The Lifestyle Portal is a huge fan of all things handmade, responsibly sourced, fair trade and ventures that support the Indian handicraft industry. We caught up with Umesh Khatri, the Founder of UnicoArtefact in Faridabad. This 25-year-old is a Btech, GGSIPU(Delhi) who has worked for almost three years as a Manager, Strategy Development in Editsoft Solutions(Technical Startup), Delhi, then as a Software Engineer in Aricent, Gurgaon and an Executive, Facility Management in Flipkart, Bengaluru.
Currently, Umesh and his team of engineer friends have set up UnicoArtefact, where the work is equally divided among themselves. While Umesh looks after the overall Business and Strategies Development, Sahil Pahwa, is looking after marketing and promotional activities, and Aakash Dwivedi, and Mudit Sethi are looking after web and technical development.
Just a few months ago, we shared the story about Akhilesh Mani, Founder of Leeway Handikraft, how he’s empowering the youth of his village through traditional art and craft, and here we are with yet another impressive startup story that’s focusing on promoting our Indian heritage on a global platform.
How did it all begin?
It all started with the passion to travel. It was a New Year’s Eve and Umesh was in Bangalore with one of his friends. They decided to make a New Year resolution and then this idea struck his mind.
“There is a saying that if you want to explore about any place, then get to know about the art and craft of that region which truly depicts the cultural heritage of that place. The idea was to make a single global platform which will provide different regional handcrafted products to let consumers explore the world through handcrafted products. So I made this a New Year goal for me. Although I made this goal for 2016, it came to implementation only this year. As it goes, “it’s never too late to start,” smiles Umesh.
Investments and branding
UnicoArtefact has been powered with the funding sourced from the founding members who we were at that time all working professional. Umesh explains, “Whatever we have saved from our earnings, we invested it back into our startup. We haven’t approached any VC or angel investor for any kind of funding yet.”
Every art form is unique in itself and people through UnicoArtefact will explore these unique art forms of various regions. “UnicoArtefact” is a combination of two words. One is “Unico” which is a Spanish word and it means “unique” and other is “Artefact” which simply means “product”. As they are offering different handcrafted products, Umesh and his team felt that this name goes perfectly well.
Bringing together different art forms and product on a single platform is a challenge in itself. But if you start taking steps and slowly implementing the same then the challenge keeps on reducing. The same thing applies here too. Contacting artisans and explaining them about UnicoArtefact, looking after the logistics and quality of products are some other challenges which the team faced initially, but now gradually this phase is settling down too.
“We are targeting both B2B and B2C segment. These segments include hotels, resorts, restaurants and much more. Our product ranges from decorative to kitchenware. We are continuously adding more products which also involves the price range increasing with it. Currently, the price range for our products ranges from INR 100 to INR 2,499. Presently, we are exclusively online but we aim to tie up with some retail stores to expand our offline reach as well,” explains Umesh.
What makes UnicoArtefact unique?
At UnicoArtefact, customers have the flexibility to choose the products based on the regions. This helps customers to know about the various art forms of any particular region. They’re are not just selling the products, but the team is making people aware of the history of the place, its art form, making the art form and other information. Thus while purchasing a product, people will get to know the history associated with the craft and its cultural heritage and this makes us different from the other similar brands.
Umesh further explains, “Apart from offering various products, we provide the history of the product, its making process and how products are being used. For instance, we have a product range of Black Longpi Pottery on our platform. This art form has got its name from a place “Longpi” in Manipur where it originated. Longpi pottery is one unique art where the potters do not use the potter’s wheel. People while purchasing any product should know about what they have purchased. Therefore we provide all the information about the art form which we have collected from various sources.”
Visions for UnicoArtefact
Their aim is to become a single global platform for different handcrafted products in India and abroad. Through their platform, both the artisans and consumers will get the benefit. It will help in promoting the various art forms which are getting lost somehow in this modern era.
Umesh further explains, “Presently we have products from Rajasthan, Manipur and Maharashtra states only. We aim to expand to include more products from other states and countries also. We are also working on a feature to provide interior designing tips to customers to help them decorate their place with handcrafted products to give a more traditional look. This will help us in making extra revenue apart from the sale of products.”
The journey so far
“Since we started our operations from July this year, the response which we have received is good but not as expected. Though the number of visitors on the website is increasing at a rate of 2x, overall conversion is less. We are working on different plans to increase the conversion rates also,” explains Umesh.
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