India is incredible in the form of traditional art, but the artisans aren’t getting enough recognition who are working hard. Sadly, the majority of artisans, whose exquisite crafts have brought global recognition to our country, are struggling without the basic amenities. These craftsmen are fighting hard to provide their family members with schooling, basic health facilities and running for their daily meals. It was observed that along with price, the interest of an artisan product is encapsulated on the way to the presentation. The artisans’ inability to display their handicrafts according to global standards contributed to their suffering.
The awful conditions that craftsmen lived in his home state, Kerala, pushed mechanical engineer Leemon Ravi to establish Uthhan, an online e-commerce platform that enables tribal craftsmen to market and sell their goods where 95% of the proceeds of the sales directly go to the artisans without any middlemen involved.
“I met multiple tribal artisan families when I was in Wayanad for a personal visit and was saddened to see the deprivation there. They have potential but their industry is failing because they don’t have a market to highlight and showcase their products. Also, they have no idea about online branding, and the intermediaries were reaping the benefits of selling their crafts.” says Leemon Ravi in an interview.
After finishing his undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering, Leemon Ravi worked for seven years in multiple organizations before launching his own bootstrapped startup in Bengaluru, the property development consultancy firm Golden Era Royal Group, in 2011. Leemon Ravi & his team created an online e-commerce site in the year 2012 when they have decided to diversify into multiple segments including software development and financial solutions. Later which he realized that it is similar to other online e-commerce platforms. Leemon read a news article about the problems traditional craftsmen face around that time, and this made him think deep and hard. UTHHAN was born after more than six months of brainstorming with community leaders, software engineers and artisan families, with the goal of encouraging the younger generation of the artisan community to continue the generational craft process of their families while providing them with a forum for financial security and the dignity of labor.
Leemon says “The main challenge was building awareness among artisans about Uthhan. Making them understand the process was a herculean task since it was online. Many of the families didn’t know how to operate online, and we had to teach them. We slogged to gain confidence from the initial batch of artisans for nearly 1.5 years.”
UTHAN allows artisans to sell their products directly without any intermediaries, on both mobile and web platforms. UTHAN shows a large array of products that are valued for your money. With volunteers spread throughout Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ranchi, and Bhubaneshwar, and linking several NGOs, Leemon’s nine-member team identifies the craftsmen’s family and enrolls them on the Uthhan platform. A unique ‘Artisan Identification Number’ (AID) is produced and assigned to each family to ensure product authenticity and help the customer trace the roots of the craftsmanship. The artisans can upload descriptions of their products and even decide the price of their products. Upon receiving an order, the logistics department collects the product directly from the home of the artisan and couriers it to the address of the client.
Once the families have been registered, the UTHHAN team will help them to create craft designs that are most popular on the market. Since it’s an online marketplace they encourage artisan families to concentrate more on range of products instead of quantity. Handicraft goods are high on demand and the right branding and packaging is all that is needed. Handmade jewellery and terracotta products are the most sold products on their platform.
UTHHAN mobile application is available in multilingual language- English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu.
The business model for UTHHAN has focused on corporate gifting and bulk orders where 95% of the sales profit goes directly to the families of the craftsmen, while 5% goes to the operations of UTHHAN.
“Since there are no middlemen involved, UTHHAN crafts are relatively cheaper. So it also benefits the customers buying artisan products on our platform,” says Leemon.
UTHHAN wants to set up industrial shed for bulk manufacturing and their outlets across the major cities in India which in turn provide employment to around 50000 artisans families. They also want to set up colleges for artisans with skill-related courses. Leemon hopes that in the near future, UTHHAN will create housing, education and insurance benefits for artisan families.
UTHHAN android mobile application is available on Google Play store: Uthhan – Empowering Artisans , download the app and gift some beautiful handmade jewelry or try decorating your home with exotic handmade crafts!