We talked to Shobhit Arora, Founder and CEO at WorldArtCommunity about the online art & craft marketplace and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Shobhit Arora: Covid -19 has brought about tectonic shifts in our lives, not just the way we lived but also in our thought process. It has resulted in an increased awareness towards society at large, enhanced importance of close friendships and family, spirituality, and mindfulness at large, and not exclude an increased sense of purpose.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded WorldArtCommunity.
Shobhit Arora: I guess at some point in life, the way we’re conditioned, it’s not surprising to have that urge. Most often than not, one reaches a comfortable position in a corporate environment, and there’s this constant feeling of doing something on your own. It happened to me, too, around 2 years before launching WorldArtCommunity. For me, the key driver, though, was to create a difference in people’s lives.
I thoroughly enjoyed my corporate career, and quite frankly, the learnings I had over the 14-year corporate life with companies like Standard Chartered Bank & General Electrics come in handy every day of my startup journey.
The fundamental anchor for the concept of WorldArtCommunity was to create an organization with a sense of purpose, a model that was scalable and resonated with the growing trends.
A lot of time was spent on evaluating the current social structure and people’s issues. I realized that creativity is an element that defines what we seek in our lives – and yet doesn’t find its logical fulfillment due to our limitations. I saw creators of art and craft searching desperately for ways in which to pursue their passion and some struggling to make a career out of their passion. Their resources were limited, but the opportunity was not. With immense support from like-minded people who were passionate about supporting our cause, WorldArtCommunity was born.
How does WorldArtCommunity innovate?
Shobhit Arora: Working at the helm of changing design trends, we endeavor to work closely with the artisanal ecosystem to bring products that resonate with the trends. This could apply to newer categories or design innovations within the existing craftforms that Indian artisans are known for.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Shobhit Arora: Our business came to a standstill once the lockdown was announced. Unlike other categories, the impact in the handcrafted category was immense as the livelihood dependence on the sales was direct.
This was when we aligned our efforts towards creating hand-made, washable, re-useable cotton fabric masks in partnership with our artistic sellers. Mask was made mandatory by the government, was classified under the essential category, and could be shipped in an otherwise locked down logistics. After following guidelines and after thorough research – we knew that a basic cloth mask offered more than adequate protection for those who were not on the frontlines. It was also comfortable in summer, allowed for ease while breathing, and was eco-friendly since it could be washed and re-used.
Our partners who were in various craftforms aligned themselves to the process of crafting high-quality cloth masks that were aesthetically appealing and functionally superior. Procuring the right fabric, designing the mask, and ensuring consistency of quality and workmanship while producing numbers in times of social distancing and working from home – involved extra effort and motivation, but the bet paid off.
During the COVID lockdown itself, we supported over 400 families for their livelihood, with over 100,000 masks sold.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Shobhit Arora: The lockdown for us was all about persistence, agility, hard work, and, most importantly, hope. We are proud to say that we could sail through the worst. The revenues were, of course, impacted, but we didn’t need to make uncomfortable decisions.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Shobhit Arora: FabIndia, Goodearth.
Our vision is to deepen our presence in the artisanal ecosystem and truly enable functional and business inputs much needed in this space that’s currently completely unorganized.
India has a rich cultural heritage, and there’s a lot of room for many players to do their bit towards promoting and preserving Art and Craft. We view competitors as comrades working towards the common cause.
Your final thoughts?
Shobhit Arora: The way we look at adversity is purely in our hands. It calls for our determination, hard work, and passion for converting what they call poison into medicine.
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