Aditi Murarka Agrawal worked in Singapore and while travelling across South East Asia, exploring villages and charming towns, she got a deep glimpse into the artisanship the region offered. Those trips were her first tryst with handmade craftsmanship. When she returned to India, she realised India’s handicraft too were under-marketed and needed better positioning, particularly those from North East India. Murarka wanted to find a way to put handmade and curated wares on people’s tables. And that’s how the idea of Nestasia was born.
Across India women have perched on and shattered glass ceilings that reserved entrepreneurship for men alone. With digital opportunities to market and grow, women entrepreneurs gained ground in business across India and Murarka too rode that wave.
Nestasia was founded in 2019 and started with selling ceramic kitchenware, crockeries, home accessories and soft furnishings. that are an intersection of the culture of different countries across South Asia.
We caught up with Aditi Murarka Agrawal on her journey and talk about how ecommerce businesses are disrupting the idea of shopping.
How was Nestasia founded?
I lived and worked in Singapore for a brief period and during my stay, I was lucky to be able to visit various South East Asian countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and more. My love for local artefacts and handicrafts grew as I explored quaint towns, beautiful villages and even bustling cities through different cultures. I became aware of how much local talent was underappreciated in these parts. There was so much left to discover, and it seemed unfair that we (family, friends and everyone back home in India) had no access to this beautiful handiwork. This was it for me. I wanted people to see what I was seeing, I wanted to bring these unique products with beautiful craftsmanship from across cultures to our homes. And hence, Nestasia was born, and there’s been no turning back ever since.
Artisans to Table : How Aditi Murarka Agrawal and her co-Founder Built Nestasia Into a Social-First, Consumer Loving Brand
What was about it that you loved that you took up the entrepreneurial route?
Nestasia started as a B2B venture. It was a side gig or a passion project at first. Then while working for a fashion e-commerce retailer in Singapore, I realised how much I enjoyed online retail, how much I loved artisanal crafts, the scope of touching millions of homes and that a lot more people were interested in home decor than they let on. All of this led to building Nestasia and making it what it is today, a destination for home decor and tableware products.
How are you differentiating yourself in the kitchenware, home decor market?
As far as the sourcing of our products is concerned, no national boundaries have been able to limit us. Where there is a unique talent, we automatically extend our boundaries to incorporate the most unique of products. Our products are not simply kitchenware or home decor essentials, but it’s a symphony of art forms taking a different body so that every house has its own story to represent through its most basic but essential elements. We’ve always tried to speak something new and refreshing through our products and will always stick to that line of thought in every new launch we make.
How do you tackle the challenges that you face in your business? And what are they?
Challenges are many, it’s the mindset to approach challenges that matters the most. We put great value in collaborating with both, the Nestasia family of employees and fellow entrepreneurs from the Indian startup ecosystem.
Challenges common to e-commerce businesses like ours include inventory management, newness and relevance, online advertising and team building to name a few. We work with a driven team, use technology at all fronts and source directly in order to build relationships with our artisans/vendors to tackle these challenges.
Specific challenges to our space include the fragility of our products which we tackle by recycling eco-friendly cotton scrap, cardboard scrap for our packaging solutions. Sourcing locally in India has its challenges in communication, organised processes and quality control. With continued effort, sourcing directly and providing maximum value to the artisans, we now source from tribal village communities in East India. Our team works painstakingly to ensure we develop high-quality standards, empower artisans to up-skill and improve designs while maintaining quality to further provide maximum value to our customers as well.
Who was your biggest support system while starting out?
My partner Anurag who is now a partner and director at Nestasia, has been my biggest strength. Our family has also been there every step of the way. And now, we have a team of extremely hardworking and creative minds giving their best to make Nestasia grow.
How has social media helped you in increasing your business?
Social media has been pivotal in helping us spread the word and create excitement around our products through thoughtful content. The pandemic has led to a growth in online selling with people trying to create a joyous experience at home amidst uncertainty. Social media usage and the rise of lifestyle, food and decor blogger has also gone up ever since. This has helped us in reaching out to a wider audience across India to provide an opportunity to create a home full of love. Customer engagement and interaction, audience expansion and insights have all been possible through social media.
Feedback is a critical way to grow your business for the right audience. But not all businesses pay attention to it. How do you do that?
There has been a surge in the number of women entrepreneurs in the past few years in India. What do you think is the reason behind it?
Women have become fierce, or let’s say fiercer over time. They have always been great at managing people, managing money and multi-tasking. This coupled with the ability to now take risks, backed with a great education and a belief in themselves now more than ever, thanks to their support systems, have helped them in going out there to build, create and grow! As more women grow, they also pave the way for others to follow suit and serve as inspiration. Men are also equally responsible for women to be entrepreneurs where partners and parents are encouraging ideas and supporting ventures that start small.
What does financial independence from entrepreneurship mean for you?
Financial independence is fluid over time and subjective even for one individual. Working voluntarily and not for money is the part that’s exciting about the term. This again is a mindset that can be imbibed much before one actually reaches the stage of financial independence. It’s the ‘Empire State of Mind’ as I like to call it and it’s what gets you to do what you do, and do it with a full heart.
What advice would you give to women aspiring to be an entrepreneur?
Have faith, believe in yourself and keep at it.
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