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With a career spanning over 25 years, Shilpa Sharma has extensive experience in the fashion and lifestyle retail space. She spent twelve years spearheading the growth of Fabindia’s retail network of over hundred stores across formats and geographies, and ended her innings with them after a successful run driving and managing product buying and merchandising for the entire business. She had earlier spent eight years in FMCG marketing with Marico Industries and Cadbury’s India, besides two years in advertising. She quit corporate life in 2010 and set up her own retail advisory to consult on strategic business advisory projects, and worked on diverse assignments across large and small retailers and entrepreneurs including a large efficiency improvement mandate with a luxury fashion brand in India. Sharma co-founded and now spearheads product design and buying for Jaypore.com, curating high on design handcrafted products from India. She shares her views on Jaypore.com with Meher Castelino.
What made you start Jaypore? How did you zero in on the name Jaypore?
We founded Jaypore in 2012, and launched it officially a month later with an ‘iPad only’ shopping experience. This was followed by a website which opened up to clients in the US in October 2012, and we went live in India and the rest of the world in January 2013. We had a shared vision of how we could present Indian craft-based designs in a contemporary application, one which would appeal to a domestic and global audience as much. We’re focussed on reviving dying crafts and arts of India and want to create a viable business that promotes quality over quantity. We are about India’s most beautiful products. There is no better representation of the most beautiful than Jaipur, be it in the area of craft, textile or architecture. It’s a destination that epitomises all things beautiful in India. We couldn’t have been Jaipur, for obvious reasons, and Jaypore seemed perfect.
Please tell us about the progress of the portal, and the way the products were added.
When we first went live in January 2013, we started with a small representation of stoles, scarves, shawls and silver jewellery, with some home accents thrown in. But as we built up a following, we realised that we would need to offer much more of the Indian aesthetic across categories like sarees, dupattas and home textiles. As we built a representation of these categories, we moved from one feature a day, five days a week, to two-a-day on all seven days of the week, pretty much within the first year of operation. As the following for Jaypore grew, the width of presentation across categories grew too, and we began to introduce categories like art, kids, home and apparel for women. Today, we showcase about six collections a day, every day, across categories.
How do you maintain an inventory of so many products? How often do you change them? How many pieces per style/product are stocked?
We work with most of our vendor associates on a sale or return (SOR, also known as consignment) basis. So, goods move into our inventory for a period of about six weeks, for the duration of the feature. Once we’ve pulled the feature off the site, the unsold pieces are returned to the vendor. So, we have to keep a tight control over products in stock.
We add almost 250 new products every day. So you can find something new you like each day! The number of pieces per style we carry depends on the category and the actual product. Some products like exclusive jewellery and sarees move very quickly and we don’t carry very huge numbers in these, because they’re all handmade and you can only get so much depth in a collection where every piece is made entirely by hand. We carry very large numbers of both apparel and jewellery.
How do you select your products? Where are your products from?
Jaypore embodies India’s most beautiful products combining a traditional and a classical aesthetic with contemporary design and showcasing a line of product, which elevates the ‘Made in India’ status of Indian craft. We want to mitigate India’s reputation for cheap and tacky (grungy) craft. We are a proud country, we should be proud of our heritage. We are creating a brand that embodies everything we love about India—from classic traditional to contemporary. We want to be an ambassador of modern Indian style, with a contemporary and hence globally-relevant aesthetic. This is the philosophy that guides us in choosing what Jaypore showcases to its loyal and growing audience. Any product, which is high on the hand-crafted quotient, and that embodies a design language that combines a traditional, classic craft form with a contemporary application, or just a contemporary colour palette, will qualify.
Jaypore is committed to the revival of traditional Indian handlooms and crafts. This philosophy takes us to myriad places in the corners of the country to source quality handmade and handcrafted products. So, we have natural dyed block prints from Rajasthan, ajrakh from Gujarat, kalamkari from Andhra Pradesh, and weaves from all over the country. We source jewellery and Indian traditional art like Gond and Madhubani paintings from skilled artisans across India. We support initiatives and organisations like AIACA and Women’s Weave, Kumaon Grameen Udyog and Samoolam by showcasing their products on Jaypore.
How long do you hold styles and products on the site? What innovations do you have to make, and how often for the site to be interesting?
There is enough and more for us to do right now; but yes, we are evaluating new categories that would benefit our consumers. Typically, an event in any category stays on for two weeks or more, depending on its popularity with customers. You will see new products every day on Jaypore. We usually have 6-7 new collections in all categories going live on the website everyday. At Jaypore, we constantly look for new ways to talk to our customers, to get them better value for their money, and to provide a financially viable platform for the craft communities that we work with. So, innovation is a constant process and there is never an occasion where we do not learn something new in a day.
What sells more – fashion, accessories, or household goods?
Traditionally, women’s apparel segment sees the fastest growth in online retail. But we are seeing huge growth in jewellery, sarees, dupattas and home products as well.
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