Launched in April 2012, Uthhan is a joint initiative between different artisan community organizations and Golden Era Royal Group for the upliftment of financially weaker segment of skilled artisans across India. It has been observed that value of an artisan product depends on the way of presentation apart from quality, which is an alien territory for a skilled worker. As an effort to overcome this obstacle the products from the skilled workers are being displayed in various retail outlets exclusively allotted under the banner of the project with the help of government bodies. Global exposure and coverage of the finished products are going to increase the value and reach. Government aided programmes and effective marketing strategies will be implemented for the success of the project through eminent personalities in the community.

Uthhan is the first initiative in India where the profit from sales goes directly to the respective skilled workers. Project eliminates the role of middlemen and other illegal financial exploitation which kept a monster sum of skilled workers in India in dark and never ending financial agony.

This effort is unifying all type of skilled workers across India which will lead a new ray of hope for the community to fight for their rightful cause with out fear. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Leemon Ravi (Founder and Chairman, UTHHAN):

Q.: Please tell us about the founders
Ans:
I (Leemon Ravi) started GOLDEN ERA ROYAL GROUP (GERG) on August 16, 2011, with GOLDEN ERA PROPERTY PVT LTD as the flagship company in property development. We started diversifying in 2012 in segments like software development, financial solutions, entertainment, consumer durable etc. Currently GERG has 7 group companies under its belt in which 3 are startups.

Leemon Ravi - Founder and Chairman, Uthhan
Leemon Ravi – Founder and Chairman, Uthhan

We have started UTHHAN – Empowering Artisans on June 2012, but the idea came in to mind on January 2011. My software company GOLDEN ERA SOFWARE SOLUTIONS AND CONSULTANCY PVT LTD started developing the platform from 2012 Dec. So we made many business models and ideas throughout 2011, but something was missing. We found out that the proposed business models were not unique, even though sustainability were on the cards.

We wanted something which can create some change in the existing order and benefit a larger mass. During that time we had come across an online news about the problems of traditional artisans. So we started discussing about this issue with some community leaders and software engineers also. After 6 months of brain storming, we reached a conclusion that; artisan empowerment can be achieved if we can teach them about the importance of Unification and a systematic financial earning. UTHHAN is started to muster courage of the younger generation of artisan community who are reluctant to take up the tradition because of lack of financial stability and job respect. The processes are stabilized and experienced hands have increased thereby projecting a faster growth.

There are so many incidents which are close to my heart .I had been called to Wayanad, by my father to attend a function organized by ADO. I went there without any hope thinking that the tribal artisans don’t have any knowledge about online selling and therefore explaining UTHHAN won’t be fruitful. But my father convinced me to attend the function and make an effort. I was surprised to see that many of the tribal youths were aware of online selling and they have supported UTHHAN passionately. The crowd was amazing with local volunteers encouraged us to explain the concept as a whole. They even brought products to the function and filled the enrollment forms. This was my first major enrollment drive with almost 500+ artisans joining the initiative. This incident is very close to heart because, the support from ADO and those artisans started driving me in the right way from that time onwards.

Mr. Alex Paul Menon (Collector, Chattisgarh), once called me and discussed about the merits of UTHHAN after seeing my tweet about the same. He has expressed his desire to implement UTHHAN for the tribal artisans in his state. I have met Mr. Chirag Paswan ( MP and Parliamentary board Chairperson ), Mr. Ramvilas Paswan (Union Cabinet minister) and PMO to explore possibilities. I felt honoured to get an opportunity to serve the artisan community.

Q.: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
Ans:
Artisans are the third largest population still underprivileged. There are so many challenges faced by artisans of India. Their ignorance about the emerging ways of online marketing and interference of middle men are the major reasons. The other challenges are:

  • Wages are not fixed as per the quality of product
  • Raw material procurement and Warehousing
  • Younger generation is reluctant to take up the job because of zero job respect and lesser pay out
  • No support from Government bodies
  • Ignorance about the consumer needs
This Startup is Eliminating Middlemen & Making Way for Indian Artisans

Q.: Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Ans:
The pain point is the ways to reach maximum artisan families. We can’t afford to spend huge sums in branding since we are giving maximum profits to families itself. This can be resolved with the help of media houses like yours in the coming years. Many NGOs and volunteers are working along with us to bolster this initiative.

Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans:
UTHHAN – Empowering artisans, is the first initiative in India where profit from artefact sales goes directly to the artisan families without any middlemen. We chose the name Uthhan, which means “Racing towards top position from a downtrodden condition”. Our logo represents 5 different colors with each color has a head and 2 hands holding each other. The color represents the main artisan communities as per their skills. They are all holding each other to empower the artisans. The punch line is “Empowering Artisans”.

Our aim is to enroll maximum families as per the region and district and collaborate under the roof called UTHHAN. Once the families are enrolled we help them to create handicraft designs which are popular in the market. Our research and volunteer team will do the necessary analysis and guide them in a better way to create the products as per the demand. Since it’s an online market space we are pushing artisan families to give emphasis on variety rather than quantity. The payment from end user will go directly to the respective artisan accounts without any middlemen. Handicraft products are high on demand and our effort will help in a reduced consumer price. The UTHHAN mobile application is available in English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu so that it can be easily operated by an artisan. We have given a toll free number also for needy artisans to contact us to understand about the process more. Once the financial empowerment is achieved we can help our UTHHAN artisan groups with Education scholarship for their children, Personal accidental insurance and housing for artisans.

Q.: What is your USP?
Ans:
Our USP is the revenue model itself. By eliminating middlemen the price for the consumer also will be reasonable. Since there is no retailing the end user and producer will have a balanced value. We are empowering artisans who are the third largest population in India. So the business opportunities are endless.

Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have?
Ans:
The client base for handicraft product is vast and not at all a concern for this line of business. The audience is available worldwide. UTHHAN products are relatively of cheaper cost since there are no middlemen involved. So the customers purchasing artisan products also will be benefitted. Our online presence and corporate houses tie up will further boost the sales.

This Startup is  Making Way for Indian Artisans

Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans:
It was challenging to create awareness among artisans on the importance of technology in 2012. The major challenge was the ignorance to use technology. The word mobile application was an alien territory for artisans back 2012. They had trust issues about the logistic feasibility also. The listing of products with specifications are required for an online display and the same has been a road block because of technology ignorance. We have visited many artisan colonies and shocked to learn that the people who makes beautiful crafts which displays the culture of our country doesn’t even have a home to sleep. They neither have a place to keep their products nor a proper work place. We have even seen artisans who requested us to buy their products at our own price to feed their kids. The so called ‘Government subsidies’ never reached them and the officials are not bothered to even visit their place to understand their concerns. They are fighting for their daily bread and survival, when we purchase their products from retailers at an exorbitant price. Some of the families don’t even had the money to purchase raw materials. So we failed initially to enroll a large number of families. But with the help of NGOs and volunteers we have worked on grass root level and addressed all these problems and created a systematic base. With the introduction of smartphones it became rather easy to manage the operations and logistics issues are sorted. We have learned that every problem has a solution if you approach in a realistic way rather than introspecting. Team work is the foundation stone to success.

Q.: How are you pricing the Product? Explain your thought process.
Ans:
The revenue model is very simple. 95% of the profit from sales goes directly to the artisan families and 5% for UTHHAN operations. Price is decided by artisan itself. There are no barriers to payment. Once the product is delivered and the client is satisfied the respective amount as per the sharing above goes directly artisan family accounts.

Q.: How did you get your first customer?
Ans:
My family and friends were my initial customers. We have given them the product with quality in a reasonable price. Our ecommerce website Gergstore.com is the major contributor of customers online.

Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans:
It is a self-funded project of Golden Era Royal Group.

Q.: Is there any interesting success story? If yes, please write about it. ?
Ans:
There are so many incidents which are close to my heart. I had been called to Wayanad, by my father to attend a function organized by ADO. I went there without any hope thinking that the tribal artisans don’t have any knowledge about online selling and therefore explaining UTHHAN won’t be fruitful. But my father convinced me to attend the function and make an effort. I was surprised to see that many of the tribal youths were aware of online selling and they have supported UTHHAN passionately. The crowd was amazing with local volunteers encouraged us to explain the concept as a whole. They even brought products to the function and filled the enrollment forms. This was my first major enrollment drive with almost 500+ artisans joining the initiative. This incident is very close to heart because, the support from ADO and those artisans started driving me in the right way from that time onwards.

