a huge setback.
When the doors of offline marketplace were shut, going digital was the only way to keep their business floating. In addition, these industries have shifted its focus from B2C and B2B players over the years. One such industry is the Noida-based Lal10.
Launched in 2017, Lal10 is a vertical wholesale marketplace for ethically made, artisanal handcrafted products in home and lifestyle categories. The platform was started by three engineers from DCE, IIT Madras and NITIE, Maneet Gohil, Sanchit Govil, and Albin Jose respectively. The venture enables creative manufacturing MSMEs to easily digitise, manage and sell their inventories for cross-border wholesale.
Small manufacturers use Lal10's Karigar application to digitise physical inventories which are available for wholesale through their web stores on the Lal10 platform. Currently, the company is working with over 600 MSMEs across the country and have digitised 15,000 products. Lal10 has buyer presence in North America, Middle East, Australia and Europe.
"Our supply is on fire, we are onboarding 2000 MSMEs and digitising 40k products to become the largest vertical wholesale marketplace for creative manufacturers from South Asia," Maneet Gohil, one of the co-founders of Lal10 told The Logical Indian.
Sharing his experience, Gohil said that his grandfather had a small manufacturing unit of footwear in Amalner, Maharashtra. He employed 12 artisans to create handmade footwears in leather and take them to local markets and traders in Mumbai.
"I have seen him struggling to get the right price for the product, get better market access, and working capital. I realised that there are over a million such manufacturers spread across the country who are just like my grandfather," he shared.
Enhancing Local MSME Growth
With a mission to bring light to the lives of rural MSMEs with a fragmented supply chain in creative manufacturing, he, along with his co-founders started Lal10 to create a maker's revolution by digitising small and medium rural manufacturers to take their sustainable products to global markets.
"We advised them to create contemporary designs from the same manufacturing techniques and materials which can make their products more marketable," he said.
"Creative manufacturers digitise their physical inventories and bring them on a web store on our platform. This helps them get better visibility and market access," he added.
Minimising Gap Between MSMEs And Customers
Contemporary designs adept to global markets are suggested to them on the Karigar application. With a key focus on cross-border wholesale, the company target resellers on ETSY and Amazon, mom&pop shops globally to procure these products in bulk. With an eye on impact, the platform has increased its income by 23 per cent by hiking the price of the products and giving them a larger market to be sold.
The company has also enabled industry standard SOPs for their manufacturers such that the quality of products and timeliness of orders are ensured. "With our technology we provide real time visibility of productions, quality, logistics to our buyers from our manufacturers. The best thing a brand loves to do is choosing products. We offer them an unparalleled assortment of products and give them flexibility for choosing products which are ready in stock or made to order," Gohil said.
Barrier to entry in rural manufacturing is supply. Gohil believes that trust and relationships has been the company's strongest leverage in this sector. Lal10 is a supply first brand which has created strong levers of value additions to its suppliers to win the trust over the last four years.
"We conquered the challenges of quality through stringent SOPs and training of our verified manufacturers. Most of these sellers have not been online ever, and many are mobile first. Creating the technology for them took us several iterations," Gohil explains.
As a startup, the company has been extremely capital efficient in terms of growing our supply, establishing technology and scaling our traction.
In the pre-pandemic era, MSMEs were heavily dependent on traditional supply chains such as exhibitions, trade shows, middle-men, export houses all of which got disrupted. MSMEs who had access to capital created their own websites and some created stores on Instagram and Facebook. However, the footfall on their online stores was minimal.
"We supported the MSMEs amidst the pandemic, to use Lal10's Karigar application to digitise physical inventories which are available for Request For Quotations (RFQs) on our global wholesale platform. This gave them visibility to larger markets internationally which the domestic market was still recouping through the pandemic after-effects," Gohil said.
The company is investing a lot on analytics and digital marketing to identify and reach relevant buyers across the United States and European Union. In the absence of trade shows and buyers becoming more conscious about procuring creative goods from China, Lal10 witnessed a strong surge in enquiries from small and medium sized buyers globally. These were primarily boutiques, mom&pop shops, brands on Instagram/ ETSY/ Amazon.
"With a strong supply base, we are growing our traction on demand at 80% MoM. In the next few quarters, we intend to tap a larger portion of US and EU markets. We are also in the process of launching a warehouse in the US and are planning to expand our supply reach to South Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines," he said.
In addition, the company is investing on technology innovations for their mobile first suppliers. It is working on image processing and providing more vernacular language tools to digitise these MSMEs at a rapid pace.