StartupTalky presents Recap'22. This is a series of interviews in which we conduct in-depth discussions with founders & industry leaders to understand their growth in 2022 and their predictions for the future.
Handcrafted metal artifacts refer to metal objects that are created by skilled artisans using traditional techniques and tools. These can include a wide range of products, such as jewelry, decorative objects, utensils, and more. Handcrafted metal artifacts are a popular and traditional form of art in India, and they are in high demand both locally and internationally.
The demand for handcrafted metal artifacts has been growing in recent years due to the increasing popularity of traditional and artisanal products. This trend is likely to continue, driven by a growing appreciation for unique and high-quality products as well as a desire for sustainability and a connection to local cultures.
According to IMARC Group, the global handcrafts market size reached US$ 752.2 Billion in 2022. Looking ahead, the market is expected to reach US$ 1,296.6 billion by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1% from 2023 to 2028.
For this Interview, we invited, Palash Agrawal, Founder and Director of Vedas Exports, and we talked about the growth, challenges, insights, and future opportunities in the handicraft industry.
StartupTalky: Palash, what products does your company sell? What was the motivation/vision with which you started?
Palash: Vedas exports is a renowned name in the domestic as well as export markets when it comes to handcrafted metal artifacts. We design and manufacture all our products in-house. My vision behind the company was to build a global enterprise that offers décor products showcasing India’s rich cultural heritage and excellence of metal handcraft. We have been able to make a mark on the global market within a short duration due to our emphasis on quality, excellence of customer service, and commitment to giving a contemporary touch to classic décor items.
StartupTalky: What other products/features have been added in the past year? What is/are the USP/s of your products?
Palash: We have been regularly introducing new designs and products. Some of our new additions in 2022 include various nature-inspired products such as trees, leaves, birds, and nature or garden-themed products. What makes our products stand out is the high quality of materials used in producing them. Recycled metals match the handcrafted excellence of our artisans to create sustainable artwork. The colors that we use are environmentally friendly and safe. Further, we have an unmatched customer service mechanism with options to replace the products and other such customer-centric initiatives, which make Vedas Exports a preferred brand for the customers.
StartupTalky: How has the handicraft industry changed in recent years, and how has your company adapted to these changes?
Palash: India is a prominent handicraft exporting country in the world, and the overall handicraft market was estimated to be over $4.35 billion in 2021/22. Recently, we have been witnessing very strong demand in countries like the US, UK, UAE, Australia, and other European nations. The handicraft export market in India is highly evolved and structured. Today, the country exports almost every type of décor products ranging from metal artifacts and carpets to wooden craft. However, our core category, which is metal home décor products, is witnessing even stronger growth since the demand is not only strong from overseas markets but also from domestic buyers. We have been focusing on the growing trends and have steadily revamped our product offerings to ensure the continuous availability of creative and high-quality artifacts for the audience.
StartupTalky: How do you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in the handicraft industry?
Palash: I regularly read about the various developments and emerging trends in the global arena. At Vedas, the emphasis has been on creating unique designs based on the heritage Indian metal handicraft. We also constantly listen to customer feedback and expectations and design our products as per the changing preferences of the buyers.
StartupTalky: What key metrics do you track to check the company's growth and performance?
Palash: Our focus is on providing assured support and sharing information that the customers don’t generally get elsewhere. Thus, we can achieve greater customer retention and organic publicity through customer recommendations. Repeat purchase and word of mouth are parameters that we count on too.
StartupTalky: What were the most significant challenges your company faced in the past year and how did you overcome them?
Palash: There were a lot of challenges, and we had to constantly adapt to the changing market scenarios and keep our customers engaged. We have overcome the market challenges by always focusing on creating art that has its own story to tell. We also envision the creation of décor pieces that can be effortlessly integrated into any décor or part of the interiors of a home, office, or restaurant. Sustainable manufacturing practices, appealing designs, and excellence in customer service have been a part of our strategy to maintain our position in the market.
StartupTalky: Repeat purchase is one of the most important parameters on which most e-commerce brands are betting. How do you keep your customer engaged to stop churn?
Palash: Instead of focusing too much on marketing activities and gimmicks to engage the customer, our focus has been on ensuring high-quality standards, and a customer-centric sales and support process. Our customers feel related to the products they buy and appreciate the best-in-class support, leading to superior customer retention and engagement consistently.
