With the rise of machine-made imitations that belie the handmade products, the artisans involved in traditional handmade handicrafts do not receive due recognition.
“Eighty percent of products that are sold as handmade are machine-made imitations”, says Vijaya Krishnappa, a management professional and a textile Engineer based in Bangalore. When he worked along with the government to help develop the economy of a weaving cluster in Banaras, he was shocked by the ground reality. “That is when I had an exposure to handloom, and the reality was staggering. Handmade products are expensive, but the artisans are struggling to make ends meet”, laments Vijaya. With cheaper imitations, handmade products are driven out of the market.
Understanding the need for a differentiator between handmade and machine-made products, Vijaya joined hands with Ramki Kodipady, an IT professional, and co-founded KOSHA. KOSHA was started in 2018 in order to authenticate handmade products such as handlooms, hand-printed and embroidered textiles, wooden toys, and more. The enterprise was running trials on a weaving cluster in North Karnataka in 2019 and heard about Deshpande Startups’ Incubation event. “We came down to Deshpande Startups and pitched our idea. That is when our journey with Deshpande Startups began”, recalls Vijaya.
“Deshpande Startups supported us with research, product development, marketing, and investments”, he says. KOSHA developed technologies to authenticate and digitally integrate the craft sector with global supply chains. “Mentorship from Mr. Vivek Pawar, the CEO of Deshpande Foundation, was the turning point in our journey. We were advised to demonstrate the product to customers and gather market validation. The feedback helped us improve the product, and now we successfully make the product at one-tenth of the original cost”, elaborates Vijaya. Today, KOSHA provides multiple services including product authenticity, traceability, brand protection, product digitization, and more, using its proprietary IoT and AI based ‘WEAVESENSE technology’.
“We got many networking opportunities including access to handloom weavers through Deshpande Startups’ Micro-Entrepreneurship Development Program (MEDP). This helped us in research and development.
KOSHA is registered in Hubballi, Karnataka, and has won the Startup Karnataka Elevate Award in 2019-20. It is now present in seven states of India and has a footprint in Africa. “Deshpande Startups is like a second home to me as an entrepreneur, the warmth and service-oriented nature of people there has taught me to help others and also to seek help when needed”, says Vijaya, smilingly.