When Rashmi Daga decided to start a business of her passion — art and craft — she chose a name that was short and easy to remember.
She wanted to deal in art and craft objects that can be used in everyday life, on the Internet, and what can be simpler and easier to remember than Art For Everyday, as the name for her venture. And, she conveniently shortened it to Afday.
Rashmi is an electrical engineer and an IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus. She worked with IBM and then in Johnson & Johnson in its medical division. When her husband moved to Bangalore, where she is based, Rashmi quit J&J and in her new city joined the online education company TutorVista. “TutorVista was exciting, because it was a start-up and in the education space,” she says. At TutorVista, she was in charge of operations and she managed about 1,500 tutors.
That experience helped her as she started her own venture selling art and craft objects on the Internet, dealing with and building a business relationship with artisans across the country, hawking their products to a global audience.
Passion & plans
Art and craft, says Rashmi, are her passion and she wanted to do something related to art as she loved the locally made objects that she came across during her travels. There were not too many outlets to buy them nor were they conveniently located. “We knew there was a gap and we wanted to fill it,” she says.
Afday's plan is to have Indian designers and craftsmen selling their products that can be used in everyday life through its platform. These could be home décor, traditional jewellery, gift articles or decorative pieces. She interacts with designer craftsmen. There should be an element of art and craft in the objects and they should be out of the ordinary and exciting to the customer.
Afday's Web site has photographs of the objects that are available for sale. The customers include individual buyers or small shopkeepers who find it convenient to shop over the Internet rather than scouting around for such objects in many different places.
Gradual pick up
It is over six months since Rashmi started her venture and she says there is a gradual pick up in business. Afday sells about 10-20 pieces, with about five shipments a day now. It has also sold objects to customers in the UK, the US and France. The foreign buyers are interested in traditional Indian craft objects such as coir-based or papier mache products.
Afday, according to Rashmi, works with about 50 people now — craftsmen and designers — including in places such as Bhuj, Almora, Dehradun or the North East. Mobile phones and the spread of the Internet really helps as almost all her vendors send her photographs of their produce by email. If she likes them, she orders for some and puts them up for sale on her site.
The prices range from Rs 75 to Rs 3,000 and her margins vary from 15 per cent to 50 per cent. She says she clocks about Rs 1.5-2 lakh a month.
She agrees that there will be stiff competition, but what, she feels, will set her venture apart is that pricing will be constant and transparent and quality guaranteed.
Rashmi, who has invested about Rs 10 lakh of her own money, works out of her Bangalore apartment, but feels that she will need a larger office space once business picks up.
She also plans to have warehouses near the centres known for their traditional arts and crafts. In the next few months, she hopes to raise money from venture capitalists to scale up her operations.