LifestyleShopping – The Online Indian Mela

When was the last time you visited a mela? A mela has a very unique and a novel concept about it, it has a sense of character.

This was where artisans, craftsmen, musicians brought their wares be it art, pottery, clothing, food or even the local dance form that provided the much needed relief to the villagers who shopped, relished the goodies and watched dance and magic shows to their content.

This was a time and place that everyone looked forward to, especially for the women folk who would could shop for new colourful bangles to match their dresses and kids got a chance to get a ride on the giant wheel!

But in today’s urban environment we seldom get to spot a mela in our cities – the closest form we have seen is Dilli Haat in the capital or Swabhumi in Kolkata; and here’s one such online shopping website – that brings the Indian mela with a mere click of a button. Whatever you wish to buy be it handmade, organic, ethnic – you name it, they’ve got it!

Shopo officially went live in June 2011 by Krithika Nelson (Chief Executive Officer) and Theyagarajan S (Chief Technology Officer), with 20 designers and now after a year and a month later it has transformed itself into a gorgeous virtual marketplace with 400+ designers and artists.

Krithika holds a Degree in Electronic Media from MOP Vaishnav College and after having worked for Web, TV and Radio for over six years wanted to launch a unique concept that will globally help to promote the art and craft of rural artisans of India.

Theyagarajan or Taggy as he’s fondly called holds a Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from NIT Trichy. He has worked extensively with and as an active contributor to opensource project LDTP.

The Lifestyle Portal chatted with Krithika and Theyagarajan on their inspiration, goals and the journey on how Shopo came into being.

How did it all begin?

India is a land of such rich culture and heritage, and our design industry is still at a very nascent stage. A good reason could be that the designers had a very few ways of taking their products to a global level.

Being a designer herself Krithika has been there and knows the helpless feeling. It was when she was ranting about this to her friend of 8 years Theyagarajan over an autorickshaw ride that the seed for Shopo was sown.

Branding and investment

Shopo started with a 1 lakh loan from friends and family. In September 2011, they raised a seed capital from a group of angels and venture capitalists.

“Shopo is more like Shop O or Shop 0,” explains Krithika, she further adds, “We want to be the first or the zeroth platform for all budding designers and artists. People should look at Shopo as a place where they can shop for everything Indian, a place where their local designers take the centre stage.”

Challenges faced

“When Shopo started out initially everything was new to us. We started as two people sorting out everything from content writing to operations. Operations have always been our biggest bottleneck. We had to make sure that the products from different sellers in different parts of the country go to the buyer fast and in one piece and we have figured most of it out now”, recalls Theyagarajan.

He further adds, “We are not a two member team anymore. We have a brilliant team of 25 people who make this dream grow bigger everyday. There are still many ‘firsts’ for all of us, and that is what keeps this journey exciting and the challenges and the learning they give us every day!”

What makes unique?

Shopo call themselves a ‘creators-only’ marketplace which means they do not let in resellers and that when you buy something, you are buying directly from the person who created the product.

“We pretty much handpick the sellers who get on Shopo with our priority always being quality over quantity,” adds Krithika.

Getting in touch with artisans and craftsmen

Theyagarajan adds, “We have a team of curators who have a keen eye for beautiful things and keep getting new designers on board. At the same time, we receive multiple applications every day to open a virtual shop on Shopo. We carefully pick and choose from these applicants as well.”

As a designer you can list the products that you want to sell through Shopo and in return pay a 15% commission for every successful sale that happens through their portal.

“In most cases we have touched and felt the products and have taken the seller in. In cases like beauty care or food products, we get samples sent to our office and try the stuff on ourselves. If we are alive and/or without rashes the next day or two, we let the seller in”, quips Krithika.

While they are very strict about not allowing resellers, the other thing Shopo follows firmly is that the product SHOULD be ‘Made in India’.

She further adds, “While we are open to flirty and sexy, we are against vulgarity and obscenity. Apart from that, we love anything and everything pretty, quirky and utilitarian.”

Product, pricing and Sales

Most of the products sold at Shopo range from INR 30 to INR 20,000 where Shopo charges a transaction fee of 15% on successful sales.

“Most of our promotions and marketing is organic. By which we mean word of mouth and social media conversations. This makes up almost 95% of our promotions and our sales predominantly come from women at metros,” adds Theyagarajan.

You can catch the latest products online through their Facebook page as well –

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Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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