From a box of cigarettes to a box of traditional Indian art: My journey into the splendid world of startups and online commerce.
So how is it that a corporate guy like you selling IT solutions to government agencies, gets into the business of selling jewelry and fashion accessories online? I get that question so often that my answer has just boiled down to four words, "Because I love it!”
But the long version of that answer is that I started Zarood because working in the IT world for nearly 20 years, I realized the potential of technology, and specifically the Internet in reaching people effectively. A hoarder of souveneirs and mini collectibles, art related products was obviously the way to go.
I studied to become an engineer at the Dayalbagh Educational Institute in Agra. My friends and I would often ditch classes and make our way to the Taj Mahal. Every tourist there would tell you about how mesmerizing the Taj is, basking in its 400 year old glory. But something that not a lot of people know is that sitting right by the main gate of Taj Mahal is a clan of artisans, rumored to be descendants of the original workers who built the Taj, working around the clock to ensure that the restoration work done to the deteriorating Taj Mahal is as genuine as possible. Fascinating don't you think? Indian craftsmanship has managed to survive at least 400 years and the Taj Mahal is standing testimony for that.
Fast forward 25 years and here I am trying to recognize the same Indian art culture in my own little way with Zarood. My philosophy is simple, I want to put a face to every piece of Indian artisanship out there and make sure that the end customers appreciate the art for what it is and the long standing artistic culture that it represents.
Most of the artisans working to manufacture jewellery and fashion accessories today face a common problem - they are under paid and under recognized. So we started with the simplest of business models, cut out the middle man, and save some money. But more importantly save some money and put the artisan at the forefront.
The concept of the box was an idea that I first had back in 1992 on a chance visit to the Indian Tobacco Company factory. Tens of thousands of cigarettes ready to be stacked into boxes of 20 and shipped to every nook and corner of the country, from pan waalas to duty free stores. Today each box comes with a statutory warning that "smoking kills". What if each box of a Zarood product can be shipped with a note about who the artisan is and what the art form is called? That to me is powerful.
Zarood has since been a long but extremely rewarding roller coaster ride. There are some ups and some more downs, but the initial philosophy is what has kept us going till today. Personally its been a humbling journey of fostering relationships with brilliantly talented craftsmen in remote pockets of the country and working with an extremely talented group of people who have had their faith in the idea and what we are trying to do. As for me, CEO is just an acronymn for Chief-Everything-Officer, overworked, but loving each and every part it!
Until next time,
- July 20, 2015
- Siddhant Garg