In Conversation with Vidya from Matkatus : Taking Quality Indian Weaves Global
Was it the feel of those pure cotton and silk sarees worn by her mother, or her walks down the numerous aisles of handicraft exhibitions in Chennai- Vidya does not know. But her affinity to traditional Indian clothes had its seeds sown in her a long time ago.
Despite working in IT for around 10 years and living in the USA, she remained committed to her dream of spreading artistic Indian textile to the rest of the world. Thus, she decided to leave the corporate world and embarked upon her journey for the passion of indigenous. After travelling the length and breadth of the country for a year, and examining every fabric, dye and art work, she started Matkatus. With extra care given to the authenticity, quality and eco friendliness of all her products, customers from all over the globe, flock to Matkatus and keep coming back for more.
The excitement and passion in her voice, the conviction with which she answered every question, clearly conveyed the love and care, she nurtures Matkatus with. So let us begin by understanding her brand and the thought process that went behind it.
- Before we begin, tell us about your brand, Matkatus? What products do you sell?
At Matkatus, we sell handcrafted and hand woven products which are produced in various geographical regions in India. Each handicraft is very specific to that particular region. We have sarees, dupattas, unstitched blouse and suit pieces, shawls and other winter wear. Our products have designs and styles from various parts of India. We have block printed material from Rajasthan, Kalamkari from Andhra and hand painted pieces from nationally acclaimed artists all over India.
- How do you maintain the quality standard of your products?
We are specific about the type of dyes used, and most of our products are eco-friendly. Before I started Matkatus, I personally visited the artisans, weavers and craftsmen and inspected their work. I took multiple courses in dyeing and ways to determine the quality, material and authenticity of every kind of product we sell online. With this education and research, I could come up with a guideline to verify the quality and authenticity of every aspect of the product-right from the silk or cotton used, to the kind of dye used for colours and designs.
“In India, after agriculture, weaving is the next largest profession”
- Matkatus seems to be empowering the artists and artisans of India. Can you explain that in a little more detail?
We work with a lot of NGOs and we deal with them directly. In India, after agriculture, weaving is the next largest profession. With Matkatus we aim to empower these artisans by providing them a direct channel to market their goods. This benefits in 2 ways:
- The products are authentic.
- They are cost efficient both to the manufacturers and the customer as there are no middlemen to share the cost or tamper the products in anyway.
Since all of our products are hand crafted say hand woven or hand printed or hand painted painted it gives employment to a lot of people.
- Matkatus is a unique name. Is there some story or meaning behind it?
Matkatus is an amalgamation of two kinds of silk. Matka and Tussar silk-both are found in West Bengal and Bihar belt.
- What all online marketing channels have you dabbled into since you started, say blog or social media, etc that have helped increase your sales? Which ones have shown you maximum returns?
Organic search works wonders for us. We also have a lot of repeat customers who keep coming back to us. We have just ventured into Google Adwords and Facebook advertising. We also have a presence on marketplaces like IndiaMART and Sweet Couch and product listing websites like Junglee.
- Apart from your online store, what are some of your other point of sales? Say, exhibitions, retail outlets, etc. Which ones have worked best for you?
We have not looked much into offline sales yet. But we go to some exhibitions within the city However, we are now scaling up and plan to have a bigger offline presence.
- With the kind of products you sell, it often gets hard to deliver the clear picture to your audience online. How do you deal with that?
Getting a fabric online is very tricky as touch and feel is something missing on an online store. We avoid studio lighting and take the product pictures images in natural lighting to get the original colors. We do not add any special effect for any of our images.
- How has the whole experience of setting up your own online storewith Zepo been?
We have been using Zepo since the very beginning and we were one of the initial customers of Zepo.
- We really like the stability of the Zepo platform .We had no major problems after we set up our store. The website functions well
- Search engine optimization of Zepo is phenomenal. It has helped us so much that until very recently, we did not use any other marketing channels.
- The customer support is very good and we have always had any kind of help and support that we required.
- What are the 2 features of Zepo that you think can do with some improvement?
- Logistics support – the delivery timelines are not met sometimes. Shipment problems make escalations becomes very difficult at times.
- Geo-tagging for easier calculation of shipping rates will also be very helpful for international shipments.
After learning a little bit about Matkatus I am sure we are all curious to know about the person who did it all.
- Vidya, what were you doing before you started with Matkatus?
I was a Software Implementation Manager at Royal Bank of Scotland after having worked in Infosys for 7 years across multiple streams.
What’s the story behind you taking the plunge into e-commerce and starting your own online store?
It was a gradual process. I always knew that I wanted to start something like Matkatus. I was always a lover of the Indian handicrafts. Right from cotton and silk clothes to various handicrafts produced in India, everything fascinated me. I owe this affinity to indigenous to my mom. As I always saw her wear only pure, organic and hand crafted products.
I wanted to share this love of traditional products with the world.. This could only happen, if I could somehow, take the actual product from the best artist in India, to the customer in its purest and ethnic form.
So I took the major plunge in October 2012, when I quit my job.
I travelled extensively for almost a year to understand and learn the nitty gritty of the industry. Finally in June 2013, Matkatus was launched
- Keeping the same levels of enthusiasm every day is not easy. What keeps you inspired and motivated every day?
Our user testimonials and positive feedback, brighten my spirit every day. Knowing that some customer wants to buy your product and cherishes it, is the best feeling. Honestly, a happy customer who keeps coming back, is the best reward. Even if we receive any negative feedback which bogs me down, I like to view it as an opportunity to see in what direction to move. We do a root cause analysis to understand what went fundamentally wrong and what can be done better.
Hands down, I have the most encouraging family and a great team. My husband is my pillar of strength and motivates me in all apsects. My team consists of six people and one of them is my mother. It is very assuring to have people telling you that you are doing a great job and they are there to support you in your endeavor.
- What are some of the decisions that have worked best for you in your business?
- Our decision to eliminate any middle man and work directly with artisans has worked in our favor. This way we can get genuine products at fair prices both for the customers and the creators.
- We receive feedback from our customers about the trends they would like and convey them to the artists. Combining the artists choice and innovations and market demand, we can create products which uphold the tradition and gel with the current trends.
- If you could give one piece of advice to other Internet entrepreneurs what would it be?
Start it all very professionally. This gives a strong base for you to grow.
Also there is absolutely no substitute to hard work. So, stick to basics and don’t lose sight of the big picture.
Their commitment towards our country’s art and the environment, is reflected in all of their products. It is this sincerity which makes customers gravitate towards them again and again. Vidya and her team are perfect examples for all entrepreneurs who want to grow with their country. So let us find our passion, asses our goals, take the plunge and prance forward with full sincerity.
Do you have an Ecommerce business idea which can contribute to our nation’s growth? We can help you make your work easier. Give Zepo a try and start your online store in the next 5 mins.