Yeebo is a marketplace that attempts to digitally connect craftspersons with potential buyers
In the initial stages of the pandemic, one of the things that came to the fore was the need to support indigenous, sustainably produced goods that have a lower carbon footprint, and nurture artisan families as well. With tourism coming to a standstill, there was a need to take handmade products from artisan villages directly to buyers. A few e-commerce giants stepped in to stock products from the handloom and craft sector, but there is always room for more. Yeebo, a month-old marketplace that connects artisans to the buyers directly, is taking a step towards plugging the existing gaps.
Founded by Delhi-based Maahin Puri and Ikshitha Puri, the app has on board more than 300 artisans and has been downloaded by more than 3,000 potential buyers.
The mobile application interface is built such that artisans can set up their shop on Yeebo following a few steps, even if they are not tech-savvy: “Some of the villages we visited are off Google Maps and we found incredible handmade products there. Many artisans are not comfortable with browsing websites, but they use mobile apps easily. That helped us develop Yeebo,” says Maahin, a Duke University graduate in Economics and Computer Science.
After graduation, he returned from the US, wanting to use technology to help small businesses: “Technology can be an equaliser. We learnt that there’s a huge untapped sector where nearly 70 lakh artisans (according to Development Commissioner — Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India website) are involved in handmade products — textiles and crafts,” says Maahin. Maahin was joined by Ikshitha Puri, who is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Yeebo began as a bootstrapped venture with personal funds, but talks are on with venture capital firms to raise a seed round.
The artisans on board Yeebo hail from different Indian states — those specialising in Kashmiri shawls, blue pottery from Rajasthan, Rogan art from Kutch and Madhubani (Mithila) paintings from Bihar, to name a few. There are award-winning master craftspeople as well: Padma Shri awardee Abdul Gafur Khatri (Rogan art), Shilp guru Ram Gopal (Blue pottery) and National award winner Abid Nabi (Woodcraft).
Some of the award-winning artisans in India have their own websites, designed with the help of younger members in their families, but many artisans have been largely relying on traditional channels of real-time exhibitions to tap buyers.
Maahin and Ikshitha share that during their visits to craft villages near Delhi, Meerut and Jaipur, they learnt that many artisans had not heard of popular e-commerce giants. Others were wary of selling alongside machine-made products that are sold on discounts: “They aren’t comfortable with competitive pricing for handmade products,” says Maahin.
Artisans upload images and pricing details of their products and once an order is placed, the product is shipped to the buyer by the artisan. “The transaction is between the craftspeople and buyers; we take a 10% commission,” say the founders.
The platform is a work in progress. At the moment, artisans list their products with images and little else. There is scope for short bios that detail the work of an artisan or a brief note of the craft and its significance. “We plan to put up those in the coming weeks,” says Maahin. Plans are also on to popularise the platform through online and offline modes, through partnerships with Snarechat, Modern Bazaar and the Ministry of Textiles.