Published: 21st May 2020
Why everyone must visit GoCoop's online showcase to help India's artisans bounce back post-lockdown
Siva Reddy, Founder of GoCoop speaks about how this online exhibition happening for the first time in India can support weavers' community
With artisans and weavers having been hit badly because of the lockdown, GoCoop, a specialised online marketplace for them has decided to conduct an online exhibition called Go Swadeshi Online starting from May 21-27 so that customers can buy different products from across India. Siva Devireddy, Founder of GoCoop, tells us that this is the first time they are trying something like this. He says, "We have organised more than 70 physical exhibitions across India but this exhibition is something special to us as we are helping the weavers sell their products to sustain during these difficult times. Like the physical exhibition, every artisan or weaver is given a separate space to exhibit their products. They are classified into categories and states they belong to. We have posted their photos and information on our website, Go Swadeshi Online, so that when people buy products, they will know that they are supporting a cause and an artisan. Aside from this, every day, we will have a live video chat with artisans who are part of our exhibition. People can watch us here and ask if they have any doubts regarding the product."
As Siva has been working with this community for more than eight years, he understands that the lockdown has had a severe impact on artisans as it has completely stopped their sales and production."Most of them sustain themselves only by selling their products. While this support is given by the government and several NGOs, what is really important is to sell their products on time. Hence, this is a way to sell whatever they have produced in the past two months. We ensure that the money goes to the artisan's account within three working days. This will provide financial support to them during the lockdown," explains Siva.
A weaver weaving a traditonal saree
What led Siva to start this organisation is an interesting story. A few years ago, he was into the corporate sector but he always wanted to take up an initiative that had social impact. He says, "Having visited my village several times, I had observed the importance of farmers and people who worked in small scale and cottage industries. They would struggle to connect with the customers. Hence, I decided to start GoCoop where these artists or weavers from cottage industries can even sell their smaller produce on our platform. The word Co-op means working together and I derived it from the word cooperative or cooperation."
However, Siva came across several challenges in reaching out to the artisans and customers. "I came from a typical background in the corporate sector. For instance, when we were working on the GoCoop project in 2012-2013, it was difficult to convince artists about e-commerce or sell their products online. The usage of smart phones especially in rural areas was not to a great extent. Someone who has never seen the computer before will obviously doubt about what we say. Hence it took us some time to get people used to the online platform."
An exhibit from West Bengal during Go Swadeshi exhibition before the lockdown
Convincing customers was another challenge that he faced because they want to touch and feel the product. "They will have a lot of queries about the quality of the product. We had to build that trust over a period of time. Today, we have over 50,000 customers from 20 different countries. Around 99 per cent of the products are delivered on time. In one per cent of the cases, there might be a delay in delivery of products due to the unavailability of the weaver and so on. Generally, in e-commerce, there are high returns of the products but on our platform, there are low returns."
In 2014, the Government of India recognised GoCoop for their work and how they were enabling small-town artisans go online. "When the new government came to power in 2014, they focussed a lot on e-commerce and encouraged artisans to do business online. There was an initiative to empanell some of the platforms who have made business easy for artisans. Observing the work we had done, the government selected us for this initiative. From then, we worked closely with the Ministry of Textiles and took up many cluster development projects. Here, we did buyers and artisans meet which helped the cluster of artisans to grow in terms of network and sales. We were awarded the National Award for Handlooms Marketing in 2016. We were also recognised as Champions of Change in 2017 by the Government of India. GoCoop was also the first e-commerce platform showcased by Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, at Google Unlocked, " he concludes.