DesiOrigins-Creating Organic Livelihoods Through the E-commerce Way
Our country is witnessing a silent revolution in the villages and taluks, in the tribal lands and the hinterlands. Individuals with a world of opportunities at their disposal are deciding to rise up and make a difference in the lives of the marginalized sections of the society.
A business model which is often referred to as Social Entrepreneuship aims to create livelihoods where there exist none. Where the creators of the products get their fair share of the profits, from the sales of the products that they make.
This is a documentation of the business model of two such entrepreneurs. Sreelata and Gunjan, who decided to use their experiences,network and the power of Ecommerce to kickstart an online organic products marketplace.
Can you tell us when did DesiOrigins start?
We started in 2012, the store is co-owned by two of us. I and my friend Gunjan run it as a partnership.
Which are the products that you currently feature on your store?
We host a range of products like Organic Superfoods, Personal Care products, Organic tea, Coffee, Honey, Spices & Herbs and Baby Food to name a few.
Why did you choose to venture into the organic products market which is at a nascent stage right now?
When we were living in Indore, we found that we could influence the usage patterns of commodities which are used on an everyday basis. So when we started delving deeper, we found that we didn’t like a lot of products which were there in the market and were being bought off the shelves.
That is when we started scouting for better and more organic products, changing our own lifestyles along the way. We then realized, that if we took this idea and implemented it on a larger scale it would benefit thousands of stakeholders. Both the country’s native population who create the products, as well as consumers like you and me.
” Don’t just be a trader. Be more passionate about what you’re selling. ”
How did you start implementing the ideas on the board?
We began by collecting links of NGOs operating in the local area through our network of common friends. We noticed that they were doing truly good work but were unable to market the products that they made.We acted as a medium through which they could do so.
We facilitated a lot of exhibitions at various institutions across India for about 4-5 NGOs. We focused on popularizing these NGOs in the beginning. Slowly they spread the word about our work and how we were helping them promote their products. Currently, we are supporting 20-25 self-help groups, and host their products on our website. So this was our ground work.
In 2013, we formed the brand Desi-Origins. It was the encouragement that we got from these NGOs that motivated us to take our venture to a larger scale.
What do you believe DesiOrigins has done differently, from other organizations empowering self-help groups?
Three ways which DesiOrigins brought in innovations for the NGOs were:
- We did intensive market research, and conveyed the customer demands to the NGOs, to make the products more attractive for the buyers.
- We helped them market their products.
- We helped with branding and rebranding/re-packaging their products to make them more attractive for the urban and semi urban consumers.
Is there a story behind your logo?
We wanted something which signified our efforts to partner and nurture various groups and organizations. So there were two partnerships which we wanted to depict. One the partnership between the NGOs and us and the other being the partnership between me and Gunjan. The stem of the tree or the two hands are us and the green leaves symbolize the various groups that we are trying to empower and grow.
What were the biggest challenges you’ve faced ?
We still face a lot of challenges:
Business Challenges :
- One of the biggest challenge is getting people to understand and embrace the organic products.
- The challenge of reaching out to customers across India. Going online worked and we have conquered it with Zepo and the logistics support given to us.
- Finances – This is a personally funded venture. Funding and expanding is always a challenge.
Socio-Economic Mindset about Women in Business:
Externally we face the typical challenges that women would face. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to explain ourselves to some brands who don’t take us seriously because it’s a brand being run by women. Although its very shocking but it still exists. Some people don’t take you seriously as they feel we are doing it as a hobby. So the socio-economic mind blocks are one of the challenges we deal with.
Internal Organizational Challenges:
After a few months after starting up my partner had to move to Indore and we now work from different cities.
How do you advertise and market your products?
When we started out we did a couple of roadshows. We also held exhibitions and spoke to people in the local area about the launch. We continue to focus on exhibitions however we choose the more popular ones like the Delhi Haat and exhibitions during the festive seasons like Dussehra, Diwali etc.
Have you tried the Hybrid Ecommerce model?
Yes, we have. Six months after we went online we launched the retail store. It gave us a local captive audience, who got to know about our products. Slowly, we started speaking to them about the online store. Now,there are many local customers in Gurgaon itself who have started ordering online.
Can you share with us any moments with your customers which truly made you feel good about what you were doing?
There was a Swedish lady who had visited with a common friend. Incidentally, my friend had told her about my venture. So the lady took some products as gifts for her friends back home. She did not understand the products well, but went ahead and bought them casually. After more than a year, she finally used the products herself. She liked the product so much that she refused to part with 20 out of the 30 products. She even gave us a review on Facebook talking about the balm that she bought and mentioned that it worked like magic for most problems related to pain.
How do you find the ZEPO support? Do you wish to give us some feedback?
The ZEPO support has been quite decent. One suggestion that I would like to give is to have more offerings for returning customers. We would definitely love it if you gave us some value added services/offers as a loyalty benefit. We find some limitations with the platform related to customizations and templates. More options given to the customer to modify the design of the websites would work wonders.
The support overall has been good. We have always got immediate replies on any query/complaints that we have logged. However we have observed that sometimes the turnaround times were longer than normal. This is something which can be improved.
Do you have any suggestions for sellers who would want to go online?
A couple of things:
Strong Inventory management and logistics support :
Going online is easy with the presence of service providers like ZEPO, but the nitty gritty which mainly separates the good from the bad is the service reactiveness. For e.g. – once you get the order, how soon can you ship it out?
Inventory management and logistics support has to be very strong because you would never know from where you might get the order tomorrow. For e.g. if you get an order from the North east India and you panic immediately; it doesn’t help as the customers won’t accept that. Secondly, you get an order from your base location itself but you don’t stock that product. It’s a problem again. So it hinders your overall service quality. Therefore the logistics support and inventory management has to be very sound.
Strong Marketing Sense:
Right now everyone offers discounts and there is a perpetual sale all the time. But putting up a sale does not guarantee business. So you need to have a strong marketing support who can help you make sense of the marketing strategies and yet experiment and tell you what works and what does not. For e.g. – our advisor for marketing advised that superfoods would do well and it actually did well for us.
Passion for the product you are selling:
It is very important to know each one of the products that you are selling. There have been countless number of times, where the customer had ordered the product and then called to know more about the product, describe the product and also know the benefits.
You too can check out a range of Organic products hosted at Desiorigins. Your purchase will also contribute towards supporting the livelihoods of households in the villages and towns of India.
Zepo wishes all the very best to the Desiorigins team.
Don’t you think that you too have the power to make a difference? Your entrepreneurial pursuit can better the lives of many. Zepo is here is to easy your way into Ecommerce.