Leemon Ravi: You shouldn’t stop learning, and you have to update yourselves on business strategies, technological advancements, and changing trends.

May 22, 2023
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Tell us about yourself?

I started my career as a Quality Engineer with Siemens after the successful completion of my B.E – Mechanical (Gold Medalist) from LBS College of Engineering.

My association with Ocwen Financial Solutions as a Cadd engineer, ICICI Bank as a financial officer, and HDFC Bank as a Territory manager have helped me to excel in my career as an entrepreneur. As the Chairman and Managing Director of Golden Era Group Of Companies (GERG), I am currently associated with many business projects in the financial, housing, and software segments.

With a vast experience of more than 17+ years in financial, engineering, and software segments, my vision is to revolutionize the group company concept by infusing and nurturing young and creative minds backed by pioneers in the respective areas.

I authored a book called “Colors Of Life” on August 2021. The money from sales of the book goes to Uthhan Charitable Trust for uplifting Indian artisans.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

I learned so many life lessons being an entrepreneur. You shouldn’t stop learning, and you have to update yourselves on business strategies, technological advancements, and changing trends.

During the lockdown period, many of the artisans and customers who were dependent on offline stores suddenly shifted to online sales.

This has helped an increase in craft sales revenue and artisan numbers in the Uthhan platform. We simplified the artisan registration process and onboarded many needy artisans. You also have to be persistent with your approach and always keep transparency in your process.

I also learned that a  diversified business model would lead to increased cross-selling and a healthy customer portfolio.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Even though I know that mistakes made in the past are an experience that leads to successful collaborations and ventures in the future, I should have advised myself to start a business with people who are not only good at multitasking but also versatile.

This will definitely open up so many facets of your brand. I also should have advised myself to focus on the product and not on advertising.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

This is true. Because entrepreneurs should acknowledge that the belief they are pursuing is their passion, a passion cannot be segmented as work and personal life. It’s a part of your life. If you are passionate enough about your goal, you won’t find it a burden.

Instead, it will collaborate with your personal life and make it meaningful and value driven. Surround yourself with people who respect your goal.

Don’t be in the company of judgemental individuals. It’s a passion for me, and so entrepreneurship is a  part of my life. So it’s very easy to strike a balance between work and personal life since it’s interlinked.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

I draw inspiration from millions of Indian artisans who create craft marvels using simple technology and handmade tools. I strongly believe that the empowerment of artisans lies within themselves. Indian artisans created architectural wonders in ancient times, and our Indian culture is a major beneficiary of the same.

Once the artisans start getting their value directly without any middlemen, their community will self-sustain. I don’t believe in role models since every individual has got his own identity and way of execution, and the same can’t be imitated.

The achievement of a person depends on his troubleshooting capacity during the crisis and the amount of effort put in to achieve his vision. I respect my parents, who are social workers and have always supported my vision.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

Uthhan is a social entrepreneurship platform of the Golden Era Royal Group. Uthhan is a platform that allows artisans to upload their products at their prices without any middlemen.

We are keeping a margin of only 10% above the price, out of that which 5% will go for the welfare of artisans through Uthhan Charitable Trust.

Many of our competitors are buying products from middlemen who procure handicrafts from artisans at marginal costs. So the end-user prices are exorbitant. Artisans are forced to give their crafts at a cheaper rate because of their financial instability and lack of a proper marketplace.

Even though the total exports of Indian handicrafts were valued at US$ 4.35 billion in 2021-22, which is a 25.7% increase from the previous year, almost 75 lacs artisans are below the poverty lines since the middlemen eat away the major chunk of profit.

Uthhan solves these issues. They have control over their price, and importantly the revenue goes to them directly to their accounts. Since our products are directly from artisans, the end user prices also are less than the current market price.

We also have reseller modules where resellers can buy craft products in bulk from our artisans without any middlemen. Uthhan Global started in 2021, caters to the requirements of international customers through our franchisees outside India.

The artisan enrollment process is naive and transparent. We are currently onboarded 80k plus artisans across various Indian states. 

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

Uthhan finds sales in the following ways.

1) Uthhan Ecom ( Online handicraft site for Indian craft buyers) 

2) Uthhan Global ( Online handicraft site for International buyers) 

3) Uthhan Reseller ( Online bulk handicraft buying option for resellers, corporate companies, etc.) 

