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Varun Bantia, Founder of “The Ethnic Story – a concept based E-commerce company of Handicraft Items” Shares his Startup Story

The Ethnic Story Founder Varun Bantia

About The Founder

The Ethnic Story is the brainchild of Varun Bantia who hails from Bangalore. Varun belongs to a Marwari business family who have settled in Bangalore for the past 80 years. I did my schooling, 11th and 12th from St Johns High School and Sri Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain college respectively. After this I pursued my Bachelors in Business Management from Christ college Bangalore. After I finished my bachelors I went to Glasgow to do my Masters. I went to University of Strathclyde, Glasgow for Masters In International Marketing in the year 2010. While in the UK I saw people buying online and that’s when I was exposed to the concept of buying Online. Soon after I completed my Masters I joined Amazon, worked there for almost three years.

Inception of Idea

I was working with Amazon for three years and that’s when I realized the endless availability of innovative handcrafted products that the masses are uninformed about. I myself am ethnically routed to Rajasthan, the land of royal heritage, and decided to combine my love for ethnic handicrafts and the knowledge of e-commerce to create a platform that caters to all the ethnic needs of the masses at the comfort of their homes. This gave birth to the idea of The Ethnic Story and the website was launched on 28th August 2015.

Introduce your Team

Since most of our work is outsourced to third party vendors we do not have a big team. Right now its just me handling the business development, marketing and other business related tasks. My co-founder is my wife, who is the creative head and handles all the aspects of product designing and product conceptualisation. We have hired an agency to handle our website development and other technical related activities.The Ethnic Story Team

What is The Ethnic Story About?

As India is a country of many religions & customs, it was indeed a big challenge to come up with a like-minded generic Brand which would get along with all people. Thus the name “The Ethnic Story” was born. Be it an ethnic make-over to your homes or a perfect ensemble for an ethnic occasion, from incredibly handcrafted gifts to creative artifacts that make a statement, we offer products that cater to all your ethnic needs. TheEthnicStory.com is a one stop shop where you can discover and buy ethnic and traditionally designed products from ethnic home décor items to, accessories, corporate gifting products and much more.

We are not a marketplace, but we have collaborated with lifestyle product designers, artists and manufacturers to design products for us.

The Ethnic Story is place where people can buy unique and creative home décor and gifting products and also traditional arts and crafts of various regions of India.The Ethnic Story Handicraft factory

The Ethnic Story Funding Status

We are currently a bootstrapped company and have not approached any VC’s or investors. But we will are looking at a funding of Rs 30,00,000 for further expansion of products, Marketing and technical infrastructure development.

Market and Competition

Indian handicrafts are exquisite and valued worldwide. Every Indian state has a variety of handicrafts reflecting their enormous history and religious values and owning a piece of such magnificence is a matter of pride. We know that there is immense potential in this industry be it DIY products, handcrafted products etc. India exports almost 5,000 million art and craft products annually. Today, handicraft is flourishing in the Indian industry because of its rich cultural heritage and diversity. Indian handicraft items ranges from wooden stone, metal, glass, bamboo, cane, clay, terracotta ceramics, and textiles. Majority of its production is exported to different countries; the most popular items in Indian handicrafts are brass ware, pen holder, vases, candle stand, Christmas items, ceramic pots, and other products of paper. Different states of India like north eastern Manipur, Tripura, Northern States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kashmir or the southern part, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala are popular for its handicraft collection. Each States offers a wide range of handicrafts, with its own identity.The Ethnic Story HandicraftThere are lot of players in this industry, big names like Indian roots or Craftsvilla but they emphasize more on apparels, ours is a complete decor and gifting concept so we would consider quirky brands like Chumbak also as one of our competitor.

The Ethnic Story is a combination of traditionally designed products and handicrafts and also quirky and creative products like up-cycled bottles, bottle lamps, vases etc.

Whats your Monetization Model?

I would say we follow 80:20 ratio model in terms of sales. What I mean by this is 80% of our sales are online sales through our website and 20% of our sales are offline sales. These are big orders in terms of monetary value and volume wise. Majority of these sales come during the festive season August- December when there is huge demand for gifts for various corporate events, Delegation meets, weddings etc.

What challenges did you face?

The biggest challenge we are finding right now is to find the right technical team and someone who could join me as a co founder and has a indepth technical know how. The other challenge that we as a brand are also facing is to offer different and unique designed products and to find the right craftsmen for the right kind of product.

Every day we come across new challenges, be it coordinating with the logistics team, to making sure the website is running smoothly, to making sure that right kind of product is made by the artesian.

What are your Marketing Plans?

Till now we were concentrating on only digital and online advertising by using facebook ads, google adwords since we wanted to create brand awareness. To create a wider brand awareness we have now started doing affiliate marketing campaigns and cross branding with other brands. Apart from this we have also started displaying digital sign-ages by using combination of motion graphics and explainer videos at restaurants and eateries. Since we want to acquire more customers we are doing a lot of email campaigns and also distributing coupons through efficient channels.

Since ethnic products have an appeal worldwide, we are also using Sponsored ads and display ads on big e commerce players like Amazon.

Traction Details

On an Average we have 250000 visitors a month, but the conversions have not been as expected, that is why we want to use majority of investment in marketing and acquiring the customer. Though we have a growth of almost 110% in terms of sales as compared to the previous year our volumes have not yet reached our expectations.

What are your Future Plans?

When we started we had products only from Rajasthan, now we have products from Maharashtra, Orissa, UP, West Bengal, Karnataka, Assam, we now want to have products from other regions as well. We do not want to just promote these products as arts and crafts products, we want to promote these products as lifestyle products.

We will also have a feature where we will interior designing tips and provide designs for people who are looking to decorate and set up their homes in ethnic and traditional style. There will be a fee charged for this service depending on how much work is involved for that service. This will generate additional revenue for us apart from the Online and Offline sales.

We also looking at collaborating with different State Governments to promote and market the products and handicrafts of that particular state.

Our Aim is to reach sales of 1 crore in the next 12 months and grow at a rate of 100% YOY.

Visit The Ethnic Story : Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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