Yes!poho India Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of Yes!poho Inc. USA, is a start-up firm launched in India to work directly with India’s craftsmen and artisans, such as weavers, for the betterment of their economic condition. It is India’s first social platform connecting weavers and artisans directly with consumers. Team Optimist spoke to Raghuram Kuchibhatla, Founder of Yes!poho regarding the idea of Yes!poho. Read on…
Team Optimist: How did you come up with Yes!poho, India’s first social platform, connecting such artisans as weavers directly with consumers?
Raghuram Kuchibhatla: It was in 2015 that I visited India for a vacation and wanted to buy sarees for my wife and my mom. The entire process of getting stuck in traffic and going from one retail store to another was an ordeal and not enjoyable at all. By the time we were done with our purchases, we had managed to visit only a few retail stores. After the shopping, I noticed that the invoices mentioned, ‘Goods once purchased cannot be returned’. This, I felt, wasn’t fair to customers, especially when they shell out their life’s earnings on something they love and cherish.
Finally, with the market being highly fragmented and sarees being a non-standard product, there’s no way to compare prices. So, customers are at the mercy of retailers as far as price and quality are concerned.
Yes!poho is derived from the Spanish word, ‘Espojo’, which means Mirror. For easy pronunciation, the ‘j’ was changed to ‘h’ and a ‘Y’ was added in front to make it Yes!poho. It means that, when you look at yourself in the mirror, you say, ‘Yes! I look good’. Philosophically, a mirror always shows the present, never the past or the future. And women see the entire world as a mirror because, whenever they meet someone, the first question they ask is, ‘How do I look?’
Team Optimist: How does Yes!poho work? How does it connect with local weavers from the villages?
Raghuram Kuchibhatla: Yes!poho is a techno-experience company transforming physical retail experience into the digital world. Yes!poho is an organization where artisans, designers and guests are all in a win-win situation and are better off.
Yes!poho Institute (http://www.Yes!pohoinstitute.com/) offers free training programmes for partners (artisans) for betterment of their skills. We’ve also taken these weavers onboard our platform, where they can upload their products and put their own price tags for the items. This helps them remove any middleman and the profit from the sales flows directly to them. Initially, they were skeptical about the entire concept of web, D2C and naming their own price. These concepts always take time.
Through our new concept, they’re slowly beginning to understand that they can benefit economically and that their hard work can be compensated fairly. More important is the feedback they’re being provided through the platform. They’re being educated on Yes!poho’s changing tastes and preferences, which, we feel, will change their lives as they begin weaving, or making products accordingly.
Team Optimist: Do you offer training and job opportunities to the weavers? What has been their feedback?
Raghuram Kuchibhatla: Yes!poho also has an online training programme, called ‘Yes!poho Institute’, and this institute’s vision is to provide training to all its partners for enhancing their skills and improving their socio-economic condition. The institute is funded from the profits generated by the Yes!poho platform. As this programme is new, the induction is slow, but the weavers’ response has been positive. We’re working towards formalising a curriculum.
Team Optimist: How do you handle the changing trends in craftsmanship, especially consumer tastes and preferences?
Raghuram Kuchibhatla: Understanding changing consumer tastes and preferences in India is a big challenge. The reason is that, if you happen to drive through a single state in India, the languages, consumer tastes, habits and cultures vastly differ. So, the trend constantly changes across the nation and, for generations, these craftsmen were kept in the dark by middlemen and retailers.
Yes!poho wants to change this status quo by directly bringing the artisans to consumers where they get to interact directly and get to understand better the changing consumer tastes. In addition, Yes!poho provides tools that build metrics of consumer behaviour and passes it on directly to our craftsmen.
Team Optimist: Being an entrepreneur who has handled several start-ups, what’s your take on Yes!poho in terms of consumer reach and revenue?
Raghuram Kuchibhatla: Understanding consumer tastes and preferences and catering to their needs are the very essence of any business. At Yes!poho, we’re consumer-centric and every Yes!pohovian, an employee, is empowered to serve customers without saying ‘No’. We’re always focused on consumers and consumer satisfaction rather than on revenue.
Team Optimist: It’s often said that hand-woven Indian products have a huge demand in the market. What are your suggestions on the policies concerned?
Raghuram Kuchibhatla: It’s true that hand-woven products have a big demand in the market, but what’s more important is consumer appreciation of how these products are made. Consumers are always price-sensitive and always bargain over price, irrespective of how a product is made. Awareness of how products are made leads to a change in consumer behaviour on prices. Yes!poho perfectly exemplifies this. When consumers are directly connected with craftsmen, they’re less likely to be price-sensitive and have a much better appreciation of hand-made products.
Team Optimist: Do Indian weavers need to nurture any specific skills? Which areas need more attention?
Raghuram Kuchibhatla: Indian weavers do possess skills that have been passed on through generations. But what they lack is technology to enhance those skills. Yes!poho has visited several weavers’ villages and worked with weavers at the ground level to gather data on their work habits. We noticed that their skills definitely require an upgrade, as also their weaving tools, designing, and understanding of consumer preferences.
Team Optimist: Are you planning to expand Yes!poho? What aspects are you going to focus on over the next five years?
Raghuram Kuchibhatla: Yes!poho will be a single platform connecting all Indian artisans under a single social ecosystem, working directly with guests and catering to their needs.
IMPROVING THEIR LOT
- A weaver in the villages, on an average, gets about Rs200 per saree
- They make anywhere between 6-8 sarees a month
- So, they earn anywhere between Rs1,200 and Rs1,600 a month
- This is hardly enough to sustain them considering the amount of work they put in for weaving each saree
- Ever since they started using the Yes!poho platform to showcase their products, their net income has increased by 50%
- No middlemen: All products are directly from weavers and the prices, too, are managed by them
- The partners: The artisans manage their own inventory and prices. The weavers enter the prices they are willing to sell their products at
- Virtual try-out and social sharing: Guests can virtually try every product available on the platform as in a trial-room and these can be shared with friends and family on social platforms before the purchase
- 365-day trial: Yes!poho members, or buyers, have 365 days to return the goods