An interactive session between Archana Surana, Founder and Director, Arch College of Design and Business & Himanshu Wardhan, Managing Director, Etsy – India.
About Himanshu Wardhan:
A technology enthusiast by profession, Himanshu started his career in the US after completing his studies from the University of West Virginia. He has worked with a lot of multinational companies including Craftsvilla, after which he became a part of Etsy.
The following are the key excerpts of this interactive session between Archana Surana and Himanshu Wardhan.
A: Does it have any advantage to be a technocrat and be a finance person if you are looking at a tech-based business?
H: I believe that a general knowledge of finance and business along with marketing helps an individual in leading a business or running it as a general manager successfully. It definitely comes to be handy, but at the same point in time, I’d say that in the last three to four years, I have generated an interest in design. I realized that I have a creative side. I believe that having a cross-section of skills does help but it is really your passion and interest that really decides if you want to be a fashion entrepreneur.
A: You have joined Etsy and got a chance to interact with Fashion entrepreneurs from all around the country. Is there any story that you would like to share with us?
H: Etsy is a global marketplace for handmade and unique products. Out of our total network of 2.7 million creative entrepreneurs, 87% are women, 97% are home-based entrepreneurs, and 57% of them are designers or hobbyists who sold their first product through Etsy.
A brand that was amplified by Etsy, is KharaKapas. Shilpi Yadav from KharaKapas joined Etsy back in the year 2013. She started her range of unique products. This brand is a perfect example of someone who started very small and made it big with Etsy. Another brand that really reached their goals through Etsy is Comfy Mommy, which happens to be a Lucknow based brand started by Ruchi. She has sold more than 50,000 customized maternity garments from her home in Lucknow through Etsy. Another story is of Smriti from Hyderabad who started her own Etsy shop as a creative expressionist and has been garnering rave reviews for her products. There are a couple of Mumbai based Architects who run the shop Material Immaterial on Etsy and sell concrete jewelry through their shop. There are hundreds of such stories of people who are doing incredible work on Etsy.
When a buyer is buying a product through Etsy, they are also becoming a part of the emotion that goes behind in the making of the product. The personalized experience that Etsy offers is very difficult to replicate. When people are looking for something personalized and something very customized and unique with a story behind it, they head over to Etsy. This is why buyers are also comfortable with paying a premium price for these products because they know it is being made from someone sitting at home and spending hours to perfect it.
A: After COVID 19, how will e-commerce entrepreneurs and brands ensure the hygiene and sanitation of their products?
H: Even before COVID 19, Online selling constituted only 3-4% of retail sales in India. In the coming years, I can speculate a very fast acceleration of people moving from offline to online channels. Offline retailing will not vanish completely but e-commerce will constitute a large part of the market. A person in India between the age group of 19-20 is leading a digitally-driven life. Most of these people will be digitally native and they are consuming most of their content online. This age group might not have spending power right now but they are the ones who will have the most spending power 10 years from now. For entrepreneurs who often have to bear the burden of rentals, going online is a perfect option especially during these times. Going online offers the facility to start your own label with minimal investment and minimal inventory.
A: How does one ensure their visibility on Etsy?
H: The key thing is to find your niche. I recommend Etsy sellers to start with deciding the category of goods that they want to sell, identify their target customers, and specialize in it instead of venturing in all categories. While writing descriptions, make sure to use the right keywords and fill your descriptions with them. Avoid choosing general keywords. For ex. If you are selling a skirt, instead of choosing the term “skirt” which is quite generic and a very common term, try to use a term like “Red Bohemian Skirt” so that your sellers can discover you uniquely. It takes trial and error but following this can help in improving your visibility.
To start your Etsy business, it just takes an internet connection, a small amount of money, and basic marketing skills.
A: How does an Etsy product seller decide the pricing of their products?
H: If you are selling a commodity that is essential or generic, you might not be able to charge a lot for it. But, if your product is very unique, you can definitely charge a premium. Since Etsy has a base of 60 million products being sold, I recommend product sellers to browse and research the pricing of the products that are being sold.
A: What is the refund policy that you follow if the product is not up to the mark?
H: We ensure that the sellers deliver the product promised or displayed. We are also there to resolve any such conflicts. Since most Etsy sellers are interested in growing their brand, they are ready to go a step further for customer satisfaction without any need for our involvement. One just has to be upfront about their payment policies and not leave it up to the buyer.
A: What key activities do you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?
H: I feel that a lot of entrepreneurs when they are starting out, do not value their time. I think some of the activities to think about are to really figure out the product that you are making. Is it unique or not? The second part is to figure out how to make the product itself. The third part is to research the age, demographics, and spending power of your buyer. The fourth part is to learn how to communicate your product through visual mediums and tactics. A product with strong visuals has the capability to start a desire in the mind of the buyer. Invest time in creating the brand itself instead of just focusing on the monetary part of it. The other critical part is to figure out how to scale up your brand and build a team for your brand.