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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Crafting a Business

Shilpa Sharma, co-founder of Jaypore, on the offline store and why we need to contemporise Indian crafts

Written by Ektaa Malik | Updated: March 30, 2018 12:10:25 am
Clothes at Jaypore’s offline store

When Shilpa Sharma wanted to choose a name for her online portal for all things pretty and unique, she chose Jaypore — an ode to Rajasthan’’. “Puneet Chawla and I started the site in the United States, and then launched in India in 2013,” says Sharma, co-founder of The tastefully designed website, over the last five years, has become one of the favourites for many and for all things artisanal and handcrafted. Be it handloom apparel, silver and other precious metal jewelry, and home and kitchen wares, the online store has been a one stop online shop.
Almost half a decade later, Jaypore now has its first offline store. All those concerned about the touch and feel of the wares available on the site, can experience the Jaypore way of doing things at a two-storied cavernous space in Delhi’s GK-1 N block market. “We know that many women spend time on the website, but are slightly unsure about the texture, feel of the garment or textile. This store is a bridge for them,” says Sharma.

The move, from an online space to a brick and mortar presence is a fairly new phenomenon that is gaining popularity with e-retailers. “A huge chunk of our audience is wary of the online shopping world. They should come here, get initiated and then go back and also shop online. Also, shopping is a social experience, you make a day of it with your friends and hang out together. You can even browse online at the store, see how one particular clothing item looks online, the idea is to not be scared,” says Sharma, who picked Delhi because “(it) is home”. “I thought it would be best to start an experiment where we were familiar with the terrain and demography and are not struggling with mere logistics,” says Sharma.

Five years ago, Jaypore was one of the few early birds in the fledgling e-commerce space. Today, that space has expanded massively. Sharma’s 20 years of design retail experience with brands like Fabindia came in handy to give Jaypore an edge beyond beginners’ luck. “I was a big fan of Fabindia. That’s when this obsession with all things beautiful and handcrafted kicked in. Over the 12 years that I spent with them, the exposure and the experience I got while travelling the length and breath of India was invaluable. I pretty much internalised the design ethos,” says Sharma, who also helmed a consulting firm and conducted crafts and textiles tours in India.

Shilpa Sharma

The website and store features collections from artisans across the country. They also have their in-house label in order to manifest their own aesthetic sense. There are ikat dresses for those who might be intimidated by ikat saris. “I really wanted to take Indian craft to another level. Indian craft has been reduced to being tacky and grungy often. But we have the best offerings. The shot in the arm that was needed was to give it a contemporary twist. Amenability, and the possibility to customise things to suit your own personality, that’s what’s driving people,” says Sharma. Probably why price points on Jaypore aren’t necessarily cheap, with clothing priced onwards of Rs 990 and accessories starting at Rs 450 onwards.

With fast growing competition in the space, where does Jaypore see itself fitting in in the future? “There is a similarity yes, people are working a lot more with craft-based textiles. But I think we (Jaypore) are pushing boundaries where others are choosing not to. They want to cater to a mass sensibility to get more numbers. I am not saying that there are no pressures of numbers — the economics of retail — we are running a business after all. We needed to stick to our aesthetics and design sensibilities, or we would be yet another face among many,” says Sharma, who is planning to open stores in Bangalore and Mumbai too.

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