Mr. Alex Paul Menon (Collector, Chattisgarh), once called me and discussed about the merits of UTHHAN after seeing my tweet about the same. He has expressed his desire to implement UTHHAN for the tribal artisans in his state. I have met Mr. Chirag Paswan (MP and Parliamentary board Chairperson), Mr. Ramvilas Paswan (Union Cabinet minister) and PMO to explore possibilities. I felt honoured to get an opportunity to serve the artisan community.

Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans:
We were working to create awareness about benefits of UTHHAN till now. With the help of our volunteers and NGOs we are growing at a decent pace and trying to achieve 50000+ families and 100000+ products:

Uthhan awareness
  1. Setting up industrial sheds for bulk manufacturing
  2. UTHHAN outlets across major cities in India
  3. 50000+ families under the project
  4. Educational scholarships, Life insurance and housing for at least 10000+ families
  5. Setting up colleges for artisans with skill related courses
  6. Job for at least 5000 graduated Artisan youths under the scheme

Q.: Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture?
Ans:
We are currently feeding 10,000+ families with almost 25,000+ varieties of products. We have a strong online presence and tied up with so many corporate houses across major Indian cities. We have 8 lakh+ visitors in online and offline segments.

Q.: What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Ans:
UTHHAN – Empowering artisans, is the first initiative in India where profit from artefact sales goes directly to the artisan families without any middlemen. We chose the name Uthhan, which means “Racing towards top position from a downtrodden condition”. Our logo represents 5 different colors with each color has a head and 2 hands holding each other. The color represents the main artisan communities as per their skills. They are all holding each other to empower the artisans. The punch line is “Empowering Artisans”.

Our aim is to enroll maximum families as per the region and district and collaborate under the roof called UTHHAN. Once the families are enrolled we help them to create handicraft designs which are popular in the market. Our research and volunteer team will do the necessary analysis and guide them in a better way to create the products as per the demand. Since its an online market space we are pushing artisan families to give emphasis on variety rather than quantity. The payment from end user will go directly to the respective artisan accounts with out any middlemen. Handicraft products are high on demand and our effort will help in a reduced consumer price. The UTHHAN mobile application is available in English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu so that it can be easily operated by an artisan. We have given a toll free number also for needy artisans to contact us to understand about the process more. Once the financial empowerment is achieved we can help our UTHHAN artisan groups with Education scholarship for their children, Personal accidental insurance and housing for artisans.

Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles
Ans:
Sure. They are:

  • Venkatesh: Digital Marketing Head
  • Preethi: Testing Engineer
  • Chytra Rai: Branding and Awareness Head Uthhan
  • Rukmini: Vendor Management Head
  • Ambit Mishra: Uthhan State Coordinator, Odisha
  • Vijay Kumar: Uthhan State Coordinator for Jharkhand
  • Thamarakulam Ravi: Trustee & Advisory board member
  • K.C.V. Mane: Trustee & Advisory board member
  • A.K. Mohankrishna: Trustee & Advisory board member
How This Startup is Eliminating Middlemen & Making Way for Indian Artisans

Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans:
The main competitors are retailers who purchase the artisan products in a bulk. The families are giving them the product seeing quick money without knowing the actual profit. But after seeing the benefits of artisan families through UTHHAN many are convinced now and stopped giving products to retailers at cheaper price. Multinational craft companies are the major competitors because of their brand value. We have NGOs working abroad who help us to sell the artisan products in a bulk.

Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Ans:
We currently have 10000 family which is not a small number but we aim to reach 50000 download of artisan in our mobile application in next two months.

Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans:
It is important to give back to the society when your extracting so much from the eco system giving them one third of it also makes a huge difference. And when you see such product all I have to say is instead of barging for a small amount try to ask their hardship behind it the amount of time they spent making it And each art has be respected that’s the reason India is known for its rich art and culture so let’s try to preserve it.

Q.: Any other information you would like to share?
Ans:
This effort will unify all type of skilled workers across India which will lead a new ray of hope for the community to fight for their rightful cause without fear.

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Thanks Ravi. All the best!

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