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article imageIndian e-retailer Flipkart bringing Varanasi weaves online

By Sravanth Verma     Sep 4, 2014 in Business
India's largest e-retailer, Flipkart, is bringing Indian weavers from the town of Varanasi onto its digital store, in a bid to outrun its competitors as the battle in the Indian digital shopping space heats up.
Flipkart recently raised $1 billion in investments and is rapidly expanding its offerings. The pilot initiative with Varanasi's weavers is called "Flipkart Kaarigar ka Dwaar". Flipkart is working in partnership with the Indian central government, and the initiative will kick off in two weeks, with 50 of the city's 40,000 weavers.
Flipkart has also brought on board students from India's premier fashion design school, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). NIFT students will design for the weavers, at clusters or collection centers in Varanasi. Weavers will also deliver their finished products at the centers, from where the items will be shipped to Flipkart's warehouses and then to buyers.
The ancient city of Varanasi is also known as Banaras, and is the parliament constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had pledged to revive Varanasi's flagging economy and inadequate infrastructure.
Flipkart's announcement came on the day Modi completed 100 days in office, but the company's Head of Corporate Affairs, Joy Bandekar said the choice of pilot city was a "mere coincidence." He also disassociated the timing of the announcement with the government's duration in office. "This is a mere coincidence and there is no political reason behind Varanasi as the first choice," he said.
Flipkart says it will provide weavers with an online marketing platform, data analytics and customer acquisition so they can scale up and get remunerative prices for their products, minus any traditional middlemen, who have generally profited heavily from weavers' works, to the detriment of the artisans.
The company will enjoy an expanded seller base, as it attempt to raise its seller base from 3000 to 50,000 in the next year, as it tries to catch up with competitors Snapdeal, which has 30,000 sellers, and Amazon, which has 9000.
As more Indians take to the web for shopping, start-ups have appeared offering everything from electronics to spiritual goods. Flipkart has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian textiles ministry to reach small and medium manufacturers, as well as a deal with the Federation of Indian Micro and Small & Medium Enterprises, in a bid to grow its online product base.
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