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What prompted you to leave a high-paying professional career and start GoCoop?
I have always been keen on taking up social entrepreneurship, especially promoting livelihoods. I had the opportunity to see how life in different rural parts of the country and was keen on seeing how we could use ICT in making a social impact. When we look at organizations like co-ops, the main challenges they face is access to markets and information. After 12 years of corporate career, I decided to start GoCoop.
How has been the journey so far?
It has been a very interesting journey so far. We could take a completely new concept, develop it and introduce it to a sector as complex as handloom and handicraft co-ops and other producers. We completed the first phase of the project successfully with over 2000 registrations on the platform and marketing produce for over 100 co-op producers. We received very good feedback from the buyers, sellers and other govt. organizations from the sector.
Did you face challenges while convincing the rural cooperatives to go online?
Access and adoption is the biggest challenge for technology intervention in rural India. In co-op and SHGs, there is very little access to basic information technology like computers and Internet. Convincing someone who has not seen a computer before about an online marketplace requires a complete paradigm shift and takes time. We worked on conducting awareness sessions and also partnered with govt. organizations in promoting the concept in different clusters.
To enable easier access, GoCoop has developed multiple modes of delivery. Co-op users and members can get access to the information through basic mobile services like SMS today. Our adoption started increasing once co-ops and members started seeing how easy it is to use the service and how they benefit from the use of these technologies. Support from regional, state and national governing organizations and co-op federations is essential in promoting this technology across rural India.
Who is your target audience?
Marketplace is meant for buyers and sellers. We are focusing on rural producer co-ops in handloom and handicrafts as sellers on the marketplace currently and would expand to other sectors over a period of time. We are targeting most bulk buyers (B2B) which includes small entrepreneurs like boutiques and designers to buy directly from the producers. We also received very good enquiries and orders from large international buyers or retailers as well. We are received more than 40% of business from international buyers right now.
What was the turnover in FY14? And is your projection this fiscal?
We are currently targeting over 300 producers and marketing their products on the marketplace by end of the year. Our gross sales is increasing 100% QoQ.
Kindly elaborate your business model?
Marketplace provides services to sellers on a subscription basis, and also charges a transaction fee for every order processed. Marketplace also provides free services like directory, which enables discovery and access to information.
What is your future road map?
We have conceived three phases as we evolve GoCoop a) Pilot phase b) Promote phase c) Globalization. In pilot phase (1st year), based on the research and development, we have built the beta product and have registered over 1000 coops. Executed multiple pilot projects.
In the promote phase, currently, we are expanding our organization and developing rural marketing and service teams at the clusters. These teams would be built gradually per sector across identified districts/states. We plan to cover 250 districts across India in the next 5 years. We would partner with large co-ops and development organizations for promoting our product and services in different regions.
In the globalization phase, we would like to expand our services beyond India. This would be key to provide market linkage to Indian produce with potential buyers outside India. Our goal is to contribute towards livelihoods of a million people through our platform.