Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
My store sells handloom sarees (traditional women’s apparel) from West Bengal, India, a culturally rich corner of the country. These are very niche, artisanal products reflecting a centuries-old weaving tradition that has been passed down the generations, but is almost a dying craft in modern India. Needless to say, the sarees are very treasured, but hardly accessible to women living in other parts of India. Having realized this during my travels across the country, I decided to set up an online store that would sell these handloom sarees.
This online platform serves a dual purpose: helping to revive a traditional art by offering the weavers an additional distribution channel, and also making these prized products available to women across the country and beyond. The sarees that I sell on my store are woven in various villages across West Bengal, where each region has its own distinctive artistic style. We source them from multiple weavers and wholesalers from across the state to get a diverse collection of sarees for our store.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
The first 3-4 sales were from friends and colleagues who knew me personally. Within a month, we started getting enquiries and sales on the website from unknown customers. Organic search accounts for about 60% of our traffic, followed by returning visitors (20%), paid search (12%), and the remaining from referrals and social media. 32% of our sales today come from repeat customers, without any marketing spend. Over the last 2 years, our customer base has grown beyond India to cover most countries that have a sizeable Indian population (USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Singapore, Japan and the Middle-East, etc). We rank among the top 5 searches on Google for all the categories of sarees that we sell.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
The internet is ‘the’ most important tool! Google Analytics & Google Adwords are used to understand customer needs and preferences, study market trends, keep abreast of competition and tailor our offerings accordingly. Shopify analytics and various apps to collect reviews, testimonials and engage customers are used on a daily basis. We have a lean team to manage day-to-day operations (me and 2 other employees). We store all inventory in our own warehouse and have a tie-up with 3 courier agencies for our domestic and international shipments.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Get as much help as you can from the Shopify Gurus and discussion forums – the single most indispensable tool you get for being part of the Shopify community!