With over 12,000 subscribers from across India, the US, Australia, and New Zealand, Sheetal Munshi and Deeksha Khanna have helped street vendors from Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and Chennai, earn more than Rs 12 Lakh in the last three years. All thanks to Instagram, and their venture – Janpath Online.
Friends to business partners
It was in 2008, at Hans Raj College, in Delhi where Sheetal and Deeksha became acquainted with each other. “We were both pursuing our Bachelor’s degree in Economics,” says Sheetal. While Sheetal decided to take a year off after her graduation, the duo kept speaking about wanting to do something together at some point in their life. “In 2013, I went on to study at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai and post the completion of my Master’s, I stayed on for a project I had undertaken,” says Sheetal.
While Sheetal was in Mumbai, Deeksha went to Lucknow and enrolled at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) where she pursued her Master’s degree. “Even though we went our different way post our graduation, we always kept in touch,” says Sheetal.
It was in late 2017 that Sheetal decided to move back to Delhi and that was the time that the idea of working together seriously came into their minds.
Love for street shopping and junk jewellery
“We both loved shopping on the streets of Sarojini and Janpath in Delhi. We also understood fashion and had fairly good taste. It was this mutual love for it that steered us in the direction of looking at it as a business venture,” says Deeksha. The duo realised that while there were a few websites curating jewellery from these places, the prices were rather steep.
“The idea was to keep the price point as close to what one would get if they shopped in Janpath,” says Sheetal. Adding to this, Deeksha says, “We also found that many girls from Delhi were either studying in other cities or had just moved and still wanted to be able to shop from the markets they grew up shopping at – that is the gap that we decided to fill.” The duo started in 2017, by putting up a few product pictures online and were encouraged by the speed with which the items were sold out. Adding to this Sheetal says, “It was somewhere in February 2018 that things started looking up for us.”
With an initial investment of Rs 15,000, the duo says that since that the venture has been funding itself.
The biggest advantage for Sheetal and Deeksha was that they had spent considerable time shopping in these markets. They had a fair idea about the vendors and who stocked good quality products. This helped a great deal when they approached the vendors with their initial idea of curating jewellery. Sheetal says, “We found the vendors to be extremely encouraging and they were ready to allow us to put their products online. We managed to make that connect immediately.”
Instagram has been the sole selling space for the venture and Deeksha says that most of their marketing has come from word of mouth. “We have managed to reach about 12,000 followers without spending on any advertisement or any paid marketing campaign. We have been fortunate to have several repeat customers who have helped spread the word,” says Deeksha.
When asked about how they manage their sourcing, Sheetal says, “We travel to the places, explore, meet the vendors, and only then get them on-board. We are very particular about the quality of the products that we showcase on the platform. All the jewellery pieces that we curate are handmade/traditionally crafted.”
Raj Khatri, a vendor based in Ahmedabad, who has been working with Janpath Online since May 2018 says, “It has been a good two years of working with this platform. It has been more than a great experience. By giving them our products, not only have we benefitted monetarily, but it has also helped us gain knowledge about what do the customers look out for when it comes to jewellery.”
One of the biggest advantages to the vendors has been an increase in online visibility for them. Deeksha says, “Many of our vendors had no idea about how to sell online and what the modalities of it all would be. This platform has helped them learn with us and be successful.”
Learning on the job
“Other than having spent enormous amounts of time on Instagram, neither of us had any expertise on selling things or marketing them,” says Deeksha. From learning to click good pictures, building a story around the product, to packaging, marketing, and the final shipment of the product, the duo learnt it all on the job.
“If you were to go back to 2017 and look at some of our posts, you will see what I mean,” says Deeksha. “The finesse is something that we learnt with time,” says Sheetal.
Customer service – utmost importance
One of the USP’s of the brand is how customer friendly they are, and to this Sheetal adds, “The highlight of our page is how quick we are to respond. Personally, every order that goes out gives me a thrill and for that the time I spend on Instagram seems totally worth its while.” Adding further on the importance of having good customer service, Deeksha says, “No matter what mood we might be in, when we are speaking to a customer, we only put our best foot forward.”
For Shruti Haksar (42), a regular customer, Janpath Online was something that she stumbled upon while browsing on Instagram. She says, “I have been a rather regular customer for over two years now. What I think is their strongest point is how prompt and courteous they are. The handwritten note that they send along with each order is certainly a cherry on a rather delicious cake.” She goes on to describe the jewellery one can buy on their platform as, “affordable, wearable, and repeatable.”
On an average around 200 orders get shipped every month and the products are priced from Rs 250 upwards. The most expensive product that has been sold until now is for Rs 850. The best part of this partnership is how both Sheetal and Deeksha bring their own strengths to the venture and in areas where they need help, they complement each other. If you are intrigued and would like to place an order from Janpath Online, click here.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)