Hand in hand with India

Hand in hand with India's rural producers

Consumer Tech

GoCoop is an online marketplace that aims to enhance value for the artisan and the weaver by providing direct access to buyers. The company’s marketplace platform currently has more than 10,000 registered users and it expects this number to grow by 50 per cent by the year end.

Bengaluru-based GoCoop, an online marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of handloom and handicrafts, received the first National Award for outstanding contribution in the category of ‘Marketing of Handloom Products (e-Commerce)’ in August 2016. GoCoop which is empanelled by DC Handlooms, Ministry of Textiles, currently supports weavers and artisans from over eight states, 40 clusters and 250 cooperatives with over 50,000 artisans selling over 20,000 products.

According to Siva Devireddy, founder and managing director,

GoCoop.com, “India is officially estimated to have over nine million artisans and we are gradually seeing a decline not only in their livelihoods but also in our traditional arts and crafts.” The key challenge faced today by Indian weavers and artisans is the inadequate demand and unfair pricing for their products. GoCoop was established in 2012 to create better market access for our artisans and weavers and make the markets more equitable to the producers.

Switching to the loom

After completing his engineering from Osmania University, Devireddy went to the U.S. to do his masters and subsequently, worked in the Bay Area for Hewlett Packard Research Labs, from 2000 to 2003. He followed that by a stint in Accenture for nine years.

Throughout his time in the U.S., Devireddy’s thoughts were on how technology can be used to positively impact rural India. In his days at HP Research Lab, he had worked on creating a marketplace for the semiconductor industry, connecting Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers to North American buyers. He felt that a similar marketplace could benefit rural producers in India.

Upon his return to India in 2009, Devireddy spent time researching rural producers and how to bring them together. “Individually, these producers were too small to compete and there was an absence of aggregation. They also faced difficulties in accessing markets,” he says. To better assess the situation, Devireddy spent time talking to cooperatives and yet again, the need to bridge the gap between market and producers was reinforced. The process of finding an apt solution to these problems led to Devireddy quitting his job in 2011 and by 2012, he made an inspired move to establish  GoCoop with two colleagues from Accenture. The venture received seed funding from Unitus Seed Fund and Indian Angel Network led by Naga Prakasam. Initially, to gain an understanding of the market, it worked closely with the state government for the development of 45 clusters under a central government scheme namely the Integrated Handloom Development Scheme, across  Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Karnataka. In March 2013, GoCoop officially launched the beta version  of the marketplace and in August 2014, it launched the full version with 100 sellers.


GoCoop was established in 2012 to create better market access for our artisans and weavers and make the markets more equitable to the producers.


Growing the marketplace

GoCoop  closed Series-A funding from investors including Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, Saha Fund and existing investors and plans to utilise the funds to enhance its marketplace platform and to expand its buyer and seller base.

In the last two years, it has signed over nine million artisans from over 40 craft clusters and plans to expand to over 100 craft clusters across the country in the next 24 months, with a focus on mainly northern and eastern India.

Of note, the signing up of sellers is relatively easier but the marketplace has also been focusing on creating visibility and attracting buyers. It currently has more than 10,000 registered users and expects to see this number grow by 50 per cent in this fiscal. Product, pricing and service are the three factors Devireddy states as the main draws for the platform. This apart, the platform offers certain unique features such as sellers being able to register themselves using an intuitive screen. Additionally, it is working on a beta for a match-making process wherein  an analysis on buyers’ past purchase behaviour will be used to cross-sell products. The company is soon looking to launch a mobile app.

One of its most interesting initiatives is the #ILoveHandlooms digital movement which the company ran last year. This was a celebration of Indian handlooms and through this, GoCoop brought handloom lovers together and helped them share their stories with a larger audience.

Caring for the ecosystem

GoCoop has grown from being  a six member team to 45 and its workforce consists mainly of domain experts as well as a technology team of nine people. The company expects to grow to 100 people in the  next two years to keep up with its growth in business.

The company has regional offices and its representatives work closely with the clusters identifying challenges and orienting producers towards customer demands. GoCoop works as a marketplace but addresses the challenges the entire ecosystem faces; right from sourcing raw materials, procuring finance and working capital to ensuring timely delivery of quality products. Getting better value for the artisan is the focus of this social venture and it does everything needed to achieve that.


Snapshot

GoCoop

Year: 2012

Founder: Siva Devireddy

Investors: Unitus Seed Fund and Indian Angel Network led by Naga Prakasam, Kris Gopalakrishnan, Saha Fund

Focus: Online marketplace for handlooms and handicrafts


Bridging the gap between artisan and buyer

Though Indian handlooms are praised world over, the Indian weaver and artisan still face several challenges in being able to benefit from the demand for their products. While cooperatives fill the purpose of bringing rural producers and their buyers together, market access is limited due to logistical limitations. Siva Devireddy modelled GoCoop, an online marketplace, on the lines of a cooperative. The official platform was launched in 2014 with 100 sellers and the company works closely with clusters addressing existing challenges; right from sourcing raw materials, to procuring finance and bringing in buyers who are assured of quality products at competitive prices. The company plans to expand its base from the south and central India to north and eastern India in the next two years. In the same time period, it also plans to expand its team from 40 to 100. In this year alone, it expects registered buyers to go up from 10,000 to 15,000.

Meera Srikant has been working with publishers and publications since 1993, writing and editing articles, features and stories across topics. She also blogs and writes poems, novels and short stories during leisure. Writing for The Smart CEO since 2010, she is also a classical dancer.

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