4) Uthhan Originals Experience centers ( Retail spaces for Uthhan situated in various Indian Metro cities ) 

If you are an entrepreneur who wants to start a craft business you have to onboard the actual artisans. You cant run this using middlemen. You have to have a sustainable logistic strategy as well as customer interaction programs.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?

The major challenges are  

1) Creating technological awareness among artisans since the majority are technological illiterates.

2) Logistic challenges, since multiple craft orders are sourced from various Indian states 

3) Fund requirements to set up storage facilities for various artisan families 

4) Zero Government Support

5) Younger generation of artisans is not continuing the tradition. We made a simplified enrollment and product uploading process for artisans.

They can do it using our multilingual dashboard. We are giving training for artisans about packaging and logistic procedures.

We are raising funds from corporate companies to facilitate raw materials, tools, food, insurance, education, etc., for artisan families enrolled with us through Uthhan Charitable Trust. The name of the program is KASBA ( Karigar Apnao, Sanskriti Bachao Abhiyan / Adopt an Artisan, Save our Culture campaign).

We have supported more than 15k plus artisan families through this program. We are generating ample revenue for the younger generation of artisans so that they can lead a respectful life in society. 

🇮🇳 What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in India and the specific State you are in over other states in India?

Indian metro cities are equipped with strong internet connectivity and a diverse market.

Handicraft categories are spread from Home Decor, Kitchenware, Paintings, Decor Items, Office decor, and so on. There is a huge requirement for craft items. Moreover, we are empowering our Indian artisans, and they are all based in India.

The trust factor for an Indian artisan towards an Indian company is on the higher side. We are able to give effective logistic support since we are in India. Even an international customer expects an authentic handicraft product from a trustworthy Indian company.

🇮🇳 What (if any) are some weaknesses of operating your business within India and your State?

The only weakness in the entire model is the logistic strategies because of multiple artisan locations. It’s a common problem faced by many e-commerce establishments.

Since it’s not a state or country-specific issue, this can be overcome with logistic property strategies.

🇮🇳 If you could operate your business in another state in India rather than the State you are in, which State would it be and why?

I don’t think that this is a major concern. Because most of our business segments are online and we are blessed to be in a city like Bangalore.

Bangalore has pleasant weather conditions, and the population of artisans is around 35 lacs in Karnataka. It is also regarded as the IT capital of India. But all cities in India have their own uniqueness.

So we are setting up Uthhan Originals Experience centers in all major Indian cities to increase the reach in the future. Golden Era Royal Group is a conglomerate of 7 companies under its belt to push diversified portfolios to end users.

🇮🇳 India has an incredibly diverse population. How has this affected your consumer base and business?

The diverse population of India is a boon. I started Golden Era Royal Group in 2011 and started diversifying segments like property development, construction, software development, online shopping, recruitment, solar energy, and CSR activities.

We are targeting this diverse population of India with our diversified portfolio of products. It has helped us to create the necessary fillip to generate revenue sources. Uthhan has created various Indian craft categories to cater to the multiple demands of Indian craft consumers.

🇮🇳 Infrastructure is really important to businesses. How have you seen India’s Infrastructure improve recently? Do you see new opportunities opening up?

The improvement of Indian Infrastructure is a mixed bag. Even though there has been a steady improvement in technological Infrastructure, administrative policies are still archaic.

Proper administrative policies combined with infrastructural development aimed at supporting businesses will only boost the confidence of entrepreneurs.

Administrators will have to explore the potential of new-age entrepreneurs with dynamic ideas and exceptional skill sets. Unfortunately, these things are overlooked for a significant period of time.

🇮🇳 Infrastructure is really important to businesses. How have you seen India’s Infrastructure improve recently? Do you see new opportunities opening up?         And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

The improvement of Indian Infrastructure is a mixed bag. Even though there has been a steady improvement in technological Infrastructure, administrative policies are still archaic.

Proper administrative policies combined with infrastructural development aimed at supporting businesses will only boost the confidence of entrepreneurs.

Administrators will have to explore the potential of new-age entrepreneurs with dynamic ideas and exceptional skill sets. Unfortunately, these things are overlooked for a significant period of time.            

We believe that an association of effective people can promote a business. So we welcome people from various strata to associate with us. People who want to know more about our business can visit the following links 

About Golden Era Royal Group  https://linktr.ee/goldeneraroyalgroup 

About Uthhan  https://linktr.ee/uthhan.gerg 

You can contact us   Email – [email protected]

Contact number – 7353155800

Follow Uthhan: Empowering Artisans in LinkedIn and Twitter

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