StartupTalky: What are the different strategies you use for marketing? Tell us about any growth hack which you pulled off.
Palash: We rely on content marketing as our primary channel to reach out to our audiences and we have achieved significant success with it. The growth hack that Vedas Exports has leveraged is to build a customer-centric business where our customers love the products as well as the service on offer. As a result, we enjoy higher customer retention than most other brands and also a lot of organic growth through word-of-mouth publicity.
StartupTalky: What are the important tools and software you use to run your business smoothly?
Palash: Need Inputs For billing and maintaining the stock, we have a CRM system associated with a private company. For Accounting we use Tally. For other daily office tasks which include entering data manually, video conferencing, etc, we rely on Google since it is one of the most secure systems out there. Microsoft Excel is also one of the most used software in the office. Again, we do have a separate CRM system for online.
StartupTalky: What opportunities do you see for future growth in your industry in India and the world? What kind of difference in market behavior have you seen within states in India?
Palash: The economy right now is a bit slow due to rising oil and petrol prices but if we have to discuss in terms of the decor industry we are witnessing a growing trend. Consumers are increasingly looking into buying home decor items with changing times. With workplaces becoming remote and work-from-home mode getting adopted, a huge chunk of people is looking into buying home decor pieces to adorn their workspaces with.
Talking about market behavior across different states in India, we may notice that the classy and subtle designs sell more in North India while South India opts for more colorful, gold vibrant patterns. On the Eastern side of the country, markets are full of wooden pieces. States like Goa prefer a modernized touch to their pieces while urban cities like Mumbai with smaller houses prefer minimalistic designs. Places with huge villas prefer a lot more items to fill their houses with The world economy is suffering due to the ongoing war but once everything is settled we could experience a lot of opportunities for the home decor industry.
StartupTalky: What lessons did your team learn in the past year and how will these inform your plans and strategies?
Palash: Today, we are paying a lot of attention to feedback and customer grievance. Vedas also does a follow-up call with the buyers to understand their experience with the products. We integrate the feedback received by further refining our products. Earlier, we focused more on offline sales through partner stores, but in the last year, our emphasis has been on growing an online presence. We have a full-fledged e-commerce website and are now able to offer a hybrid shopping experience across offline as well as online channels.
StartupTalky: How do you plan to expand the Customers, SKUs, and team base in the future?
Palash: Expansion of the product range and the team is an ongoing process with Vedas. We have an in-house design and manufacturing facility, and every few months, we add new products to the portfolio alongside training more artisans to join our team and earn a healthy and respectful income for themselves. We are planning to train more female artists who will not only add a new dimension
to our team’s creative approach, but also bring about inclusivity. Our products are sustainable and made from recycled metals, eco-friendly colors, and so on. We are aiming to drive customer awareness through content marketing and sharing of insights on our products as well as the emerging trends and how Vedas’ products are the right fit for every need.
We have been working to expand our footprint and our aim is to become the top brand in the Indian as well as a global metal handicraft market. The goal is to have at least 400 sister stores throughout India, and long terming-term, we will establish a worldwide presence. My vision is to reach a level where every residential or commercial property would have at least one Vedas product as a part of its interior décor.
StartupTalky: With so much hype around D2C brands spending on ads, what will be your growth strategy organic or inorganic? How to plan to work around SEO and content marketing?
Palash: As a growing brand with domestic as well as international markets to cater to, we are focusing on digital and content marketing to drive awareness about our products and their USPs. The key for us is to make every customer happy by offering the right product and uniqueness as well as superior quality. Happy customers lead to a lot of organic growth as they proudly recommend Vedas to other buyers. As far as our content marketing strategy and SEO is concerned, the first thing to focus is on creating a compelling story for each product. When the customer is able to see the picture and relate to it, sales conversions happen. The SEO activities revolve around the most trending keywords such as product types to drive the audience to our online store.
StartupTalky: One tip that you would like to share with another D2C founder?
- Focus on your goals and what you want to achieve in the long term
- Always balance out the expense and selling. Expenditure should never cross your selling/spending power in business
- Watch out for competitors and always practice forward engineering.
We thank Palash for spending his valuable time and sharing his learnings with all of us.